Anat Gopstein’s latest weekly column in the Shabbat publication “Gilui Da’at”:
And the flame goes on burning
I’ve gotten a lot of responses, but one especially moved me. This was a girl who had hobnobbed with Arabs from a young age. Criminals took advantage of her and gave her drugs. This was a girl of the type of girls who were high-risk, who are taken advantage of and do not interest the authorities. The family is helpless, worried, hurting and trying to help her, but they don’t have any recourse. Girls who are “hefker” – nobody’s girls.
Drugs, Arabs, parties and sexual exploitation. Young girls who have lost the joy of life, at a young age. She had a few moments of grace when she wanted to improve her life, but they were unsuccessful. We met, we spoke, I tried to help her, but she was addicted, she had no motivation to move forward.
She hooked up with a terrorist who took her to the village. Quite close to her parents, but her heart was light years away. She forgot where she came from, where she was going, but mainly to whom she belonged. She understood that the Arab she was living with was not a peace seeker as he told her, but an accursed terrorist who took advantage of her and her naievete. She got scared, and ran away from the village.
She got in touch with us, and since then we’ve been trying to help her and offer her assistance. To be there for her. When I wrote about Jewish identity that gets blurred in such a relationship, she wrote me: “How exciting, that reminds me of myself, what I went through! What hell, terrible suffering. That’s what I thought, too, and I told everyone that. Baruch Hashem I got out of there, by a miracle, a little before Chanuka. When it was Chanuka, I was celebrating Christmas with them and didn’t remember that it was Chanuka. They try to make you forget your Judaism, try to erase it from your memory. What a joy it is to now light Chanuka candles without someone looking and me being afraid. Finally I feel free and unattached.
“I have my Father in Heaven, and thanks to Him I’m here and happy and smiling, in spite of the fact that I don’t so much feel that way inside myself, but in spite of still having fears and anxieties, I believe that with G-d’s help this, too, shall pass. It’s still hard for me, I won’t lie; I came back from a place where I was for years. To suddenly live with Jews, and the fact that there are holidays I didn’t observe there or even remember that there were such holidays, is very sad. I couldn’t remember Fridays. Sometimes I would look at my phone and see that it was Friday. It so pinched my heart, and I would think about it and miss lighting candles, the cooking, the smells of Shabbat. I so hope and believe that I’ll slowly start keeping Shabbat and holidays. I’ve already forgotten how to keep Shabbat and holidays. Sometimes I feel like I’m a little girl, I need to learn everything from scratch, like a kid learning how to walk and he falls and gets up, falls and gets up, but in the end, he learns. That’s the way I am. With G-d’s help I’ll slowly learn everything. Thank you, Anat, and thanks to the Holy One, Blessed be He, for sending you to me. At the time I left there, I met you and saw you. You were smiling at me and you told me, ‘I’m always here for you, don’t be afraid’. That gave me confidence. I’m writing this with tears of joy; I did something unacceptable, crossed a red line. I hope people will understand me and what I went through. Thank you for listening to me and for trying to help and support me. I felt alienated, and now I’m coming back to my true self, to where I belong.”
As long as the candle is burning, things can be fixed.