The boyish face, easy smile and soft voice are deceiving. Because of his unassuming demeanor, Rashid Shaker was trained to kill.
And had things gone as planned, the young Palestinian would be dead as well, along with dozens of Israeli victims.Shaker is one of the main characters in Israeli filmmaker Dan Setton's documentary on Palestinian suicide bombers, the most terrifying weapon used by radical Islamic groups in their war on Israel.
The film, "Suicide Bombers: Secrets of the Shaheed," airs on the Cinemax cable TV channel this week in the United States. It has aired in Canada, Australia and several European countries and is scheduled for broadcast in about 20 others.
Granted rare access to jail cells and safe houses used by the militant group Hamas, Setton contacted men who tried to carry out suicide attacks. The result is a glimpse into the twisted psyche of the "shaheed," or martyr.
"When I interviewed the first person, I expected to meet with a repulsive murderer. I was surprised," Setton said in an interview with The Associated Press. "These were ordinary people. That's what made it fascinating."
The film moves from their recruitment in Gaza mosques through the moment when, strapped with dynamite, they tried to blow themselves up. The subjects are alive only because their bombs malfunctioned or because they were caught by police. All are now in Israeli or Palestinian jails.
Suicide bombers typically have been portrayed as poor, single and religious. But a far more complex profile emerges in the film.
They also tend to be quiet and have no criminal record, making them unknown to security services, and can easily blend into crowds. Even their closest relatives had no idea what they were up to.
"I was normal," bomber Mahmoud Sharif says as he explains the last hours before his attack. "This is how one who is going to be a martyr should be, or else you will expose yourself."
Sharif - whose hip was blown apart when his detonator malfunctioned while he tried to attack Israeli soldiers at the Erez border checkpoint - was convinced he was in heaven following the explosion. Only when told he was in an Israeli hospital did Sharif realize he was alive. He is now serving a 17-year sentence in an Israeli prison.
The bombers are loyal, if simple, warriors, attracted by a straightforward message of religion and nationalism.
Shaker was lured by visions of honey-flowing rivers and beautiful virgins waiting for him in paradise. His recruiters assured him that all of his friends and relatives would join him there. They also promised $6,000 to his family.
But most importantly, they stressed that God would be pleased with him. After just three meetings, Shaker was ready to be a martyr.
"I was convinced," he said. "I didn't ask any questions."
To prepare for death, bombers lie for hours at night among the graves in cemeteries and train in white, hooded shrouds normally used to cover bodies for burial.