The Four Strangers Who Changed History

Listen on the go: Four Days investigation, narrated by Kevin Donovan

This story was supported by a grant from the Templeton foundation.

You are about to hear one of the most incredible stories in human history; the story of an extraordinary moment when four strangers found extraordinary people who could change history.

That moment occurred just a few days ago in Jerusalem.

On a Monday evening in January, four people found themselves sitting on the floor of an empty Tel Aviv hotel, which was to be the hostel where members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) would be staying.

“It was a Friday afternoon, it had just been announced that they’d go to Israel to join their jihad,” said Ali A. Allawi, one of the four.

“The other day we had a meeting in the hotel lobby. [A] man came in dressed in a black and red robe, and he told us that he had a plan to do something very important,” Allawi said. “He told us about a plan they had to travel from Lebanon to Egypt, and then [to Iraq], and then to Turkey, to Istanbul, and then to a beach in Marmaris. It was our first meeting in the hotel lobby.”

The man in the black and red robes was ISIS’s spiritual leader, Abu Bakr, and the man dressed in black and red was his spiritual successor, Abu Omar al-Shishani.

“They told me the whole plan was to join the Islamic State,” Allawi recalled. “They wanted me to join them. I told them I had a family. I didn’t have the money to fly.”

It didn’t take long for the pair to persuade Ali A. Allawi to accept their offer.

“They were really great – it was like I was having an affair,” Allawi said. “They said, ‘We need someone to teach, preach, and share our ideas.’ Then they told me to pick a partner.”

Ali A. Allawi had been a practicing psychiatrist in New York for twenty-five years, but he found he was unable to practice his field.

“What I was doing is different than the practice that I was used to,” Allawi said. He’d grown up

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