Hamas from the inside

A gripping read by the son of a Hamas founder

Son of Hamas

By Mosab Hassan Yousef, written with Ron Brackin

First published in March 2010

If you really want to understand the situation in the Middle East, and the background to the Hamas fighters’ hatred of Israel, I encourage you to read ‘Son of Hamas’. Although first published in 2010, it is still so relevant.

Five years ago, a member of the Revelation TV team, Simon Barrett, interviewed the author, Mosab Hassan Yousef. After the interview was shown on television, Revelation TV placed the interview on YouTube.

He was being groomed to assume his family’s legacy, politics, status and power

Suddenly, in the 28 days since 7 October, that YouTube video has had over half a million hits! Why? Simon’s interviewee is the eldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the founders of Hamas. As soon as I saw the interview, I ordered a copy of his book which I have not regretted.

Mosab Hassan Yousef was born in 1978 and grew up in Ramallah, in the West Bank. His father was a religious man who studied the Qur’an and sought to live by it.

Since 7 October, the video has had over half a million hits

Mosab Hassan Yousef
Mosab Hassan Yousef (Credit: YouTube)

Being a founder of Hamas gave his father great importance in the community. As the oldest son Mosab spent years acting as his father’s bodyguard and companion at meetings with other Palestinian leaders, such as Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

All the while he was being groomed to assume his family’s legacy, politics, status… and power. Maybe inevitably, because of who he was, Mosab thought of carrying out a terrorist attack. He ended up in prison, including experiencing harsh treatment at the hands of Israeli soldiers. However, this was far less gruesome than the torture that the Palestinian authorities inflicted on those they suspected of collaborating with the Israelis.

All this alone would make the book remarkable and worth reading, because it gives such insight into the Palestinian people’s lives and reasons why they have acted as they have.

But it goes on to record two remarkable events in the author’s life. One day Mosab had a ‘Damascus Road’ experience and turned from terror, violence and in time Islam, embracing instead the teachings of Jesus Christ.

“God had specifically placed me at the core of both Hamas and Palestinian leadership”

His spiritual journey truly started as he was actually walking through the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Someone spoke to him and invited him to a (Christian) meeting. His account of reading parts of the Sermon on the Mount for the first time (in Arabic) is deeply moving. Yousab became a secret believer in Jesus Christ.

But even more remarkable is how the author describes his journey from hating the Jews to loving them. Despite his imprisonment and painful treatment by them, he believed the only way to change the situation was by working with the Jews and ended up as a secret collaborator, working with Israel’s internal Security Service.

He writes: “I became the Shin Bet’s only Hamas insider who could infiltrate its military and political wings… It was clear to me by now that God had specifically placed me at the core of both Hamas and Palestinian leadership, and with the Israeli security service for a reason. I was in a unique position to do the job. And I could feel that God was with me.” He believes his actions helped to stop many terrorist attacks and saved many lives.

As soon as my copy of the book arrived, I started reading it and could not put it down. I think you will experience the same thing.

 The book to read when you’re sorry for yourself

 hristian martyrdom from the time of the Apostles through to the modern day

The New Book of Christian Martyrs

By Johnnie Moore and Jerry Pattengale

Published by Tyndale Momentum

I wonder how many readers of HEART newspaper have heard of ‘Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’?

It was a very famous book, published in the 1500s by a gentleman called John Foxe.

Two-thirds of the world’s estimated 2.3 billion Christians live in danger

Johnnie Moore
Johnnie Moore
Jerry Pattergale
Jerry Pattergale

For generations Christians had their Bible and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs side by side on their bookshelves. It has awakened the conscience of countless generations of Christians to what believers have suffered for their faith over the centuries.

The authors of ‘The New Book of Christian Martyrs’ admit unashamedly that their inspiration has been Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. They include the stories that John Foxe told in his original book and have even managed to trace a descendant of one of Foxe’s original martyrs, as well as many surviving friends and family members of the martyrs whose stories they tell. The book traces Christian martyrdom from the time of the Apostles through to the modern day… from Stephen’s stoning in Acts 7, to Isis’ murder of Christian believers in the last few years.

The book reminds us that the world is currently witnessing a wave of Christian martyrs. Two-thirds of the world’s estimated 2.3 billion Christians live in danger. In the 21st century we are witnessing an escalation in Christian persecution such as we have rarely seen since the first century.

They quote George Weigel, a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Centre, who states: “More Christians have died for their faith in the 20th century than in the previous 19 centuries of Christian history combined”.

