One Friday in Jerusalem: A Palestinian Christian discovers the life-changing power of the risen Christ

This Good Friday-Resurrection Sunday, Salt&Light brings you stories of faith, hope and love, unexpectedly born out of the ashes of death. Andre's story is one of Life amidst Death.

Andre Moubarak // April 20, 2019, 12:19 am

Andre Background

Andre Moubarak is a Palestinian Maronite Arab Christian, who counts himself among the minority of minorities in Israel. Here, he sits amidst the ruins of a Palestinian village destroyed during the 1948 war. All photos courtesy of Andre Moubarak.

The voice came suddenly, no more than an urgent whisper.

“Andre, move. Right now!”

For a moment I thought my friend who was with me had spoken to me. But he hadn’t, nor had anyone else out on bustling Ben Yehuda Street in West Jerusalem.

It was December 1, 2001, and a beautiful evening for wandering the central city. The time was shortly before midnight, but Kikar Tzion, Zion Square, is always busy, especially on a Saturday night, when it is full of young people hanging out after the Sabbath ends.

Countless times I had been among them, enjoying the fun and excitement. Yet tonight I felt inexplicably tense. Something was wrong – I knew it in my gut.

“Andre, move! Now!”

The voice was louder – but whose was it? People were everywhere, but other than my friend, there was no one I knew. Was I hearing things?

Like a fast-motion movie, my life flashed across my mind. What had I achieved with it? Nothing.

Must be my imagination. Just ignore it.

Seconds later, I felt someone pushing me, shoving me across Zion Square towards Jaffa Street. But it wasn’t my friend – he was following several paces behind.

No one was near me. Yet something that felt like a gust of wind was holding my arms, legs, and body and propelling me forward. 

Now I was really freaked out. I must be drunk – but I hadn’t had even a sip of beer.

The Cafe Aroma on Jaffa Street was just ahead of me. Shaken, I went inside and sat down. 


The windows shattered and my body felt the jolt of a tremendous explosion. I could see debris flying and blood splattering and hear people screaming in pain and horror. Immediately I knew: Bomb attack.

My first impulse was to make sure I was still in one piece. My second was to pray. Half-consciously, I made a vow: “Lord, if I live, I will give you my life.”

My life? Like a fast-motion movie, it flashed across my mind. What had I achieved with it? 

The answer hit me hard: Nothing. 

The street in Old Jerusalem that leads to Andre’s childhood home in the Christian Quarter.

A few feet from death

Although I was a believer, saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, I did not take my faith seriously.

Growing up, I just went with the flow, my faith sometimes up and sometimes down. 

But just now, I had been only feet from death. Suddenly, I realised how precious my faith truly was. 

Just as swiftly, my natural fears gripped me. I was a Palestinian. The Jews would take revenge on me if they caught me here. I had to get home. 

I had been only feet from death. Suddenly, I realised how precious my faith truly was. 

Outside the coffee shop it was a nightmare of blood and glass. All the windows in the area had been blown out by the force of the explosion. Hundreds of screaming young adults were running from the blast site. 

BOOM! A second powerful explosion, even louder than the first, rocked the street.

And now the same panicked crowd was stampeding back my way. I froze. What should I do?

If they noticed me, they’d assume I was part of the attack, and my life would not last a moment longer than it took them to lay their hands on me. 

A backstreet branched off Jaffa Road and went through the Russian Compound. I hastened down it toward New Gate, the nearest entrance to the Christian Quarter, where I lived with my parents and brothers.

While I was en route, a third bomb exploded, less powerful than the first two but still lethal.

The beautiful night had become a nightmare.

Once through the New Gate, I passed my old high school and hurried down the steps by St Saviour’s church and down Christian Quarter Road to my house. I had completely forgotten about my friend, though I learned later he had made it out and was safe.

The time was half past midnight when I slipped inside and I turned on the television. The news was all about the Hamas bomb attacks, the first two of which had been suicide bombers and the last a car bomb. Thirteen people were killed and about 100 injured.

God had supernaturally intervened to save my life. Images of scattered bodies, blood flying through the air, and windows exploding in front of me were blasted into my brain.

A year passed before I could walk on Ben Yehuda Street again.

Flight of a refugee family

Jerusalem, turbulent City of Peace. For thousands of Christians on pilgrimage every year, it is their destination; for me, it is my home.

