We first became acquainted with Munir Munser after receiving the following interesting post after it was published on his Facebook page:
“I am a Muslim Arab in the process of conversion, and am very proud that I was able to show respect for Yom Kippur and go to the synagogue to hear the prayers. The truth is that I was very curious and interested in knowing what the Jewish people pray for.
“I want to tell you that it moved me, even to the point of tears, to hear how Jews pray to G-d to preserve them and illuminate their way and grant them peace. I didn’t hear them praying for death to the Arabs, I didn’t hear them pray that any other person should be harmed. At that moment, I realized that this religion is the holiest and purest of all. Judaism does not say to kill or harm another person, unlike other religions in the world whose people pray for death to the Jews.
“I want to pass on a message to all — that the Jewish religion is the holiest and purest and most correct religion … it’s not for nothing that they say that the Jewish people are the Chosen People.”
Of course we turned to Munir, and he agreed to be interviewed: 'I am willing to do anything, as long as I will have the fortune to become part of the Jewish people,” he said.
Munser, 40, was born and raised in Lebanon, the youngest in a family of six siblings. At the age of 12, he experienced a terrible tragedy when he lost his mother and sister who were murdered by Hezbollah. The reason for the murder: his brother served in the Southern Lebanon Army.
“It’s not that we were in favor of Israel,” he recalls the pain that still aches today. “We were just against the terror that arose and burst up then. It started with Fatah, advanced with Mokwami and ended with Hezbollah. All we wanted was to live in peace, and that was also the reason that my brother joined the army. But it didn’t matter to the brutal terrorist organizations – they sought their revenge.”
Difficult childhood: he lived in an abandoned building for 3 years
Munser's parents divorced when he was a little boy, and he was forced to live intermittently with his father who had remarried, and his mother, who remained single. To his good fortune, on the night of the murder, he was staying with his father.
“In order to make a decent living, my mother worked in the kitchen of one of the outposts of the Israeli army, and in the afternoon, she sold falafel in a little stall. I remember in the morning after the murder, I went with my father to work in the nearby village of Merkava, and on the way we were stopped at a checkpoint and asked where we are going. Dad said we were going to work, and I will never forget the answer he got: 'What job?! You didn’t hear what happened? They killed your ex-wife and your older daughter.’
“They just entered our house where my mother, my older sister and the children of my brother who was serving in the army were sleeping — and shot them all. They mercilessly murdered my mother and sister, and wounded the children. When I heard the soldiers mention my mother's name, I almost fainted from grief. I was overwhelmed at that moment, my mind went black and my world shattered into pieces. This was the beginning of my hatred towards the Muslim religion and those who represent it.”
Even before the death of his mother, the ties between the siblings were not close, but after his mother’s death – they grew more distant.
Munser. Had a difficult childhood
So at age 12, instead of getting the love and protection that every boy needs at his age – Munser found himself living in an abandoned HMO building together with his sister. “For three years we lived in this building without any one showing any interest in us. I worked in the building every morning for two years, so I would have something to eat,” says Munser, as he wiped a stray tear from his eyes, “Dad had remarried, and his children from his previous marriage didn’t interest him. The home completely fell apart after Mom died. None of the siblings asked about the other ones, no one cared if I lived or died.”
And what got you out of this situation?
“Even there, and until this day, G-d didn’t leave me. A Lebanese officer who served in the SLA found me and decided to help me and make me his right-hand man. He took my sister and me under his wing, he rented a house for us, and he took care of all our needs.”
After three years, when he was only 15, Munser himself joined the ranks of the South Lebanon Army, and served there for ten years. With time, he married a Lebanese girl and brought two children into the world. However, in 2000, he decided to immigrate to Israel, after the matter had been cooking in his mind for a while.
“In the Koran that I’m familiar with, it doesn’t say that you can kill”
When he discovered that his marriage was falling apart, he decided to leave the familiar and painful memories in Lebanon behind — and move to Israel. As a former SLA soldier – he received full support from the Israeli intelligence and the army. He began his life in the country as a Muslim.
