|Maroun and Fadia the day they were baptized in the Mediterranean Sea.
I was born in 1975 and raised in what is called the "Christian sector" of Beirut, Lebanon. The year I was born, a terrible civil war broke out. My father, seeing the threat of the Muslim Palestinians taking over our country, joined the Christian militia in Beirut called the Phalange. My father was from a nominal Protestant background, and my mother a Catholic; neither of them knew anything about being born-again.
(In the Middle East, Arab nations are made up of Muslim Arabs and Christian Arabs, the latter usually being a tiny minority. The Christian Arabs are Christians only in culture and ethnic heritage - much as France, Germany, England and Italy may be called "Christian" nations. Therefore when the term "Arab Christian" is used in the Middle East, it emphatically does not be born-again unless specifically stated.)
My father, a Colonel in the Phalange, was caught in a life and death struggle with the Palestinians who had been expelled from Jordan and who were now, along with Muslim leftists, trying to create a totally Muslim state out of our country. He had little time to be home, and when he did come, he brought soldiers with him. My earliest memories are those of my mother cooking for the soldiers around our dining room table.
When I was nine years old, I approached my father and told him I needed to talk to him, but he replied that he didn't have time because he had very important things to do. He was trying to save our country from a Muslim takeover. As I grew older, the military situation worsened. The head of what was then the Communist party also had a militia, and they came against the Phalange militia in our village. In a single attack they killed 60 of our soldiers who were between the ages of 12 and 25. My own close friend who was 13 years old, was shot and killed by a Muslim sharpshooter.
Up until the Civil War, the Lebanese government had always maintained a delicate balance between Christians and Muslims. The President of Lebanon was always Christian and the Prime Minister always Muslim. In fact, Lebanon had been the only Arab state in the world where Christians had majority rule. But now the Palestinians and Lebanese Muslims saw the chance to remove the Christians from all governmental power. As the Palestinians put up roadblocks and checkpoints on the roads, travel became increasingly precarious, especially for Christian women and children. My cousin was raped and killed by the Palestinians.
I JOINED THE MILITIA AT AGE 12
In school, all of us talked about our brothers who were Phalangist militiamen. It made us want to fight. All my family was in the Phalange and it was all I thought about. Finally, at the age of 12, I went to a Phalange base with some of my friends to enlist. Because I was the tallest, they probably thought I was about 14, and they accepted me but sent my friends home.
My first job was to fill sacks with sand, but then three months later they sent me to the "Young Lion's Course," a special commando course - training me especially to fight in the mountains. They taught me how to assemble weapons and then they sent me to the battlefield as a soldier. I was twelve and a half, and I was proud to be serving with guys 18-20 years old.
At 14 they made me a driver of a half-track; my commander stuck a box of ammunition under me so that I would be tall enough to see out the window. And thus I served until the age of 15.
In 1990, the Civil War ended and there was an attempt to bring all the different warring factions into the official Lebanese army. So in the following year I enlisted in the army after some of my relatives helped me obtain a forged I.D. that stated I was 18. In the Lebanese army, 30% of the army were nominal Christians like myself and the rest were Muslim.
ARRESTED BY THE SYRIAN SECRET SERVICE
At the age of 16, I was appointed bodyguard for family members of the president of Lebanon. This president, although a Christian Lebanese, had defeated other Christian contenders by accepting Syrian military assistance. From that time on the Lebanese president has ruled as a Syrian puppet, and the Syrians currently have 25,000 troops in Lebanon, and have flooded Lebanon with over 1,000,000 Syrian laborers.
I guarded the President's family for a year until I was seventeen and a half. Then one day Syrian soldiers walked into the President's palace and arrested me. I knew the reasons: I had been a Phalangist militiaman, my father was a Phalangist leader, and I had been connected with a group of girls (Christian Arabs) who were active in anti-Syrian operations. I found out years later that one of the girls was a double agent and she turned me in. They led me out of the palace, blindfolded me and took me to a Syrian encampment in the Bekaa Valley. There I was a tortured by the Syrians for six months.