Most martyrs’ stories are unknown, but this book brings them to life. The truth is, as the book tells us, that Justin Martyr declared in AD 165, before his beheading, “The more we are persecuted, the more do others in ever increasing numbers embrace the faith and become worshippers of God through the name of Jesus”.

For generations Christians had their Bible and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs side by side on their bookshelves

You may not be being persecuted for your faith. However, the book challenges us to be in solidarity with those who are. It is not the kind of book you are going to sit and read through in one go. Rather, it is a book to pick up from time to time, to remind yourself of the stories of men and women who have been martyred for their faith, from Europe to Africa, from Asia to the Americas. Sadly Christian persecution is a global phenomenon.

A book to take us back to the real purpose of Christmas

How did we get from the birth of Jesus to a big old man in a red suit and an obsession with the John Lewis advert?

Christmas: Truth and Total Baubles

By Nick Page

Published by Hodder and Stoughton

Thinking of Christmas presents yet? Let me introduce you to a fun book containing many important facts. I learned so much through reading it. It will certainly make a good Christmas stocking filler!

Nick Page tells us to forget about only three kings, Jesus born in a stable, and a drummer boy arriving

Nick Page
Nick Page

The author, Nick Page, asks: “How did we get from the birth of Jesus to a big old man in a red suit, a yule log and an obsession with the John Lewis advert?”

The book contains 24 sections which are called ‘baubles’. Some baubles deal with Christian traditions, some historical facts, and some sorting out what is in the Bible and what is not! Nick Page tells us to forget about only three kings, Jesus born in a stable, and a drummer boy arriving.

Gordon Pettie and his wife Lorna
Gordon Pettie and his wife Lorna

Bauble 15 is a great section on the history of Christmas. Nick Page assures us that Oliver Cromwell did NOT ban Christmas. Apparently the first people in Britain to ban Christmas were the Scots, in the time of John Knox and the Puritans. The English followed their example by banning Christmas in 1644.

When it comes to traditions, I wonder if you know that Christians stole the date of Christmas from a Roman festival, or that the use of mistletoe is linked to a Druidic ritual? It was Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, who introduced Christmas trees to Britain. As for the Christmas crackers, Bauble 23 says the first Christmas cracker was made about 1846 and the first Christmas card can be dated precisely to 1847.

While this is a fun book about Christmas, there is so much more to it than explaining Christmas traditions, historical research and cheerful, irrelevant humour. Nick Page seeks to sort out and explain fact from fiction and take us back to the real purpose of Christmas.

Gordon, along with his wife Lorna, is part of the leadership team of Revelation TV, a 24/7 Christian television station that broadcasts in the UK on Sky 581 and Freesat TV 692, and throughout the world via the Roku Box and Apple TV. Gordon’s passion is writing and he is the author of eight books.

A cri de coeur to the C of E

A former solicitor and chairman of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship UK reveals what he has learned about God’s power in his life

A Case of Daylight Robbery
(What My Church Did Not Teach Me)

By Peter Spreckley

This is such a helpful book for those of us who struggle to see ourselves as God sees us. We ask for many things that God has already given us when we were born again!

The ‘back story’ at the start of the book tells us that Peter Spreckley, a retired solicitor with little theological training, “is writing as one who has heard from the Lord and has been commissioned to share what he [the Lord] wants his wider Church to proclaim to the world.”

Peter Spreckley
Peter Spreckley

Peter Spreckley’s experience of many years as a churchgoer has led him to believe that the Church is failing to teach foundational truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There is also a strong commendation on the cover from no less than Canon Andrew White, the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’: “I have read and written many books in my life. I honestly do not think I have ever been as challenged by any book as I have been by this one.

”Canon Andrew White happens to be Peter Spreckley’s son-in-law, which gave Peter easy access to the great man, but I doubt Andrew White would have dissembled, even for his father-in-law’s sake!

Peter shares his story of attending Anglican churches for many years, serving in various capacities, yet without ever hearing the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ preached.

His realisation that he had been ‘robbed’ of the fundamental truths which undergird the Gospel began when he attended a Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship rally. There he experienced the power of the Holy Spirit falling upon him, triggering an ardent search of the Scriptures and a thirst to hear other speakers who preached the whole Gospel.

These amazing truths… will revolutionise our way of living

What Peter discovered and experienced culminated in a healing miracle and the writing of this book. In a clear and dynamic way, he sets out the Scriptures for us, step by step (as happened in his own experience). He shows that if we are prepared to really believe God when he tells us all we already have in him, we will be able to live out a godly life in the power of the Holy Spirit, instead of struggling to do and be good by our own efforts.

