Photo Credit:
Dr. Phyllis Chesler

However, once we landed there, they took my American passport away and I became a citizen of no country and the property of a very large, wealthy polygamous Afghan family. And this is a man whom I met in college – very urbane, very sophisticated, very well spoken. We never once discussed religion. He had no problem with the fact that I was Jewish. It’s something that no one talked about in 1960 in America. Islam was not taught anywhere in colleges, and I did not understand how wild [that part of the world] really is.

I was not prepared and was held captive for five months. I came back and literally kissed the ground when I arrived at JFK, which at the time was still called Idlewild, something I’ve only done once since – on my first visit to Israel.


How did you manage to get back to America?

I nearly died in Afghanistan. I was very ill with hepatitis. I had made many escape plans, all of which failed, but at the last minute, my then-father-in-law gave me an Afghan passport. He probably didn’t want a dead American kid on his hands and clearly his son, my husband, was not letting me go, so he let me go.

I’d say I got back because I was blessed by God. And maybe it was all bashert because otherwise how could I understand the Jew-hatred that’s endemic in the Islamic world? How could I teach it at this moment in history?

And how could I know what I know about the burqa and women in the Islamic world had I not been there, had I not witnessed it and endured some of it myself? So maybe this was all part of some divine plan.


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Elliot Resnick is the former chief editor of The Jewish Press and the author and editor of several books including, most recently, “Movers & Shakers, Vol. 3.”


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