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Palestinian mom who wanted baby to become Islamic martyr changes her mind

Safra Children's Hospital
Safra Children's Hospital
Wikipedia/David Shay

Dr. Raz Somech has become somewhat of a celebrity since being filmed in the documentary titled Precious Life. The film holds a valuable lesson for today's violent and tumultuous world, especially in the Middle East.

In 2010, Dr. Somech performed a costly life-saving bone marrow treatment on a Palestinian baby. Dr. Somech is the director of immunology at Sheba's Edmond and Lily Safra Children's Hospital in Israel.

Dr. Somech is trained to save children's lives no matter their nationality. However, in the Middle East "even a heroic struggle to keep a baby alive can become entangled in the region’s politics."

The baby, Mohammed Abu Mustafa, was a very sick four-month-old infant who arrived at the emergency room from Gaza. In an interview Dr. Somech said: "It was very easy to diagnose him as having a severe type of immunodeficiency." Two of his baby's sisters had already died as a result of the same genetic condition. Mohammed was not expected to survive past his first birthday without the operation.

The most astounding statement, in the Precious Life film, comes from the mother of the baby. Raida and the filmmaker, Israeli TV reporter Shlomi Eldar, discuss the status of Jerusalem while they wait for her son's treatment. The following is a short excerpt from that conversation.

Raida confessed she would be happy for her baby to grow up and become "shahid," an Islamic martyr for Jerusalem.

Eldar asks the woman, "Like Arafat said? 'A million shahids (martyrs) for Jerusalem?'" "More than a million. All of us are for Jerusalem. All of our people," Raida replies. "All of us, not just a million, we're all for Jerusalem. Do you understand?"

"Death is a natural thing for us. We're not afraid to die," Raida continues. From the smallest infant, even younger than Muhammad [her baby son,] to the oldest person, we'd all sacrifice ourselves for Jerusalem. We feel we have the right to it. ... It's heresy to say that Jerusalem isn't ours."

In a most telling line, Raida says, "Life is precious, but not to us. We feel that life is nothing. Life isn't worth a thing. That's why we have suicide bombers. They're not afraid to die. It's natural. None of us fear death. Even our children. It's natural to us."

"I asked you before, after Muhammad recovers, would you let him become a shahid?" asks Eldar.

"Absolutely," replies Raida.

"For what purpose?" he asks.

"If it's for the sake of Jerusalem, it's nothing to me," she responds.

The Israeli journalist Eldar said at first he was overwhelmed by the mother's words. He told Fox News the following:

My first reaction was to stop filming. If the Israelis are helping this baby and he becomes a suicide bomber, what does this mean for our future?

Eldar said he was disappointed because he felt a friendship with the mother, "it felt so weird" he said. He waited in this hospital with the mother to support her, Eldar and Dr. Somech were doing all they could to save the baby's life and here the mother was making a startling revelation to him.

While Eldar was having the conversation with Raida he thought, "well who cares about the Palestinians? His mom wants to raise him as a suicide bomber!" Eldar said his wife told him that maybe something else needed to be revealed. It was Raida's husband who called Eldar and begged him to come back to the hospital and see her, which he did.

Eldar said, "I returned, and I am happy I returned to face the problem, and find the solution.” Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this story was the mother's transformation from the belief that "life means nothing" to valuing life as something "precious" in the end.

Raida changed her mind about the meaning of life and told Eldar, "why can’t we stick together to solve our problems? To find peace?" This story should make people realize that Palestinians and Israelis can change their minds about how they view the future.

Eldar said working on this film was the "first time I saw Palestinians as human beings like me, like my family. Even people that are educated to hate Israelis and Jews, to think they are just animals, they can change.”

It's not easy to solve the world's racial problems but we could all learn a lesson from the film Precious Live, that is a respect for life. Sadly we can't force people to change, they have to do that on their own. Perhaps the most important thing we can do is live our lives as examples of Christ's love to the world. We can also pray for people's lives to be changed and for the peace of the world, especially the peace of Israel.

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