By Cheryl Hancock-Watts, Special to ASSIST News Service
ISRAEL (ANS – July 7, 2017) — It was another one of those thirteen-hour days, lots of hard, but good work. By the end of the day we had brought 1,500 bars of olive oil soap from the West Bank to the apartment of my friend. Mahmoud is an ex-Palestinian Muslim who lives in Israel with permission from the Israeli Government.
In 2000 he was tortured and imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority (PA) for two years because he left Islam and became a Christian. He was excited about his new faith and shared it with his family and village before the PA arrested him. In 2002, Mahmoud was miraculously set free when the Israel Defense Force invaded the village and broke down the prison walls.
It would be too dangerous for Mahmoud to enter the West Bank now, so his family met us in a remote area. They make the soap in their village, and Mahmoud packages it in Israel to be sold. They were able to spend only two precious hours together, but it was a playful, loving time with his family. As we drove away, I could see tears forming in Mahmoud’s eyes as he once again had to leave his family.
When approaching his apartment (the safe house) we prayed for help to carry the heavy load up five flights of stairs. Upon arriving we saw two boys sitting on the steps. I told them we would pay for their help to carry the soap, but they said, “We want nothing, Mahmoud is our friend.” We all made several trips up and down the many stairs. Finally, as we rested the boys shared their horrific life stories.
The 14-year old boy lives with his mother and sister after having to flee their village. His father was considered a “collaborator” and killed by the PA because he informed Israel about a plot against the Jewish people. Because the family was in danger, the Israeli Government gave them permission to live in Israel proper. This Arab boy has learned to speak Hebrew fluently, is attending a Jewish school and chooses to be a part of the culture he has acclimated to in Israel.
The 15-year old was taken by the Palestinian Authority for questioning because his father was a wanted man. During the interrogation, torture was used in an effort to extract information from him concerning his father’s whereabouts. After being beaten and hung by his ankles for 24 hours, he disclosed the information. The teen was immediately taken to prison, and soon after his father was put into the same prison. Six months later, Israeli troops entered the town and set the prisoners free. Still today, they are wanted by the PA, so the father and son live together separated from the rest of their family. Though this teen never had the chance to finish school, he said he is grateful to live in Israel but misses his mother. He blames the PA for their suffering.
He showed us his scars of the past, but he said he that he now has hope of a good future in Israel. We prayed, as the teen wept. He said, “Here you are strangers caring and praying to God for me, but my own people are trying to kill me.”
As we packaged the soap together, we were joking and laughing, enjoying each other’s company. They felt compassion, and they felt love, but their scars run deep and we know only the Lord can give them the comfort they need. I gave them each 100 shekels; however, their need is not in dollars but in securing a future with hope.
Photo captions: 1) Packaging soap with the boys. (Faces blocked out for security reasons). 2) The finished product ready to sell. Selling the packaged olive oil and soap was Mahmoud’s only income for six years. 3) Cheryl Hancock-Watts.
About the writer: Cheryl Hancock-Watts moved to Israel in May of 1999 as a journalist. She gets involved with the people of Israel taking aid and hope, while at the same time bringing the truth she learns to the West, via the media. She has been a member of the International Press Association since 2001 and a member of the Government Press Office in Jerusalem. Cheryl provides call-in interviews to radio stations in the U.S., and has written articles for the Jerusalem Post CE, Charisma Magazine and other media outlets around the U.S., while working as the Middle East Correspondent for radio stations. Cheryl married Len Watts in 2014 and together they speak internationally at churches and seminars, also through radio and television broadcasting. They continue to live in Israel working among the people, and travel to bring the truth about Israel to the West. To receive their “Israel Updates”, you can reach them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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