Here in the Christian Quarter of the Old City I was born and raised.

Andre and his twin brother, Tony, with their mother, Reema Bajes Shaheen.

The religious and historical sites that people from all around the world come to see, the ancient pavements that believers of every nation and culture travel thousands of miles to walk — these are my neighbourhood.

I know them like I know myself; indeed, they are a part of who I am.

The double-edged mistrust is part of the cost of being a Palestinian disciple of Jesus.

Jerusalem is a complex city whose political identity has changed many times over the centuries, depending on which nation most recently conquered it.

Fascinating though Jerusalem is, so rich in its history and diversity, many people do not find it an easy place to live. My ethnicity and faith make me one of them.

I am a Palestinian Arab Christian born in Jerusalem in 1975. My mother’s family is from Ein Areek, a Palestinian farming village near Ramallah. My father’s family came from Jaffa.

Both families fled their homes during the Nakba – the catastrophic Arab exodus that created the Palestinian refugee crisis in 1948, when the Jews won their War of Independence against the armies of the surrounding Arab states.

The Israeli government never granted my family either citizenship or passports. Instead, like thousands of other Arabs in Jerusalem, we were issued blue residency cards that gave us no rights at all.

Twins Andre and Tony with their mother and policeman father, Yousef Moubarak, whom they count as their role model and hero.

My blue ID condemned me to be a mistrusted, second-class Arab Christian. Israeli Jews often suspected me of being a terrorist because I am a Palestinian, while the Arabs saw me as a Zionist because I am a Christian who believes in the promises of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. 

Even after I received an Israeli passport, the general attitude and suspicion toward me by both Israelis and Arabs remained the same. But I am not alone.

The double-edged mistrust is part of the cost of being a Palestinian disciple of Jesus.

Andre (right) describes his twin brother, Tony, as his “chief cross bearer”, who has stood by him through every struggle.

The stones of hatred

It was an October day in 2008, and I was driving home after having my car fixed at a car repair shop in the West Bank.

“Be careful driving home,” the mechanic cautioned me. “The settlers have closed all the roads entering Jerusalem.” But even he did not know how serious things were.

About 20 minutes into my normal route, traffic became congested, and many cars were turning back.

“What’s going on?” I asked a driver. Settlers were attacking Palestinian cars, came the reply. 

My only recourse was to pray. So I prayed: “Jesus, my Lord, Holy Spirit, save me!”

After 30 more minutes of high-speed driving, the road ahead looked empty and safe.

Then I noticed a minor checkpoint with several cars, passing through it very slowly. As I drew close, I realised it was a settler-created checkpoint.

If you were a Jewish driver, they would let you pass. As for a Palestinian like me, I didn’t know what to expect.

A settler came to my driver’s-side window. He looked very upset. I spoke with the man in Hebrew, but from my accent he knew I was an Arab.

Suddenly his family and perhaps 50 other settlers surrounded my car. The father of the family, their mother, and other adults as well as young boys and girls all held huge rocks.

And suddenly I grasped my situation: I was surrounded by fanatical religious settlers full of rage.

They wanted to block every entrance to Jerusalem and take revenge on Arabs for what had happened two days before in Nablus, where Palestinian terrorists had shot two settlers in their cars.

The settlers started to throw stones at my car. Then I saw the father coming toward me and reaching for a gun at his side. I met his eye and saw the hatred inside him, but my own eyes showed love, even for my enemies, in this moment of my imminent death. 

My only recourse was to pray. So I prayed: “Jesus, my Lord, Holy Spirit, save me!”

The moment I finished my sentence, out of nowhere an Israeli police car raced up and slammed to a stop in front of me, scattering the settlers.

I was seconds away from being shot; had not the police shown up at exactly that moment, I would have been dead.

I was terrified, and as soon as I was able, I stomped on the gas and roared away toward Jerusalem.

Inside me a dilemma raged. Despite the love I had tried to show the settlers, my flesh took control as I fled the checkpoint.

I wanted to curse those settlers for trying to kill me. Like Jesus walking to His crucifixion, I had fallen on hard stones, stones of human hatred. Now would I, like Him, get up?