I met the "Prophet Elijah," a Syrian interrogator who tied me to a wheel, rotating me while beating me. He got this name from the prisoners because interrogators don't give their real names and in Arabic we sometimes give a very wicked man a saintly nickname. Their next torture was to strip off my clothes and coat my body with jam. They left me in the heat of the sun for seven days where bees, ants and other insects bit into my body. Infection set in and my body was covered with boils. Even though I had never thought much about God, I screamed out to Him for help until I had no voice left.
The Prophet Elijah and his men continually burned my body with cigarettes and other burning articles. The Prophet said, "Are you ready to confess?" I said, "Confess to what? Do you want me to confess that I killed Jesus? I'll confess!"
The Prophet said, "Take him to the special room." They took me to a cubicle and closed the door. My head protruded through a hole and I could not move in any direction. For 12 days they dripped water on my head, and gave me no food. All around me I could hear men screaming and shouting in pain. I was in a place of death. I screamed for God to help me. When I came out, I felt I had lost my mind. I was returned to Prophet Elijah, and I realized that I could not make myself understood at that point.
I SOUGHT DEATH BUT COULDN'T FIND IT
I was a physical, mental, emotional wreck. Again more burning with cigarettes. I literally sought death but couldn't find it. I tried several times to put an end to my life, but to no avail. One time they let me out to exercise in a courtyard, and there to my horror, I saw six of my old Phalange friends. I hadn't known they had also been imprisoned. In all, there must have been 300 prisoners there.
The soldiers on duty would beat us with rifles whenever they felt like it. But the most terrible physical torture was yet to come. They made us sit on upright bottles, with our captors jumping on top of us. For two weeks I could not walk.
I was finally moved to another prison where I stayed a month and 20 days. There they did not torture me, but emotionally it was devastating. I knew people disappeared into this prison, getting life sentences, never to be heard from again. They kept telling me I had to make a formal confession.
At 18 years, I was then taken to Beirut to the Ministry of Defense. For seven days they gave me a little water but no food. For one month and 18 days, I was a prisoner at the Ministry of Defense where they deprived me of sleep for weeks. I was in a daze, dozing for seconds and being forced to awaken while they asked me the same questions over and over. When they were not questioning me, they put me in a tiny room stacked with 70 other prisoners.
I was then taken to the Lebanese army court where I saw my mother. This was the hardest part of all for me. I saw her face was strangely spotted and found out later she had become ill with sugar diabetes. I believe it was because of her intense worry over me. When she found where I was, she had hired a lawyer to try to get me out of jail. But I had already signed 18 accusations in a forced confession - for murder, theft and cooperating with Israel, among others.
They diagnosed me with schizophrenia and sentenced me to three years in jail. I was moved to a prison, my mother and lawyer were able to visit me. Because my body was still covered with boils, the doctors began to give me tranquilizers and pain pills, until I was truly addicted. My lawyer bribed officials and got an appeal for me. Then he bribed the judge who lowered the sentence to a year and a half and credited to my account the nine months I had already been imprisoned. After an additional nine months, I walked out of the iron gates a free man. I thought I was dreaming.
But as soon as I was out, I saw that the secret police were watching me, and so I decided to flee to Southern Lebanon where the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Southern Lebanese Army (allies of Israel) were fighting together. Our goals were to keep the Palestinian terrorists and Muslim gunmen from crushing the Christian SLA forces and from attacking Israel's northern border. My parents and brother were already in Southern Lebanon because they had fled there when I was arrested. So at the age of 19, I joined the SLA. The Hizbollah attacked us without ceasing, determined to gain control of Southern Lebanon and push the Israelis out. Out of 60 former Phalange friends that came south to fight, only three of us remain alive to today.
I FELL IN LOVE
However something good happened in my twenthieth year. I met Fadia. Her parents were also in the resistance with the SLA. Nevertheless, they did not like me at all because they considered me to be a trouble maker, and they knew I was on tranquilizers. But her brother and I became best friends, and through him I was able to get better acquainted with her.
Six months later Fadia and I married. Yet it was only a week later that we began to have terrible fights. For the first five years of our marriage, I was most of the time on the battle field and could get back home only once a month for a short time. Being constantly on the battlefield fighting for my life, when I came home I treated my wife as if she, too, were the enemy. Once I even shot at my father-in-law. We did want to have a child, but after several medical tests, the doctors concluded I would not be able to father children because of the tortures I had endured from the Syrians. I became more miserable than ever and felt totally worthless. Each time one of my comrades died, I became more aggressive, and I continued to take drugs and alcohol to numb the pain.
