Strange Happenings

In "Never Again?", a Holocaust Survivor and an Ex-Terrorist Embody Peacemaking

Irving Roth was seven when the Germans marched through his town of Humenné, Slovakia, on their way to Poland. Until then, Catholics, Jews, and Protestants had lived peacefully together in his hometown. He and his family were subsequently taken by cattle car to Auschwitz, and he remained in the Nazi prison camp system until he was liberated by the Americans in 1945 at age fifteen.

Now ninety, Roth is the Director of the Holocaust Resource Center at Temple Judea of Manhasset, New York. As part of his efforts to teach people about the Holocaust and lessons to be learned from that chapter of history, he has for the last ten years teamed up with an unlikely partner to warn the world about the perils of antisemitism.

Kasim Hafeez was raised in the UK a devout Muslim. Even though he had never known any Jews personally, in the early 2000s, he came to identify with the Palestinians as “my people” and to see Israel and the Jews as his enemy and oppressor. At university, he became very active in the anti-Israel movement and looked for ways to return to Pakistan, his parents’ country of origin, to join a terrorist group.

But his radical designs were challenged when he happened upon The Case for Israel, by Alan Dershowitz. The book challenged everything he had believed and propagated, but it did so by using rational argumentation and evidence. At first, it came across as absurd to him, and for two full years, he stubbornly resisted believing he was wrong. Then he decided to go to Israel to find out for himself. Mostly, he wanted to prove that he was right. He expected to be mistreated by the Jews and so be confirmed in his belief.

But a strange thing happened on the way to becoming a confirmed terrorist. Walking around in public in Israel completely blew apart his prejudice. He had been told that the Jews were colonizers and occupiers. But he discovered that there was good archeological evidence of their historic ties to the land. Even more upsetting to his crumbling radical outlook, he saw Israelis taking Syrian children to Israeli hospitals for treatment and then returning them to their homes. Reading Dershowitz’s book had opened the door for him to see a Jewish person as a human being. These examples of Jews overcoming evil with good by loving their enemies ultimately brought about a change of heart.

It was difficult, but he acknowledged that his moral compass had been severely defective and that he had been completely wrong. This whole new perspective was too important for him to keep to himself, and he talked about it openly when he returned home. For this, his family now regards him as an enemy, and he ended up leaving the UK for Canada, where he connected with Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and teamed up with Irving Roth.

Now, CUFI has produced a documentary centered on this unlikely duo. Never Again? weaves together the two men’s life stories and shows them travelling and speaking as a team to advocate for peace, true tolerance, and universal equality. Roth, who makes peace through forgiveness, and Hafeez, who entered the way of peace by opening his mind and repenting, make a powerful team. For the sake of peacemaking in your corner of the world, find a way to hear their stories and follow their examples where you can. This haunting but ultimately hopeful film will be showing in theaters this Tuesday, October 13th and Thursday, October 15th. Click here to see the trailer and here to find a theater and get tickets.

 is Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

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