After maybe two minutes, suddenly I remembered Jesus on the cross. I prayed: “Lord, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”

A tangible, strong presence of the Holy Spirit permeated the car. It was like a cloud covering me with peace and healing me from all I had just passed through. 

Peace can come to Israel only if people get saved by the blood of Christ.

For the second time in my life, I had been near death. I only just survived the bomb attack in 2001 by a fanatical Palestinian because the Holy Spirit saved me. Now I had barely escaped being shot at point-blank range by an equally fanatical Jewish settler. The Holy Spirit had saved me again.

These incidents caused me to become a strong friend of the Holy Spirit. I decided to get to know Him better and make Him my best friend in life. I never wanted to leave Him.

When I finally arrived at work I changed shifts with my Jewish friend, who wondered why I was 20 minutes late. I was nearly crying. My friend, a true Messianic Jew, saw how real the trauma was for me. He asked forgiveness on behalf of his people, and he hugged me – and that was real reconciliation from the heart.

Peace can come to Israel only if people get saved by the blood of Christ. This is the only way any of us can have the power to forgive our enemy truly and from our heart.

The scandal of the Cross

As I write, hundreds of Iraqi Christians have been crucified and thousands killed in the name of religion.

In June 2014, one man survived crucifixion in Syria after the jihadists raided his village near the Turkish border and nailed him to a cross for eight hours. Eight other men from Deir Hafer village in Aleppo province died from the same punishment.

In response to the atrocities, the Christians in my neighbourhood formed a parade in June 2015, walking through the Christian Quarter and declaring our faith, that we are not afraid of persecution. We are willing to die for our faith, and no one can take the cross from us.

Andre (left) walking the Via Dolorosa with a group of South African Christians. “The cross is very offensive to some in Israeli society,” says Andre.

The symbol of the cross is not welcome in Israeli society and is very offensive to some, mostly because of the Holocaust and the tragic history of European Christians persecuting the Jews over the centuries in the name of the cross.

Once, as I was tour guiding a group from South Africa down the Via Dolorosa, a dozen Orthodox Jews came down the nearby steps while we were praying at the sixth station, and three of them suddenly spat on the cross our group was carrying.

Remembering how the Roman soldiers had spat on Jesus (Matthew 26:67), I saw the Bible come alive in the middle of the Via Dolorosa.

The one great Hope

Yet I still hope for peace, and it may even be starting to happen. Many Jews are giving their lives to Christ. They are called Messianic Jews, and they have congregations and meetings all over Israel.

Both Isaac and Ishmael need to be saved by the blood of Christ and be transformed by the Holy Spirit. 

One of my best friends is a Jew who rides a tank in the Israeli army, but he is saved by the blood of Jesus. Another of my friends served for a time in the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, but he too is now a follower of Jesus. When the three of us meet, you can see the joy and forgiveness in our eyes and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit all over our lives.

There is a solution and a hope. It is through Jesus Christ.

Both Isaac and Ishmael need to be saved by the blood of Christ and be transformed by the Holy Spirit. 

God is using us Palestinian Christians – the minority – to bring hope, love and reconciliation between the two brothers.

God has placed us between them like a bridge that spans a vast divide.

You and I do not serve a philosophy. A philosophy cannot give us life.

We do not serve moral principles. Moral principles cannot empower us to live up to their standards.

We serve a living, resurrected Jesus – the King of Kings, who gives us eternal life, grace to live righteously, hope beyond the struggle of our own bitter Via Dolorosas, and love beyond anything we can comprehend.

We are loved, you and I, wonderfully, wisely, fully, and forever.

For that reason, and that reason alone …

Beloved, let us love one another.

For other stories on how faith arose from death:

“Till we meet again, Harold boy”

Pulled back from the brink of death, he was given a second chance

This story is adapted from Andre Moubarak’s book, One Friday in Jerusalem: Walking to Calvary – A tour, a faith, a life, which can be purchased here. It is republished with permission.

About the author

Andre Moubarak

Andre Moubarak is the owner and founder of Twins Tours & Travel Ltd in Israel. Born into a Christian family along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem's Christian Quarter, Andre today is a licensed tour guide and an ordained minister, leading numerous groups through the Holy Land each year and teaching them about the Jewish roots of Jesus and the kingdom of God. With his wife, Marie, Andre also teaches at churches worldwide, helping people see the Bible anew through Middle Eastern eyes. Find out more at