From the years 1995 to 2000, I fought with SLA. Israel had been hinting for some months that they were about to pull the IDF out of Southern Lebanon, but when it happened, we were all shocked. One night, the IDF told the members of the SLA that they and their families could retreat with the Israeli army and they could start a new life in Israel if they could get to the border within four hours. On literally a moment's notice, six thousand Lebanese chaotically fled to Israel, leaving everything behind.
When I received the news, I was in my army unit. I rushed back to my village, but just as I was about to enter it, I saw Fadia's brother, who was also in the SLA, waiting at the entrance of the village for me. He said, "Don't go in. Fadia is already in Israel. If you go to your home, you will see that the Hizbollah have already taken it over and they will kill you." We then fled to Israel.
MY NEW LIFE IN ISRAEL
Moving to Israel was not easy for a person who has spent most of his life on battlefields; I didn't know how to adjust to a normal lifestyle and we had been totally uprooted from our people and culture. It was a different language, different customs and traditions. My parents and brother had also fled with the SLA to Israel, but when they decided to take the risk and return to Southern Lebanon to rebuild their lives there, I became totally depressed. My brother was imprisoned in Lebanon for a year and a half, mainly because he was related to me. I began to live on alcohol, on the nargila (Arab water pipe used with hashish or tobacco,) plus four packs of cigarettes a day. I drank to numb the emotional and physical pain I still felt from the torture and from the terrible life of massacre and slaughter I had known most of my life. I had almost no memories of my life before the army.
We moved to the city of Haifa looking for a new life, but I felt that I had lost all hope. I was unemployed and the Israelis I met could not easily tell just by looking at me that I was an Arab who had fought side by side with them. They were usually instinctively afraid of me.
Soon there were serious problems in our marriage. Because of my depression I was not able to wake up and go to work to provide for our needs. I would wake up at night screaming in fear and calling the names of my fellow soldiers who had fallen on the battlefield. Fadia's life had become a constant nightmare and our marriage was on the brink of destruction. Twice I was taken to the hospital for depression. The Israeli doctors gave me more pills - Valium, Robnol, Klonex.
But the pain didn't go away. And so one day I bought some heroin and brought it home. I knew that heroin would be the end of me, but my life anyway was without hope. I put the heroin in my house and fell asleep.
FACE TO FACE WITH A MIRACLE
Now Pastor Yosef, an Israeli Arab pastor from Haifa who started a congregation among the Lebanese refugees who fled Lebanon with the Israeli army, takes up the story.
Pastor Yosef: In October, 2001, one of the new Christian Lebanese in my congregation said to me, "Yosef, there is someone I know who really needs help. He is a young man, 26 years old, but his life is ruined. He is full of hatred and is known to be a terrible troublemaker. You should go and visit him. But be sure you are prayed up. He'll either get converted or he'll kill you!"
I took this man's word seriously and fasted and prayed. Then my wife, Ibtissam, and I went to Maroun's door and knocked. We waited a very long time, and then knocked again. No answer. I continued to knock, and finally a woman slowly opened the door. It was Fadia. We told her I had come to visit Maroun and pray for him.
It took Maroun another 15 minutes to get himself out of bed. I was really afraid, but I began to talk to him about Jesus and forgiveness. I read to him from Jeremiah, chapter 31 about the new covenant and new heart that God promised to give to those who trust in Him. I read to him similar promises in Ezekiel 36, telling him and his wife that Jesus is the only hope for him. I said, "He is your healer and he came to earth to give you abundant life." After talking with them only a few minutes, I asked if I could pray for him. The minute I touched him, an incredible thing happened. I literally witnessed legions of demons leaving him. His face changed drastically before my eyes. He had an instantaneous deliverance. Fadia his wife, watching the change, immediately gave her life to the Lord as Ibtissam prayed with her.
Maroun: When Yosef laid his hands on me, I felt as if legions of demons of hatred, violence and vengeance came out of my body. I began crying out to God like a child asking for His mercy and forgiveness. My wife was crying too and asking Jesus to come into her life. This was our night! Jesus had given us a new life. took away my stony heart and gave me a new heart that is full of love and compassion.He has given my wife and me a new life!
