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My Enemy, My Friend

Binyamin Rose

He goes by the nom de guerre Ahmed Amin, a moniker he uses to protect his identity and family members who still cling to life in war-wracked Syria. Like all Syrians, Amin was brought up with a visceral hatred of Jews and Israel, a hatred he held dear until his life intersected with the Israeli humanitarians who were risking their lives to save his.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It was the last place in the world whereAhmedAmin could have ever imagined himself. A Syrian-born Muslim, on stage, in full view, before a predominantly Jewish audience at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy in Herzliya, four years to the day from the outbreak of Syria’s bloody civil war. Still, he was careful about revealing his true identity, less out of fear of the Jewish audience than of the Syrian dictatorship he had fled. “I didn’t hide my face. People could see me, but they were told they couldn’t take any pictures,” said Amin. In fact, he spent two eventful weeks on this, his first visit to Israel — the land he was taught to despise.AhmedAmin is a Syrian businessman in his late 40s. He’s fluent in lightly accented English, and, on the day we spoke, he called me on a Skype number from an undisclosed location to protect his anonymity. “My wife and children are also out of Syria, but I still have family members I fear for back home.” Amin is a Sunni Muslim, as are some 75 percent of the Syrian people, a population that has been ruled by the dictatorial al-Assad family, Alawite Muslims, since 1970. Amin is one of the “lucky” Syrians. He managed to escape war-torn Syria relatively unscathed, but the vast majority of his countrymen have been far less fortunate. More than 11 million people, virtually half of Syria’s population of 23 million, have been displaced. Over 7 million are homeless inside Syria while another 4 million have fled to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Those numbers don’t include the more than 200,000 people who have been killed in the fighting — some gassed to death by chemical weapons. That figure includes 75,000 civilians and children. An additional 200,000 people languish in Syrian jails for opposing the al-Assad regime.

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