An Arab-Israeli who was threatened for supporting Israel came to Ramapo College on Monday to speak about his experience and how the Jewish state is viewed in the Middle East.
At an event sponsored by Hillel, Yahya Mahamid spoke about growing up Muslim in a small Israeli town where the population was largely Muslim and how that colored his view of Jewish people. He spoke about being taught to mistrust those of the Jewish faith as he lived in a town where it was not uncommon to see swastikas.
It wasn’t until Mahamid moved to Tel Aviv, and began to socialize and work with Jewish people, that he said he realized that they were just like him.
When he met a random Jewish man outside that told him, “It doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish, what matters is if you’re a good person,” he decided that his mentality about the Israeli community needed to change.
At the time, the then 17-year-old Mahamid started to learn about a social media campaign called Bring Back Our Boys, an effort to find three missing Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped just for being Israeli.
Mahamid decided to show his support for the campaign by posting an image of himself with an Israeli flag on his Facebook page.
What came next was unexpected – and frightening, he said.
He received an anonymous phone call urging him to go to the police immediately to seek protection because if he did not, he would most likely be killed for showing support to the Israeli community.
The threats persisted for months, relegating him to his home, with police protection stationed outside at all hours.
Two months later, he was approached by Stand With Us, an Israeli advocacy organization, to join them as an educator.
Mahamid accepted and has since had the opportunity to travel the world to teach others about his journey from being taught to fear Jews to supporting the Israeli community.
However, his decision to be a part of Stand With Us and make his voice heard around the world came with a consequence: He has not been able to have contact with his family. Although he said he knows that his family loves and supports him, they also need to protect themselves because they too fear the possibility of being targeted.
Mahamid has been lucky. Some Arab teenagers have been killed for voicing their support of the Israeli community.
Mahamid is starting a new path in just a few months: joining the Israeli army.