After 12 Years in the Arab Village, a Moving Bar Mitzvah at the Kosel

And this is the Torah. The bar mitzvah boy holds the sefer Torah. Right, Harav Moshe Cohen, of Yad L (Enlarge)
And this is the Torah. The bar mitzvah boy holds the sefer Torah. Right, Harav Moshe Cohen, of Yad L

M., the Bar Mitzvah boy who stood at the Kosel last Thursday wrapped in tallis and tefillin, spent 12 of his 13 years in an Arab village. In fact, until a year ago, he had no idea he was Jewish. Neither did his brother, two years his junior.

In the boys' last year in the village, in the home of their Jewish mother and Arab father, they noticed something strange. Every night, before they went to sleep, their mother would lean over their head and whisper some words. They didn't understand what she was doing, but didn't dare ask for an explanation. Their home was a frightening place, where any unnecessary question could bring swift retribution. They and their mother lived in fear of the abusive man who ruled the house with an iron fist.

After many years of indescribable suffering, and under the nose of her Arab husband, who divided his time between drinking to the point of intoxication and letting lose in violent outbursts, M. began forging ties with Yad LAchim.

Someone at the local health clinic who'd become aware of her terrible suffering, passed her a note with the phone number of Yad L'Achim's hotline.

"You should have this," she whispered, when no one was looking. "Call them only when he's not home and there is no chance that he'll suddenly show up."

She held onto the number. At first, she would keep the conversations short, speaking in hurried sentences and hanging up. With the passage of time, as the relationship between her and the social worker on the other end of the line grew stronger, she became bolder and allowed herself to engage in heart-to-heart conversations.

Soon she found herself making a brachah here, and reciting Shema there. At nights, as she drifted off to sleep after another day of abuse, she would whisper a silent prayer: "Abba, help me and the wonderful souls at Yad L'Achim. Save me, please. In Your hands I deposit my spirit."

Yad L'Achim went to work on a complicated rescue plan. The house of the mother and children was in the heart of crowded village. Further complicating matters was that her husband was a member of the hamula that ruled the village. A source in the Yad L'Achim security division hinted last week that some of the locals unwittingly assisted in the rescue, though he refused to divulge details.

Immediately upon conclusion of the successful rescue, that was executed, with G-d's help, in lightning speed and without any mishaps, A. and her two children were taken to a safe house that was fully furnished and stocked with all the basics.

Yad L'Achim staffers are in constant touch with the family, providing economic, legal, psychological and educational assistance.
Last Thursday morning, a year after the bold rescue, a circle was closed at the Kosel plaza.

Surrounded by family members, including the parents of A. who sat shivah for her after her marriage to a non-Jew, and Yad L'Achim staffers who had long since become family, the Bar Mitzvah boy stood in the mehudar tefillin purchased for him by Yad L'Achim.

The ceremony reached its peak when the Bar Mitzvah boy, speaking with great confidence, delivered his speech. Though custom has it that guests interrupt the Bar Mitzvah boy during his speech, all the guests stood silent, awed by the holiness of the moment, which testified to the fact that the eternal bond - between the Jewish people and Toras Yisrael and the Holy One Blessed Be He - will never be broken.

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