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A Lebanese Soldier Joins the Jewish People

October 10, 2016 | by Chanania Bleich

From an early age, I asked God, “Why was I created a Muslim?”

My name is Munir Mundar. I am a Lebanese Muslim who served in the Israel Defense Forces and gave my all for the State of Israel.

If those words strike you as unusual, you’re not alone. It was with these words that I introduced myself to the public two years ago as I embarked on my road to Judaism. Last week, under the guidance of the beis din of Haifa, I joined the Jewish people.

The news caused a social media uproar in Israel, but once people heard my life story, even those who experienced terror themselves expressed their support and sympathy.

I posted my story online in the hopes of raising understanding.

I want to tell you, my dear Israelis, the story of my life. My mother and sister were killed by terrorists. Another sister was wounded. My brother’s children are crippled for life. This was the work of the murderers of Hezbollah. Like Hamas, al-Qaeda and Daesh, they are a depraved organization fighting against Israel and the entire world.

I want you to understand why I am sharing this with you. After all, I was born a Muslim, and many of you will say that I just want to benefit from your country and give nothing in return. So I want you to know that I have fought for Israel. I have fought for the safety of every citizen. And finally, I want you to know that I am studying Torah, and after a long process, I have completed my conversion. I am a proud Jew.”

I was born in Beirut, the youngest of four girls and two boys. My parents divorced when I was young, but our family remained close-knit.

When I was 10, my brother joined the South Lebanon Army, a well-armed, largely Christian militia of about 4,000 soldiers who allied with Israel to maintain security along the Israel-Lebanon border. With assistance from Israel, the SLA fought terrorist organizations, including the PLO and later Hezbollah.

Two years after my mother and my sister started working for the Israeli army, Hezbollah killed them.

The SLA was active mainly in southern Lebanon, where Israel was in military control from the late ’70s until its withdrawal in 2000. Life under Lebanese control had been turbulent – we were under the rule of one terrorist organization, then another and another. We didn’t particularly love Israel, but at least it was peaceful. Many Lebanese civilians found work on Israeli army bases in southern Lebanon, my family among them. My mother worked as a base cook, my sister as a checkpoint guard, checking the papers of anyone passing down that particular road.

Hezbollah, needless to say, did not approve of Lebanese citizens cooperating with the IDF, and my family paid a heavy price.

Two years after my mother and my sister started working for the Israeli army, Hezbollah killed them. One night, terrorists broke into our house, firing in all directions. My mother and sister were killed, and another sister was severely wounded. I was 12 years old.

I was not home at the time; I was staying at my father’s house. In the morning, when my father went out to work, taking me with him, we were stopped at a checkpoint and informed that my sister and my mother had been murdered. My world was shattered.

I began to resent my own Muslim faith and those who claimed to represent it. They killed my mother and sister only because they worked for the Israelis.

Over the next few months, the trauma of the murders, coupled with chaos in the villages of southern Lebanon, caused my family to fall apart – what was left of it. My father had remarried and had children; he took less of an interest in us. Except for my oldest sister, I grew distant from most of my siblings. After my injured sister was released from the hospital, we had nowhere to go. For some time, we lived in an abandoned house.

At the age of 15 I officially joined the SLA militia.

In 1990, an SLA officer found us hiding out in the ruins, took pity on us and rented an apartment for us. This officer happened to be assigned to patrol the area where we lived, and I became his aide and accompanied him on all his duties.

Exposed to SLA activities, I officially joined the militia a year later, at the age of 15. I would serve for the next three years, but in 1993, I was wounded by a roadside bomb. Two of my friends were killed in that attack.

I was badly injured. I was evacuated to Rambam Hospital in Haifa and hospitalized for two months. I went back to Lebanon, but it took two years to fully recover. I could not do anything. During those years, I was considered a disabled veteran and received aid from the State of Israel.

Upon my recovery, I returned to the SLA. Though the Lebanese fighters did the dirty work on the ground, IDF soldiers always fought with us, shoulder to shoulder. Over the years, I married a Lebanese girl and had two children, but the marriage became rocky, and when the IDF withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, I, along with other SLA veterans, left with them. I wanted to start a new life in Israel, away from the violence and terrorism.

