“The media spouts hate against the Jews,” Loay Alshareef shares with Allison Josephs on the latest Jew in the City Speaks podcast episode. “They depict Jews in a very negative way. Jews have fangs, Jews are evil, Jews are conspiring against Muslims.”
Alshareef grew up with that messaging every day. So, it’s a bit surprising that not only did he change his beliefs, but devoted his life’s mission to fostering a positive relationship between Muslims and Jews.
His Instagram account is filled with reels that tell the truth about the Jews and the issues with the way so much of the Arab media depicts us.
The way he got there was filled with Divine intervention, yet Alshareef also stood up and took responsibility when he was presented with a way to change. He is now a model for what we can all do to try and make a difference.
The Turning Point
Like all good stories, there was a poignant moment where everything changed for Alshareef. In 2010, at 28 years old, he decided to study abroad in France as a way to learn French. He had just studied at Penn State in the U.S. and felt like he mastered English (initially learning through movies!) After that, he wanted to tackle another language.
He decided to stay with a host family in France as a way to fully immerse himself. When a family is assigned to a student, the religion is never disclosed. While Alshareef wrote that he would prefer a Muslim family who was Moroccan or Algerian, that was the only preference. When he walked up to the house and saw a Magen David on the door, he was a bit in shock and requested a transfer.
“I didn’t feel comfortable to be honest,” he shares. “We heard all these things in the media that if a Jew even gives you water, it might be poisoned, I’m sorry to say that now but it was my reality.”
The school said he could transfer, but it would take two weeks to do so. During those two weeks, Alshareef’s eyes were opened to the truth about Jews. The mother in the family he stayed with was warm, compassionate and so different from the false depictions he was brainwashed to believe.
“The mother was so wise, she took my own shock in a very wise manner and that family became the reason why I changed. My eyes were wide open to Judaism and Hebrew and I canceled the transfer.”
Taking on Israel
Alshareef believes this was Divine Providence. He believes that’s why the videos he makes are going viral.
He spent the next 13 years learning more about Judaism and Hebrew, and still continues to. The next step after the initial change, was diving into Israel. “Jews were fine, but Israel was still an enemy. The Jews are viewed in the Arab world as foreign colonialists or foreign conquerors. They don’t tell you the real history.”
He explains that it’s actually very unfortunate because in the Muslim’s holy book, the Quran, many prophets who were Jewish and Israeli were recognized. “It’s astonishing how the Quran praises those individuals but we don’t have the connection that they were Israeli because of the political issue with Israel and Palestine,” he shares.
He brings up King David as an example, explaining that so many Muslims are named Dawud, which is after King David. They view David as both a king and a prophet. “They have no idea who David really was,” he shares. “They have no idea that David moved the capital of Israel from Chevron to Jerusalem. If they had an open mind, they would reach the truth…Israel isn’t 75 years old, it’s 3000 years old and 75 years young…I’m trying to defend Muslim-Jewish relations and tell people why Israel is a legitimate state and the Jewish people are indigenous to the land — not as colonialists or conquerors.”
Alshareef has become a mouthpiece on Israel and a symbol of peace between Muslims and Jews. He has taken his upbringing that was only hate and now uses his newfound knowledge and research to explain the truth.
“Palestinians are suffering under a terrorist organization that wants to kill Jews,” he says. “I speak with a message that I’m fully convinced of and I’m grateful to God that I saw the truth. I’m not being paid by anyone. I invest 13 years of knowledge on this.”
With all the work Alshareef has done and the progress the Abraham Accords made, he says that the UAE, where he lives, is actually flourishing with tolerance. “People don’t have problems with Jews or Israelis here,” he says. “You see local people hanging out with Israelis. We just need to educate people more. Not enough people know the history. That’s what I’m trying to do with my Instagram and platform.”
Alshareef is hopeful that his messaging will reach many and continue to change minds. He is optimistic that one day leadership will get on board and create the peace and stability we want, crave and need.
He continues to bring people in person to events where they can learn the truth and will continue to make videos that spread his mission further.
“It’s a very noble message…we have to change people from hate to love and acceptance,” he says. “It’s worth every trouble.”