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American Jewish Bride Imprisoned in Afghani Harem

Her husband took a big risk by marrying an American. Especially one who was Jewish (“Yahud!” His mother screamed at her.) And not even a blond! No one could understand it, and she could not understand them. She was alone.

"An American Bride in Kabul," by Phyllis Chesler, won the National Jewish Book Award for best memoir of 2013 by the Jewish Book Council

"An American Bride in Kabul," by Phyllis Chesler, won the National Jewish Book Award for best memoir of 2013 by the Jewish Book Council

One of the wonderful things about her receiving First Prize for memoir from the National Jewish Book Awards for her new book, “An American Bride in Kabul,” is that Phyllis Chesler’s reading audience will expand exponentially.  The competition was stiff, and all the winners are first rate scholars and world-renown authors, including Amos Oz, Martin Halbertal and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Chesler is in this league.

In each of her many chosen fields Chesler has excelled. A true daughter of Zion and now a student of Torah, Chesler was a molder and macher of the Feminist Movement when it actually broke new ground and opened up the world to women in so many fields.

She is also the author of  15 books, many about women, some about Israel, some about the unpleasant clash between the two, and still more about mental health.

Chesler has also written important articles, and supplied expert testimony in court cases, about the phenomenon of honor killing. This custom is found primarily in the Muslim world (and to a lesser extent, among Hindus and Sikhs) where a female member of a family is killed – either by a brother, a father, or even a mother – in order to restore the honor of that family – regardless of whether the woman killed has committed a grave, or even any, transgression.

But few who know of this prodigious woman realize there was a chapter of her life which appears to have been a complete rejection of all the others. Or perhaps the source of them all.

Phyllis Chesler – brave feminist iconoclast, defender of Israel in a time and in a peer group that attacks the Jewish State, and healer of tortured souls – left college at 20 to marry a Muslim fellow student from Afghanistan.

Not only did she leave school and her home, Chesler left her family, her faith and her country.

Her parents were peasants, Chesler’s beau said at the time. They were observant Jews, poor – Chesler went through school on full scholarships. In sharp contrast, when her boyfriend’s father visited New York, he stayed at the Plaza.

Chesler’s mother was a prodder. If Phyllis received a 98 on an exam, her mother responded, “So, it wasn’t a 100.”  Her mother also was disheartened by her feminism.

Many years later, after Chesler was an accomplished author and sought-after speaker, her mother was still not quite satisfied.

“Once my mother came to hear me speak,” Chesler confides. “Afterwards, she told me I didn’t really look well. Besides, she whispered in an aside, ‘who’s gonna marry you if you if you say these things?’”

Later, many years later, Phyllis learned that whenever her mother traveled she checked in every library to make sure it carried her daughter’s books.

“If only I had known that at the time,” Chesler remarks wistfully.

But her parents and her provincial life in Brooklyn is something Chesler left behind as soon as she possibly could.  With a brand new husband, an exotic foreigner whose father was among his country’s elite, Chesler embarked on what she thought would be a life of glamour and intrigue.

She thought they were going to help westernize Afghanistan.  Her husband was from a prominent family.  Her husband was educated in the West and loved theater and literature.  Her husband was going to bring modern theater to Afghanistan, and Chesler was “going to write the scripts, stories and novels upon which he’ll base his films.”

Chesler sailed off to Europe with her ever-attentive groom – oh how she loved to travel!  But the European tour was cut short by his father’s purse strings.  Instead of a Grand Tour, far too soon she found herself entering an Eastern world she had never closely examined. She was on her way with her groom to his home country.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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12 Responses to “American Jewish Bride Imprisoned in Afghani Harem”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Chesler is a naive and misguided liberal about feminism, about intermarriage, and about Arab culture. Sounds like she still is, as is Ms. Marcus. To call someone a "feminist and a humanist" is not a compliment. And, by the way, Ms. Chesler: your mother was right!

  2. I think this was taken from a real life stiuation.

  3. Cody Flecker says:

    This story typifies the role that Liberal Feminist Jews seem to revel in. The abandonment of Judaism and intermarriage as a means to uplift ioneself. How can anyone in their right mind especially one who is left leaning and Jewish from Brooklyn NY even consider marrying a Muslim from anywhere be considered sane. Someone once said that "Liberalism is like Cancer", and I agree. Stories like this one is based on pure nonsense, and anyone who reads it, must have his/her head examined.

  4. Gil Gilman says:

    I really like the comment by Louie V. Yadua, "People like Ms. Chesler who have been into the very heart of Muslim darkness, and escaped intact to tell of what they've seen, are crucial witnesses to the dangerous and deceptive forces at work in the world. It's a wonderful thing that the National Jewish Book Award would be given to such a person, for such a report; and a very valuable thing indeed for the Jewish Press to write about it. I only hope the world will pay attention." It is the only comment thus far which is to the point of the article.

    Though I do not adhere to the lack of judgement behind the misguided adventure, nor deem it necessary, personally, to read the book to become convince of what I have known for 40 years, I can see the value of chronicling of this exploit that others may avoid the pitfalls (obvious to the enlightened) encountered here.

  5. Carlos Font says:

    I agree with Mr. Flecker and Mr.Uunlisted except except that it is not just Liberal Feminist Jews but LibFems everwhere. They think with their hearts and somehow ignore their foolishness and naivete.

  6. Leo Erwin says:

    SO….SHE IS AN IDIOT AND BEING JEWISH…SHE GOT WHAT SHE DESERVED…WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD DO THIS….HOWEVER SHE BECAME RICH AND FAMOUS…NOW IT IS ALL OKAY….ABSURD STORY AND MORE RACE BULL….GARBAGE TO READ HER WORKS…SO…WHAT DOES SHE WANT FROM US…..ONLY TO BUY HER BULL BOOKS…SO….

  7. Edward Lobel says:

    NO women deserves to be kidnapped or abused or anything else and you should be ashamed of yourself for thinking so! Sure she was not being very smart about her choices, but certainly she did not deserve what happened!

  8. Edward Lobel says:

    Liberalism has given you EVERYTHING that you take for granted. Do you really believe that a conservative would give you anything? Where would health insurance be, social security, medicare, vacations, sick time, and so many other benefits are attributed to Liberalism! I wonder when these are taken away from you if you will be the first person to rant and rave ab out giving you back your rights!
    I take serious pride in being liberal in my thoughts and actions and really resent someone like you or anyone else using the word as though it was evil!

  9. Alex Shapiro says:

    I would say this is not only the problem of liberal Feminists, but of all liberal leftists, as one. It was correctly mentioned by one of the respondents, Carlos Font, that they think with their hearts while ignoring the facts on hand. The leftists (female and male alike) are dreaming of making peace with Palestinians. It is a nice dream, indeed. I guess they never bother to dig deeply into Islamic holy texts that forbid Moslems being friends with infidels while prescribing them to be held only in the state of servitude. As for Jews, the book of Hadith openly calls for killing them (the portion of Sahih Bukhari).
    While working in the Middle East I had many chances to discuss the Middle East problem with Palestinians and other Muslims. I never forget the condescending smiles and contempt on their faces while they spoke about the Jewish Left while at the same time avidly reading the daily English Internet edition of the Israeli leftist newspaper Ha’aretz. “These people” told me once one Palestinian, “will help us to finally liberate the Palestine.” Stupid, ignorant starry-eyed fools.

  10. Maynard Miller says:

    If this is a true story then it is typical of the naive American girls who believe the Hog Wash spouted by our liberal colleges and high schools. I feel for them but they truly believe (want to believe) the krap these teachers pour on them.

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