The other SLA soldiers and I were temporarily in apartments across the country, mostly in the north. Then, after six weeks, Israel struck an agreement with Germany allowing us to emigrate there and be granted German citizenship. I went, but after 10 months I moved back to Israel. I didn’t belong. I could not get along with the people there.

Upon my return, I received Israeli citizenship. I was issued an ID card recognizing me as a disabled IDF soldier, and with it disability pay from the Defense Ministry. I tried to make a life for myself as a loyal Israeli Muslim. But it was lonely. The Muslim community didn’t go out of its way to make me comfortable. Nobody ever invited me for a holiday meal, so for 14 years I did not celebrate. Although I tried my hand at various businesses, I had little success, and eventually got involved with less than savory people.

But then, once again, help arrived in the form of an army officer – this time, an Israeli. A senior officer recognized me from his time in the SLA, when he was stationed in Lebanon, and volunteered to help. Thanks to his generosity, I was able to get away from the criminal element I had been involved with. I was able to regain my confidence and dignity because he had faith in me.

But the most dramatic change in my life happened three years ago on Yom Kippur, when my benefactor invited me to join him for the prayer services. It was the first time I had been exposed to Jewish prayer.

From an early age, I asked God, “Why was I created a Muslim?” I suffered a lot for being Muslim. But when praying with the Jews, I saw that they only pray for peace. They did not pray “Death to the Arabs.” I realized for myself, that despite the hard times I have had, it was the Jews who saved me. In 14 years, a Muslim never invited me; now the Jews were taking me in. I resolved to become a Jew.

The next week, I was in Haifa. I was walking down the street and saw a rabbi. I told him I had a friend who wanted to convert. He gave me his phone number and told me to give it to my friend. For a few days I tried that number, but no one answered.

A few days later, I ran into the rabbi again. This time, he gave me the number for the beis din.

I called the court and told them that my name is Munir Mundar and I want to convert. They invited me to come in for an interview. I told them my story and they gave me the phone number of a rabbi and told me to talk to him and set up lessons in Judaism. And they opened up a case file for me.

A few days later, I joined a newly-opened class. I passed the conversion exams after a year and a half of intense studies. Last week, my request for conversion was approved, and I underwent the required halachic procedures.

I became Meir Mizrachi, a Jew.

Until now, I never really felt settled in my identity. I felt temporary. Now I feel good. I have peace of mind. I am proud to belong to the people of Israel.

I have peace of mind. I am proud to belong to the people of Israel.

The process has been difficult. At the beginning, keeping Shabbat was hard for me. The classes were hard. Now, keeping Shabbat makes me feel good. The hardest thing was wondering if people would accept me. I really want to be part of the nation.

Converting can’t be a decision made lightly. I have proven that I really want to be a Jew. Today I am a fully observant Jew. I am on the right path, thank God. I hope and pray that one day I will have a Jewish family.

My anger at the Muslim world has not abated. I’ll never forget what they did to my mother and my sister.

Hezbollah, Hamas, Fatah, Daesh, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra. The list of terrorist organizations goes on and on. They all claim to speak in the name of the Quran. The Quran says it is permissible to kill. It commands you to kill. Salafists kill Shiites, Sunnis kill Alawites. Each one kills the other and each one says that killing is the appropriate response to their grievances. Look at what’s going on in Syria! Sheer chaos. All in the name of the Quran and the name of Allah. What kind of religion is that?

Israel always wants peace, but who can we make peace with? Abbas is a terrorist. He gives money to the families of suicide bombers. Anyone who supports terrorists, I believe, is a terrorist. In Syria, Assad destroyed his own people just to stay in power. It’s the same in most Arab countries. And they have the nerve to say that Israel does not want peace?

If the Arabs don't like what I have to say, I don’t care. I am not afraid. I have trust in God. Only He determines when I was born and when I will die. I’m not afraid of anybody.

If there is one thing I would tell my Arab cousins, it is this: a general rule of history. Every country in the world that has no Jews receives no blessing. The United States is successful because it has a great Jewish population. Am Yisrael is the chosen people. It even says so in the Quran.

And as for my new family, the Jewish community – we are living in very difficult times. If we’re not together in the fight against terrorism, we will have a huge problem. We must be united in everything as a nation.

This article originally appeared in Ami Magazine.

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