Thursday, October 16, 2008

Book Review and Excerpt: Once an Arafat Man by Tass Saada and Dean Merril

Review: As someone who grew up in a Christian home and more or less always believed in Jesus, I sometimes forget just how powerfully God can intervene in a life. This book is an amazing testimony of how God took a man filled with rage and discontent and turned him into an important instrument of peace. It's the sort of story that humbles me because it reminds me of just how small I am and how far from being the person I want to be.

From fighting for the PLO, training child soldiers and working as a sniper, to becoming a workaholic and womanizer to finally becoming obsessed with the idea of a connection with God, this book is the fascinating story of Tass and the sort of story that hopefully will be an encouragement to many.

I do want to mention that the writing is really simplistic. I mention it only because it's the sort of thing I normally can't abide but since English is not Tass's first language I think it's completely forgivable.

I think it would be hard not to be touched by this powerful story.

Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:

Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life

Tyndale House Publishers (September 17, 2008)


Tass Saada is a former Muslim and a co-founder of Hope for Ishmael. Hope for Ishmael is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reconcile Arabs and Jews to God and each other through the gospel of Christ. Saada was born in 1951 in the Gaza strip, and grew up in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He was a PLO sniper and militant fighter. He worked directly for Arafat. In America, he converted to Christianity.

Visit the author's website.

Dean Merrill is the author or coauthor of more than 30 books, including the award-winning, best-selling trilogy with Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire and its sequels, Fresh Faith and Fresh Power. He also collaborated with missionary survivor Gracia Burnham on the best seller In the Presence of My Enemies. A graduate of Christian Life College and Syracuse University, Dean is a former president of the Evangelical Press Association and is currently a board member of Global Publishers Alliance. Proud parents of three and grandparents of six, Dean and his wife live in Colorado.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 19.99
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (September 17, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414323611
ISBN-13: 978-1414323619


The Second Battle of Jericho

The morning sun felt warm on my back as I crouched behind a large pile of shrubbery I had scraped together, overlooking the Jordan River valley. Jericho, perhaps the world’s oldest city, lay across the river in the distance. Here on the east side, my comrades and I had spent the night in a chilly cave along this range of hills. Now we were up early and excited about the surprise we would deliver to the advancing IDF (Israel Defense Forces) troops. My sleek, high-powered Simonov rifle with its telescopic sight lay beside me on the ground as I gazed down upon the quiet village of al-Karameh.

The dirt roads that meandered among the humble, mud-brick homes with flat roofs were empty on this morning of March 21, 1968. Most of the roughly fourteen thousand residents had left—not because of the warning pamphlets the Israeli planes had dropped the day before, but because we had told them what we planned to do. Now the village was eerily silent. No donkeys brayed in their pens; not an infant whimpered for its mother. Nobody could see our seven thousand or so Fatah fighters hidden behind stone walls or under tarpaulins, amid date trees and olive groves—a reception committee waiting to roll out a blood red carpet for the invaders.

A trained sniper at seventeen years old, I stood ready to do my job, waiting up on the hill for the opportune moment. I would pick off any IDF machine gunner who dared to stick his head up out of a tank or jeep. A soft breeze moved through the grass. I stared intently at the Allenby Bridge in the distance, the main crossing from the Israeli-controlled West Bank to the Jordanian territory where we sat.

Sure enough, the first vehicles in the convoy now came into view, their camouflage colors making them difficult to detect. This was the same IDF that had so humiliated the Arab armies nine months before in the infamous Six-Day War. We Palestinians had been peppering them ever since with hit-and-run attacks—a grenade here, a three-minute skirmish there. Now they had decided to storm our training camp at al-Karameh in force. They wanted to take out our operation wholesale, and maybe even get our heroic leader “Abu Ammar”—Yasser Arafat—in the process.

They figured most of us guerrilla fighters would have pulled back and away from the showdown, like so many times before. They had no idea that the wily Arafat had switched strategies this time, saying to us, “We will make a stand in this place. We will fight with honor. The whole of the Arab people are watching us. We will crush the myth that the IDF is invincible!”

And they certainly did not expect the newest tactic we would use today for the very first time: suicide bombers. We had gotten volunteers who were willing to make this their final battle for Palestinian justice. They now waited on rooftops in their bulky vests loaded with explosives until the moment came to jump into the streets below.

Deadly Surprise
The growling of the IDF engines grew louder. My heart began to pound. I positioned myself for steady action as I peered through my scope. The enemy convoy reached the edge of the village. I picked out my closest target, trained the weapon on his head, and ever so carefully squeezed the Simonov’s trigger.

At nearly the same moment, my comrades in the village began firing from their hiding places. The firefight exploded all at once. The noise was deafening. At that time, the Israeli infantry had no flak jackets, so we were able to wound or kill them right away. All hell broke loose that morning in al-Karameh.