In that same hour I threw away every single pill, cigarette, bottle of alcohol and drug that I had and I smashed my water pipe.
THEY STOOD IN THE SEA SPEAKING IN TONGUES
Yosef: Maroun and Fadia had an immediate hunger for the Word of God. They devoured the Bible! A week later they wanted to be baptized in water. Into the Mediterranean Sea they went and Maroun came out of the water speaking in tongues. For one hour he stood in the sea speaking in another language. Then Fadia also began speaking in tongues. The Lord spoke and gave them a word - that the Lord was going to use them both to bring many young people, both Arabs and Jews, to his saving knowledge.
Maroun: Our Lord is awesome! He has raised us up from death to life, from darkness to light. Right now we have the privilege of helping Pastor Yosef and his wife at the Lebanese Congregation in Nahariya, and we are leading a youth group of Lebanese who are on fire for Jesus, by the grace of God, and the loving counsel of our pastor.
Yosef: The Lord has singled out Maroun and Fadia. Even though they came to faith less than a year ago, they are seeking the face of God and working with an intensity that is simply miraculous. I am training him up as a Timothy and my wife, Ibtissam, is training up Fadia.
Incidentally, Fadia feels that she has a gift from God to witness to Jewish people. When she tells of the wonders of God in her husband's life and in her own, she finds she can reach into the hearts of the Israeli people of her newly adopted country.
This couple has obviously been singled out and chosen by God to make an impact upon the Lebanese Arab community living in Israel, the Israeli Arabs and even upon their Jewish neighbors.
Yosef's ministry is supported monthly by MaozIsrael ministries. When Yosef brought Maroun and Fadia to meet us, he told us about their current situation. The Israeli government allowance for food and housing that Israel had been giving to the 6000 Lebanese Arabs that had fled to Israel is now being severely reduced. It is important that Maroun and Fadia who are being raised up to be leaders among the Christian Arabs in the north of Israel, at the same time also learn Hebrew, the language of their adopted homeland.
The istandwithisrael.com fund will help Maroun and Fadia get on their feet, learn the Hebrew language, and find employment in Israel, so that they can support themselves and continue to work for the Lord.
Together with Yosef , a group of us prayed for Maroun and Fadia, that the Lord would heal Maroun and that they will have children, to the glory of God!
Instead of being a medical burden to the State of Israel, Maroun will be a great blessing in this land in every way!
Because of the long arm of the Syrian army in Lebanon, we have changed all of the names in the story to protect relatives still living in Lebanon.
Maroun and Fadia are praying for their relatives' salvation.
Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram
LEBANON'S CIVIL WAR
From 1968, Palestinians terrorist groups which had formed within the Palestinian population living in Jordan and in other North African countries, attempted to take control of the government of Jordan, with Syria backing the guerrillas. By 1971, King Hussein of Jordan had had enough, (after losing approximately 5,000 of his soldiers) and he expelled the guerrilla groups from his country. Most fled to Lebanon, joining forces with the Muslims and instigating a terrible civil war between leftist Muslims and conservative Christian forces from 1975 to 1990. By 1981, there were 53 private armies operating in Lebanon. Beautiful Beirut - called the Paris of the Middle East - turned into a city of death and devastation. The civil war caused the death of over 150,000 Lebanese and Palestinians. It gave ample excuse for Syria to take control of Lebanon, and the Syrians continue to rule Lebanon through a puppet regime until today.
Back to Top
THE STATUS QUO IN THE MIDDLE EAST
WILL SOON CHANGE!
By Paul Liberman
As the conflict in the Middle East drags on, the economic status of Israel continues to deteriorate. In 2001 alone, 32,000 businesses in tiny Israel closed their doors. Paul Liberman, an Israeli businessman and long-time friend of Maoz, gives this analysis of the current situation in Israel. (Editor)
While the entire world is seeking a formula to make Israel a smaller place, the population continues to increase. The nation is already one of the most densely populated countries of the world. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, by the end of 2001, there were 294 people per square kilometer (6,788 in the greater Tel Aviv area). Jerusalem's population grew by 12% last year and the overall population, now 6,592,000 people, is up 2.1% or 133,000 from last year. The figures include some 20,000 Israelis that have left the country for a prolonged stay.
