There is a heart-breaking reality in Israel of many Jewish girls of various backgrounds who have been ‘won over’ by Arab men who shower them with compliments, gifts and promises and convince the naïve, confused girl to marry them, which she does, thinking that she is leaving her past difficulties behind and entering a new world of appreciation, love, abundance and joy. Once married, the new wife is brought to live in her husband’s Arab village. There it doesn’t take long for her to discover that she has made a horrific mistake. Besides the fact that she has abandoned her family and religion, she also quickly finds herself being abused in every imaginable way.
Though these pitiful young women bitterly regret their decision, it’s too late for they are basically captives in the village, far from any Jews and surrounded by people who hate and abuse them. With no way out, these women have children and continue their nightmarish life in the village. Their crushed, heartbroken Jewish families have given up on them, with no connection or communication between them, and they are under strict surveillance by their Arab husbands who allow them no freedom of any kind.
The Israeli organization, Yad L’Achim (A Hand to Our Brothers) which is well-known for its anti-missionary work in Eretz Yisrael, also does its utmost to extricate Jewish women and their children from Arab villages. This story is about one such rescue but it’s different from the other stories because it isn’t the mother, Sara,* who initiated the rescue, but a Jewish child, Achmad,* who was being raised as a Muslim in an Arab village.
One night Achmad, 6 years old, woke up terrified and rushed to his mother who slept in the same room with him, and told her that someone who looked like a ‘very religious grandfather’ spoke to him in a dream. “He said that you are Jewish, and so am I! He told me that I have to leave this village and go back to my People, the Jewish People. Is it true?? Are you Jewish? Am I Jewish?!”
His mother was taken aback as she had never told anyone that she was Jewish and had never said anything about Jews or Judaism, especially since her husband, his family and the whole village population hated Jews. As she had been terribly abused by her husband ever since their marriage, she quietly told her son that yes, she was Jewish, but that she didn’t want to talk about it anymore because of her fear of her husband’s violence. And then she told Achmad: “It’s just a dream, so go back to sleep, and don’t speak about this to anyone.
The boy did as mother told him but in about a month’s time he again saw this ‘religious grandfather’ in a dream who again told him that he must leave the Arab village and go back to his Jewish family and way of life. And still another time his ‘religious grandfather’ came to him and told him that he’ll take him and his mother out of the village in a big car. These dreams recurred for years but nothing changed.
And then on Chol HaMoed Pesach when Achmad was nine or ten, Sara had a dream. In it she saw her father who had passed away about six years before, and he said to her in the dream: “Listen to me well, my daughter. I have come to you from very far away to tell you to leave the village and go back to your People before it’s too late!” Sara woke up shaking. For years she had wanted to leave with her son as a Jew, but she was totally disconnected from her family, and didn’t know what to do. But after this dream, she was so frightened that she decided that she would do her utmost to leave. She had somehow heard about Yad L’Achim and secretly contacted them. She told them her story and said that her husband worked nights at a gas station. Within two hours, Yad L’Achim activists arrived surreptitiously and whisked her off, together with Achmad!
They were brought to a special apartment in southern Eretz Yisrael where Yad L’Achim cared for them, providing them with everything they needed, and slowly began to do whatever was necessary to rehabilitate them, including giving David a mentor, Meir Roshel, and reuniting Sara and Achmad, who was now named David,* with Sara’s mother and family. They put David into an educational setting that was appropriate for him while Meir, with love and respect, taught him Hebrew as well as the basics of Judaism, so that in several months time, after summer vacation, David would be able to start the new school year in a Jewish school.
That summer David’s mother took him to the city of Netivot for some shopping. As they traveled, David suddenly burst into tears. “What’s the matter?” his mother asked. “Do you miss your father?” “No, of course not,” David answered. “Please tell the driver to stop and go back a little!” And then David pointed to a huge billboard and cried out: “Look! Look at that picture!” he said pointing to a picture of several tzaddikim. “Look at the rabbi in the middle,” he exclaimed, pointing at a picture of the Baba Sali. “That’s who came to me in my dreams that I told you about!” At this, Sara burst out into tears.
David was confused: “Ima, did I say something wrong? Why are you crying?” When his mother calmed down enough to speak, she said: “That’s the Baba Sali! He was a great rabbi. He was a tzaddik! And he, himself, came to you to save you!”
David said that he wanted to go to the tzaddik and thank him but his mother explained that the Baba Sali passed away many years ago, even before the dreams, and that he came to David from Heaven to tell him to return to Am Yisrael. Afterwards, they learned that the Baba Sali was born and also buried in the city where they were, Netivot.
The school year started and for the first time in his life David was in a Jewish school. It wasn’t simple but he worked hard and did well. Years went by and when David turned twelve and began to put on tefillin in preparation for his bar mitzvah, he told Meir that he wanted to go to the home of the Baba Sali who had initiated David’s return to his true self, his true life. Meir agreed and the two traveled to Netivot. Meir knew the street name but not the exact address and was sure that he would find someone who could tell him exactly where the house was. Suddenly David told him where to turn. and exactly where to go to get to the home of the Baba Sali. “How do you know?” asked Meir. “Were you ever here before?” “No,” said David, “but I just feel that this is the way to get there.” Meir followed David’s directions and then at one point David suddenly said, “Stop. This is the house of the tzaddik!” And he was right. They had arrived at the house of the holy Baba Sali!
As David’s thirteenth birthday approached, he said that he wanted his bar mitzvah to be in the shul at the resting place, of the Baba Sali in Netivot. And so it was that David celebrated that special day on which he accepted upon himself a life of Torah and mitzvot at the tziun of the holy Baba Sali. It was the week of the Torah portion that tells of the giving of the Torah to Am Yisrael. And “it also just so happened” that that day both the son-in-law and the grandson of the Baba Sali were there, and when they saw the great excitement and joy and heard David’s story, they both blessed him. And David answered from within his pure neshama (soul) – “Amein!”
Today David is continuing his Torah learning and is growing as a true Jew. Baruch Hashem.
I heard this extraordinary story from Meir Roshel who was given the holy task of being David’s mentor.