The request that arrived at Yad L'Achim's hotline was as moving as it was unconventional: "I live in an Arab village near Be'er Sheva," the Jewish woman on the other end of the line began. "Tomorrow marks eight days since the birth of my son. My Arab husband agreed to let our baby have a brit milah – as long as a doctor performs it and not a rabbi - and I want you to arrange it. I've heard a lot about you. Can you set up a brit milah for tomorrow?"
Not surprisingly, the answer was an immediate yes.
A quick round of phone calls verified the facts of the case. After consulting with the young Jewish woman's parents, Yad L'Achim chairman Harav Shalom Dov Lifschitz instructed his staff to prepare a modest ceremony, far from the public view, in a small hall in Be'er Sheva.
At the designated time, Rabbi Eliahu Bitton, a well-known mohel in Be'er Sheva, appeared at the all in a white doctor's jacket. The handful of guests included the baby's grandparents and several Yad L'Achim activists, among them the "mother of survivors," a veteran who has selflessly helped Jewish girls rescued from Arab villages."
Of course, the young mother who phoned Yad L'Achim a day earlier was there, together with her baby and husband.
But just moments before the ceremony was to begin, the husband, who had been cooperative until then, suddenly erupted in anger. He grabbed the baby carriage, with the baby inside, and bolted from the hall to the street, where he tried to hail a cab.
Bedlam erupted among the guests, with the panicked mother crying out to her husband to wait for her. As she left, she turned to the Yad L'Achim staffers with a plea: "I beg of you, go away. Otherwise, he will take the baby away from me permanently."
To the astonishment of the guests, the Arab father and his Jewish wife and baby disappeared into a cab that took them back to the village.
Yad L'Achim staffers called the young mother's cellphone and tried to speak to the father to convince him to return, but his mind was made up. He warned them not to make any further contact with either him or his wife.
After recovering from the initial shock, Yad L'Achim's "mother of survivors" told the mohel: "We didn't come to Be'er Sheva for nothing. I want you to think of someone here who might need our help."
On hearing these words, the mohel's eyes lit up. "A week and a half ago, I performed a brit milah to a baby who was born of a Jewish mother and an Arab father," he recalled.
Rabbi Bitton and the Yad L'Achim activist decided to visit the new mother, who was temporarily staying in the home of her Jewish parents. The mohel entered first, saying that he had been passing by and wanted to see how the baby was. The mother was moved by the gesture and then the mohel mentioned, "I brought you a guest."
The "mother of survivors" introduced herself and spoke of how Yad L'Achim helps women in her difficult position. The mother, in turn, told her story of growing up in a family of immigrants that faced poverty and other difficulties and how she ended up with an Arab husband.
She expressed a strong desire to disconnect from the Arab, but was despondent about her chances of overcoming the difficulties involved in such a move.
The Yad L'Achim activist provided her with written material on how to reconnect to Judaism and made it clear that she would be at her side throughout the entire process.
The mother bravely took the plunge and just a week ago participated in a Shabbat seminar run by Yad L'Achim at Moshav Tsafria, together with dozens of other survivors rescued in recent months from Arab villages.
She has been assigned a social worker who is at her disposal round the clock and is making her way back to Judaism.
Commenting on the way Yad L'Achim went to Be'er Sheva to arrange a bris for one child and ended up saving another woman and her child, Rav Lifschitz said: "It's impossible not to be astounded by the Divine providence which led to this Jewish girl being redeemed from captivity, being brought from darkness to light."
And what about the mother and baby who ran away from the bris milah? Yad L'Achim said this week that it will soon be able to tell the entire, amazing story.