It seems as though the government is not planning on population increases, as negotiations continue over the creation of a Phillistinian State. According to conservative definitions of Jewishness, there are 5.4 million Jews in the Land, 38% of a worldwide estimate of 12.5 million of those remaining in other countries. There are 5.5 million in the US, 300,000 in the UK and 455,000 in France. Such estimates vary, but the pattern is the same.
Israeli leaders simply are not making provisions for a larger state for the sizeable ingathering yet to take place. Isaiah 47:20 says quite the opposite:
"The children of whom you were bereaved will say in your ears, The place is too cramped for me; make room for me that I may live here."
The partial blindness over Israel's eyes not only pertains to the New Covenant, but to the validity of the Old Testament Scriptures as well. Somehow, the government's future planning does not currently foresee a greatly expanded population.
Worse yet, Israel's policies are beginning to be somewhat adverse to more ingathering. It is now the unofficial policy of the Jewish Agency (in charge of promoting aliyah) to no longer promote immigration. Informally, officials have been quoted as commenting, "Why strive for more people when anti-Semitism will do the job for us [i.e. force Jews to immigrate to Israel]?"
Recently, a new tax reform bill has passed the Knesset actively discouraging immigration of prosperous or wealthy individuals who wish to reside in the Land. As of January 1, 2003, Israel will tax its citizens’ foreign assets and income. Heretofore, US employees could work abroad and enjoy a $75,000 US Federal tax exemption. This helped not only the development of foreign markets, but also economically encouraged diplomats, missionaries, etc. throughout the world.
Though the US provision will continue, it won't do any good if residence is taken up in Israel. Though a US paycheck is issued and only subject to Social Security taxation (if under $75,000), Israel now wants a large share of this income. It wants 15% of the first $1,000 per month, 30% of the second thousand, 45% of the third and 50% of all beyond per month. Plus, it wants payment of its own national "social security". All employment fringe benefits, i.e. auto, medical or reimbursement of all expenses, are subject to taxes as ordinary income.
For the mid-level US employee assigned here, their marginal tax rate is at least 60%. Let us say they are paid $40,000 per year, plus an auto allowance. This would total over $20,000 of Israeli taxes in addition to US Social Security and possible state taxes. How many highly educated people will prefer to work here?
In a sense, Israel is saying to world Jewry to come here only if they are poor or can't earn much where they are. This is not rational or profitable. Older, affluent immigrants from the West purchase apartments ($5,000 tax for deed recordation), acquire autos (averaging above $9,000 of extraordinary taxes) in addition to the now increased (to 18%) Value Added Tax on all purchases, i.e. food, clothing, etc.
In part, Israel is desperate for funds. Israeli government coalitions cannot be formed or survive without the nonproductive Ultra Orthodox and a vigilant military is expensive. Lip service is given to the poor for political purposes, but in fact, some 480,000 children lack sufficient nourishment or education for full development.
As regards the ingathering, the Lord will overrule the political elite. He has announced He intends to radically change the present balance. Could the present confrontation with Iraq be a catalyst to change the present territorial and demographic situation? Consider these predictions:
Isaiah says we shall dwell in Arabia (21:13) and Damascus will be a heap of ruins (17:1). Ezekiel 29:9-15 describes Egypt as a base nation not inhabited for 40 years. Zechariah 11:1,6 describes Lebanon in flames.
Yes, there are many Scriptures describing at least one more war and dark days ahead.
We have, in part, been gathered for a measure of judgment, but consider the Lord's long-range intention:
"For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11-14
Present-day politicians are in a futile search for a solution. One is already pre-ordained, and it doesn't have to do with a continuous status quo. To the contrary, Isaiah 11:14 says Israel "will possess Edom and Moab, and the sons of Ammon will be subject to them." All of these lands are represented by the country we today call Jordan.
The born-again believers of this world, wherever located, have joined into the war of the ages. We belong to a large tribe. How shall we be known? We could be referred to as the High Hopes Squadron, Heart for the Struggle Platoon or the Certainty Brigade. Yet, deep within us we really want to be merely known as "the sheep of His pastures." In the long run, it will be our most honored identification.
Paul Liberman is Executive Director of the Joseph Project. In Israel He may be reached at JosephFund@bezeqint.net
Back to Top