Nov 29, 2021

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The recent conflict left a deep rift in Israeli society as, for the first time, mobs of Arabs rampaged through the streets. But Yad L’Achim, an organization that rescues Jewish women and children from abusive relationships with Arabs, noted that an unexpected benefit of the hostilities was that many women took these hostilities as a wake-up call that it was time to return to the Jewish people.

First-person accounts of escaping abusive marriages

In a recent article in the Hebrew language news site Artuz Sheva, Yad L’achim tells of one woman named Li’el (a pseudonym) who was a successful professional. Li’el became the second wife to an Arab man who exploited her financially. She turned to counselors from Yad L’Achim but after a long period of therapy she acknowledged that she was being exploited. Li’el left her abusive Arab husband but never felt entirely at peace with her decision. The recent conflict, both with Hamas and with Arab citizens who turned violent against their Jewish neighbors, convinced Li’el that she had not only acted correctly, but her move had come just in time.

“I came to the conclusion that even among Israeli Arabs, there is no faith and you cannot trust them,” Li’el said. “I am very patriotic and happy that I have not tied my life to his life. It strengthens in me the good things I am experiencing now and I am a bit regretful that I wasted all those years before finally leaving.” 

The organization related the experiences of another person named Shahar.

“My partner promised me that he would convert,” Shahar said. “But since Operation Guardian of the Walls started, I suddenly saw another side to him that I had never seen before. I heard him speak only against the Jewish people, saying horrible things. It was clear that he certainly did not intend to convert as he promised me. I am so glad I caught it in time when I still have another chance to go back.”

The marriages are problematic as Israeli law mandates that marriages can be performed only under the auspices of the religious community to which couples belong, meaning that no inter-faith marriages performed in the country are legally recognized.

The social situation is further complicated by religious considerations. According to Jewish law, the identity of the child is determined by the mother’s identity. In Islam, the religious identity is determined by the father. In most cases, Jewish women marry Arab men and are absorbed into Arab society, frequently cut off entirely from their families and friends. 

The imperative comes from a disturbingly high level of domestic violence in Arab culture. Though no research has been done into Jewish women married to Arab men, a UN study determined that one-third of married Palestinian women in Judea and Samaria have been subjected to domestic violence. 

Final step in the return of the exiles; leaving foreign wives

The Biblically minded will surely see a parallel between these cases and what was described in the end of the Book of Ezra. The final verses in Ezra describing the culmination of the return of the exiles deals with men rejecting their foreign, non-Jewish wives.

Let our officers remain on behalf of the entire congregation, and all our townspeople who have brought home foreign women shall appear before them at scheduled times, together with the elders and judges of each town, in order to avert the burning anger of our God from us on this account.” Ezra 10:14

Rabbi Nachman Kahana agreed that fixing the plight of these marriages was a necessary element of the final redemption but what we are seeing now is a tiny taste of what is to come.

“Marriage, what we call Kiddushin, is the basis of the Jewish people,” Rabbi Kahana said. “There is no doubt that part of Geula is a fixing of marriages. What we are seeing with the Jewish women leaving their husbands is important but it is only a trickle. The ugly truth that many are unwilling to admit is that for every woman who leaves, there are hundreds who are afraid to leave because if they do, their husbands will break their bones. And even if they stay, they suffer because they are never accepted by the family or the community. For this to be a part of Geula, this will need to become a flood, bringing back all of these women.”

“The recent conflict was caused because Israel did not fulfill the commandment of conquering the entire land. They literally threw away a section of the Promised Land and it was from there that the attacks came. And if you allow these people to stay in the land, of course, they are going to marry our daughters, and of course, that will be the source of many problems.”

A case study

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior lecturer at Bar Ilan on Arabic studies, believes that this is rooted in the Arab-Muslim perception of the woman as “an object, a sex doll that exists to satisfy man’s urges.”

“This culture is often ‘swept under the carpet’ and only reveals its true nature in times of crisis,” Dr. Kedar stated at a lecture in 2015. 

Yad L’Achim related the case of Avivit in which resulted in deep identity confusion for the children. Avivit was in a relationship with an Arab for nearly a decade. After living in Arab society, she realized that she wanted a better future for her children and decided to leave before the children grew up and absorbed the difficult atmosphere of their surrounding culture. Last year, one of her sons decided he wanted to return to his father who lived in a city where Jews and Arabs co-existed. These were the cities that suffered the worst riots in the recent violence. 

My son is now exposed to everything that is happening there, in the Arab society,” Avivit said. “All the violence, incitement and evil. I feel like I am losing him completely because of this situation. It seems that he prefers the other side, unfortunately. There is not much to do. I tried what I can. I wish he would wake up and he will understand that is not the place for him. I know that he will regret every day he was there. That is what I learned in my own life and today, I thank God I am not there, that I chose to run away at the right time.”

Fortunately, Yad L’Achim was able to help Avivit and her son relocate.