Not liking the Muslim religion doesn’t mean you love the Jewish religion. So what made you get closer to Judaism, to love it and want to be part of it?
“There were a lot of things that led me to it, but I'll tell you one small thing that will help you understand: I lived in Israel as a Muslim for 14 years, basically since I came here. I'm a sociable person, and of course I connected immediately to diverse communities of Muslim Israelis. Everyone talked to me, laughed, and broadcast that they are friends. But on the holidays I never received an invitation from a friend to come and stay in his house. So for 14 years I didn’t celebrate Muslim holidays.
“On the other hand, two months before the last Yom Kippur — after I had studied and became acquainted first hand with Jewish people and how they conduct themselves, I decided I wanted to be a Jew. As soon as I made that decision, a Jew I know already invited me to his home for Yom Kippur. On Sukkot, I received an invitation from another family to celebrate the holiday with them. Where else are there people like this in the world? Show them to me, I do not know any.”
Munser. From the SLA to G-d’s army
“By Muslims, before the preacher goes up to deliver a sermon in the mosque, he declares 'Death to the Jews’, and only then begins the sermon. They have problems because they make problems for themselves. They are fragmented into so many different groups and each one says, 'I'm right', and each one kills the other, convinced that he’s right. This is the truth? It's all a lie! They live by the sword, and how can I believe in such a religion?
“In the Koran that I know it does not say it is permissible to kill. On the contrary. The Koran states that one day there will be chaos on earth, and Mohammed will begin to cry. When asked why he cries, he says all the Muslims will be in hell. And why? Because G-d is angry at their savage behavior. You want to hear why I believe in Judaism and why I want to live according to it? Because its says, 'Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal.' Since I became acquainted with it and am studying it, Judaism has made me a better, calmer person.”
Standing under the chuppah
Since Munser decided to join the chosen people, he broke off contact with his Muslim friends. All he wants now is to become an observant Jew, even though he wasn’t born as such. He is in contact with a rabbi (Orthodox of course) that is accompanying the conversion process that he began, and he knows that G-d hears his prayers. “I am convinced that G-d will open the way for me and help me get this gift, to be a Jew, which is the best gift. I know I was born a Muslim to go through all these difficulties I went through, so that in the end I’ll become a Jew.”
When asked whether he was afraid of Muslims, Munser answers without an iota of flattery or arrogance, that he is afraid of only G-d. “I'm not into politics. I'm just saying my opinion, based on my personal experiences. Each will reach his own conclusions. I will say only what I know — my intentions are not bad.”
And what is most difficult for you in this process?
“The hardest thing is the loneliness. I dream to stand under the wedding canopy as a Jew and establish a real Jewish home, and I firmly believe that it will happen. I do not know when, and that's what is most difficult for me. But despite that, I believe that G-d loves me and He will help me get there.”
His Yom Kippur Spiritual Experience
Last Yom Kippur Eve, Munser experienced his first Jewish spiritual experience. “I fasted although I do not have to, just to feel what the Jews feel. I was very curious to hear what Jews pray, what do they ask G-d for? I spent the entire holiday in the synagogue, except for one break in the middle. And to tell you the truth? I’m in total shock. I was surprised that the Jews’ religion does not say 'Death to Arabs' before they open the Torah, as Muslims say before they open the Koran. I was moved to tears.
“The Jews only say good things to their G-d, so why do the Muslims hate them? I didn’t hear them say one prayer seeking to harm another person. At that moment, I finally understood that the Jewish religion is the holiest and purest religion in the world. That in this religion, as opposed to other religions whose people pray to exterminate the Jews — the people are really peace-seeking.
“I want to give all the Jews in the world this message: I love you — and the Jewish people is alive and well, no matter what they try to do to them. G-d preserves and will preserve the Jewish state, and any Jew wherever he is. There is a good reason why they call the Jewish people the chosen people. And now, my goal is to join them and fulfill the commandments truly and fully, G-d willing.”