Of course, we began taking our own casualties, too. Every Fatah fighter knew that would happen. None of us counted on surviving the day. We were fully prepared to die. We might never see the moon again, but we would regain our honor. That was, in fact, the meaning of this village’s name, Karameh. It was the Arabic word for “honor” or “dignity.”

The street battle raged on at full force while I kept picking off targets from the hillside. Minutes passed, perhaps even a full hour. There was no subtlety to our approach; we were going with every thrust we had to inflict mortal damage on the Jews. Then a massive bomb blast shook the entire valley. Our troops had blown up the Allenby Bridge, cutting off the escape route if the IDF tried to pull back. The Israelis were now trapped on our side of the Jordan—the east side—and would have to fight to the death. Only a miracle of Joshua-at-Jericho–sized proportions would save them now.

A few minutes later, my commander shouted at me with alarm in his voice: “Do you hear that? Helicopter gunships are coming!” I had been too focused on my targets to notice. “Get off this hill!” he ordered. “If you stay here, they’ll blow you to bits from the air! Get down into the village with everybody else!”

I scrambled down the hill to join my comrades in the fight. There the conflict grew increasingly close range. There was hardly room to use a weapon. It became a hand-to-hand brawl with fists, knives, and even rocks. We put our karate and judo training to use immediately. The two sides were so intermingled that their helicopter gunners couldn’t sort us out. At that point, I was fighting on sheer instinct. There was no time to think or strategize. I simply kept bashing the nearest IDF soldier before he could bash me.

I could tell the enemy was bewildered by our bravery. They had expected us to act more like classic guerrilla fighters, feinting and withdrawing. Instead, here we were in a no-holds-barred fracas. Guys were screaming, blood was splashing, the wounded were moaning, and all of us were jumping over an increasing number of dead bodies to keep up the attack. I glanced down at several cuts on my arm but paid little attention. The kick of adrenaline was too strong for me to worry about injuries.

We Fatah fighters were in fact more agile than the IDF since we carried less gear than they did and could therefore run faster. We also had our bayonets already fixed on our weapons and ready to use while the Israelis were still fumbling to get theirs off their belts and attached. At times they literally ran into our knives.

Whenever they tried to regroup behind one of their tanks, a suicide bomber would leap down from a rooftop with a thunderous explosion of nails and other metal bits. Blood spattered, and body parts flew through the air.

Occasionally throughout the afternoon, there would be a short lull in the fighting while the Israelis barricaded themselves inside a house. We would then quickly set up in the house across the street, from which we would open fire again. We stormed building after building.

Bragging Rights
Somehow, after seven hours of gruesome combat, a ceasefire was called. I still do not know who arranged that or how it was done. The IDF withdrew and headed downriver to find another bridge they could use for returning to the West Bank. The smoke over al-Karameh began to clear. “We won! We won!” we shouted, slapping each other on the back. “We stood up to the Jews and beat them!” We danced around the four IDF tanks we had destroyed, along with three half-tracks, two armored jeeps, and even one airplane.

The symbolism for us was huge. We had done what the regular Arab armies had failed to do three times: in 1948, 1956, and the previous year. We would be featured the next day in the world’s headlines. We had shown that we Palestinians were no longer just a pitiful clump of refugees. We were a proud and courageous people who had been robbed of our homeland and were on the march to take it back.

I was especially thrilled to commandeer a Willys Jeep that the Israelis had left behind. A vehicle of my own! I invited some of my comrades to jump in for a quick drive through the town.

As evening approached, we turned our attention to counting our losses. My unit of eight now numbered only three. Across the village, we went about the somber task of gathering and burying the dead. We mourned the fact that these friends were gone forever. It hurt deep within our souls, and we swore we would avenge them.

The longer we worked, the more we realized we had paid a high price on that day. We eventually tallied 128 dead, several dozen wounded, and 150 missing. These numbers, we had to admit, were probably greater than the losses suffered by the IDF.

But it was all worth it, we told ourselves. The Israelis had come from Jericho, looking for a fight, and we had given them far more than they ever expected. Our cause was now catapulted to a whole new level.

More than anything, we could hold our heads high in the presence of the man in a checkered headdress who had watched the entire battle from a hilltop not far from where I had begun the day. He had seen our bravery, our determination, our sacrifice. The Israelis had wanted desperately to find him that day and kill him, but they had failed. His leadership stood intact. Yasser Arafat was alive and well, and we revered him more than ever.

Copyright © 2008 by Tass Saada. All rights reserved


Jennifer @ Quiverfull Family said...

Yes, the writing is simplistic :), but a great story of God's work nonetheless. Glad you enjoyed it!

Ben said...

Thank you so much for reading and reviewing my Dad's book. God's given my pops an incredible story...and it's not finished yet!


Anonymous said...

Can we please have a physical address so that we may send you a book review.

Thank You,

Howard Books
A Division of Simon and Schuster

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