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Thursday, February 27, 2020

To save a single life is to save an entire world. And that’s exactly what Yad L’Achim does, day after day, one person at a time. The organization’s mission is rescuing women and children from captivity, bringing them home and guiding them towards successful and happy lives.

Recently Yad L’Achim, with its annual budget of $5 million, was in the area offering programs to raise awareness of the captive women and children the organization helps locate, rescue, hide and protect and, ultimately, support until they are self sufficient and independent.

The shocking and compelling story of Tamar, a fictitious name for the woman speaking at this year’s program, was but one of nearly 600 such stories from last year alone.

Tamar’s grandmother was a Holocaust survivor who gave up Judaism, fled the Nazis to Uzbekistan, and married a dashing young Muslim man after the war. The mother of seven, one of whom is Tamar’s mother, she and her family all studied the Koran. Some years later, Tamar’s parents (her Jewish mother also married a Muslim man) immigrated to Israel to take advantage of the benefits, because they could prove her Jewish identity although she was married to a Muslim.

Tamar knew only of her Muslim life. Her father wanted her to attend a school that preached modesty, so young Tamar attended religious Jewish school in Israel. Judaism began to call to her. She eventually learned that her mother, grandmother and she were Jewish. She wanted to learn more about her Jewish roots. Her father attempted to discourage her, but she was insistent. She became very close with the school principal, who tried to warn her about what was unfolding and what could happen next if she stayed with her family.

But it was too late. When Tamar was 16 they took her back to Uzbekistan where she was introduced to a Muslim young man. She didn’t know why they were meeting, but soon learned that she was to marry him and had no say in the matter. Despite her protests and her insistence regarding her Jewish identity, Tamar was forced by her parents to marry him.

The beatings began the first day: “education.” She soon found herself pregnant, so they returned to Israel for the benefits of citizenship, and she gave birth to a son. By a series of miraculous events, she managed to arrange a kosher brit milah for him, and recalled with great agony the silent scream in her head as she and her baby son cried together. She told her husband that she wanted to leave, to divorce him. He responded by telling her that the day she divorces him will be the same day she is buried. Then he inflicted specific injuries upon her so she would be forever marked as a rebellious and unattractive woman. She became pregnant again, the beatings continued, and one of these beatings caused the pregnancy to terminate. Realizing that she was condemned for life to this man, she knew that it would mean risking her life if she attempted to escape.

Meanwhile, she had secretly maintained contact with her teacher. In secret she met with the teacher, always planning to escape and assuming her life would be cut short. With her teacher, she wrote a will endowing to this trusted teacher and mentor the care of her children in the event of her death.

After a third pregnancy, she had a second child. Through a series of events, the two children were kidnapped and returned to Uzbekistan, leaving Tamar behind in Israel. Tamar had already been in contact with Yad L’Achim, but the complications of distance, lack of access and international law remained nearly insurmountable…unless you are Yad L’Achim. With the help of their specialty teams, Tamar was able to rescue her children and return with them to Israel, with an outraged and entitled father hot on their heels. Through a twist of his limited Hebrew language skills, and cooperation of numerous agencies and law enforcement in Israel, he admitted to beating her, referring to it as “education.” Cuffed ankle and wrist, he was jailed immediately.

The end result was that he plea bargained from a 15-year sentence to three years, in exchange for relinquishing custody of, and rights to, the children to Tamar, and was banished permanently, with no rights, from Israel following his prison term.

Yad L’Achim placed Tamar and her children in an apartment and provided their life necessities as well as vocational training for Tamar until she could sustain them independently.

Happily, another miracle has come into the life of Tamar and her children. She is now happily married, with a third child, and fully integrated into Israeli society.

To donate to Yad L’Achim, participate in their numerous email campaigns throughout the year, or visit www.yadlachim.org.

By Ellie Wolf