These amazing truths have, perhaps, never been taught to some of us in any depth; they will revolutionise our way of living, as the Holy Spirit is allowed to guide and reveal the reality of the truth contained in our Bibles.

Have we, too, been robbed of these revelations of who we are in Christ and, more importantly, who he is in us?

Peter ended up serving for 12 years as chairman of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship UK and saw God do many exciting things.

My ‘take away’ from the book is not to let ourselves be robbed of the power and truth of God’s Word through lack of teaching, failure to study the Bible ourselves, or through following ungodly philosophies.

It has clearly taken Peter some courage to persist with the book, but he saw God do “a spectacular physical miracle” when he tried to scrap it. Thank goodness he didn’t!

Jan Foxell

A full life in ministry

An absorbing autobiography of a minister who served in the early charismatic movement

Passing on the Baton

An autobiography of Michael Barling with Sam Smith

www.lovetolisten.org, £12.99 (or order from a Christian bookshop)

If you have ever thought, in a self-pitying moment, that at least people would say nice things when you’ve gone, then you can envy Rev Michael Barling.

His daughter Sam has laboured for three years ghosting Michael’s autobiography, compiling recollections from her father’s friends and from her father himself.

Michael Barling preaching at Faith Camp
Michael Barling preaching at Faith Camp

Here I admit that I knew Michael and his wife June when I was a student at Roffey Place Christian Training College three decades ago, but I learned things I hadn’t known.

When I met Michael he was number two (he modestly states he is not a number one) to the late Colin Urquhart, who had become a household name in charismatic circles after experiencing revival at his Luton church. Michael already had a track record of being active in the Evangelical Alliance and, as contributors testify, his support and friendship was valued by other ministers.

Michael had met Colin through the early charismatic movement (which Michael shortens to CM) in the 1980s; like Colin, Michael, was a vicar who discovered the “second blessing” – the gifts of the Holy Spirit with their most obvious manifestation of speaking in tongues (heavenly language).

Michael, then a South London vicar, was working with Michael Harper, founder of the Fountain Trust.

Speaking in tongues and being filled with the Holy Spirit was new and controversial in the 1980s and Michael recalls Christian bookshops selling books on the Holy Spirit in a brown paper bag. Michael and June moved into The Hyde, the Sussex mansion where a community grew up to support Colin Urquhart’s ministry. Community life – having all things in common – was challenging and Michael does not conceal that he was relieved when God allowed them to move back into their own family home.

Christian bookshops were selling books on the Holy Spirit in a brown paper bag

Nonetheless, Michael and June were always hospitable and had a series of singles living in their household. Their generosity with finance, thanks to inherited wealth (paying college fees, donating cars), and with their time is gratefully recalled by many in the book.

Michael continued to support Colin Urquhart, serving as principal of the Bible College and then pastor of Kingdom Faith Church, which he  loved. Many will remember Michael’s preaching at the ministry’s annual Faith Camp.

Sam should be congratulated because it is well written – unlike a lot of self- published books – and does justice to a full life in ministry. I found it engaging and absorbing to go back in time and find out about Michael and June’s backgrounds (photos, of which there are plenty, show that God had matched their families well) and follow them into marriage and starting their own family. Here June’s contributions often give helpful details as to what was going on behind the scenes.

It’s clear that Michael adores his wife and children and has prioritised family over ministry; he organised his clergy schedule so that he could work in the mornings and evenings and be around after school for homework and dinner. The Barlings’ marriage enabled them to counsel engaged couples (hilariously, apparently) and the book’s last sentence is “I love you, June”.

Michael is gratefully remembered for ‘earthing’ charismatic teaching

Difficult events are recounted quite briefly and factually; when Michael had a heart attack on the way to visit his daughter Sam, his (auto)biographer, who was having to undergo a second heart operation, he simply states the irony of ending up on the same cardiac ward.

Prayer has been a bedrock of their lives and no doubt enabled them to weather two of their three children getting divorced; later, no doubt thanks to prayer, their son and their other daughter remarried happily.

Other difficult episodes, such as unwanted changes in ministry situations, are dealt with graciously. Whereas Colin Urquhart once said he’d turned down requests to write his autobiography because he’d have to recount all the times he’d been hurt and betrayed, Michael’s genial personality probably ensured he had no enemies – apart from those occasional days where he was ‘grumpy bear’ and appointments were avoided – as a former secretary candidly admits.

Perhaps Michael is most gratefully remembered for ‘earthing’ charismatic teaching and providing a role model of a Christian husband and father. As I followed their various moves and read the warm tributes, my mind was satisfyingly distracted from October’s explosive news of “wars and rumours of wars”.

Melanie Symonds

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