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Don’t Give Up on a Jewish Child

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Anat Gopstein’s latest column in Gilui Da’at:
Don’t Give Up on a Jewish Child
“I want to come before Shabbat enters, to light candles in my mother’s home”, the woman we took out of the village told me on Friday. Shabbat brings us back to memories of our childhood, to our parents’ home. She wanted to leave the village; for 14 years she was disconnected from her parents, but she well remembers the flavor of Shabbat Kodesh. She arrived at her parents’ home before sunset and lit the Shabbat candles.
Memories of childhood, Shabbat and holidays are etched into our consciousness; the nostalgia for the Shabbat table, the family, the holiday customs are all part of our identity, of our sense of belonging to the Jewish people.
The holiday of Succot is approaching, and with it all the customs of the chag. I’m thinking of another woman who we accompanied over the years. A special woman, and her little son. The thoughts about the holiday, about their Jewish identity, about memory and about Jewish consciousness.
Years ago, she separated from her Muslim husband, or better said, escaped out of fear for her life. He was especially violent towards her but she didn’t give in, she escaped with her little son and rebuilt her life. We tried to help and assist her in her return to Judaism, and with emotional, economic and legal support. She got full custody of her son. The boy received a Jewish education, but every other Shabbat he’s with his father in the village.
This child is a child cut in half, and if that weren’t enough, the Nazareth court came and decided that the boy will be with his father on both Muslim and Jewish holidays. In essence, for most of the Jewish holiday, for 5 out of the 7 days of the chag, he’ll be with his father. The judge acted contemptuously, in violation of the law and in violation of the survey by welfare services. It’s hard to believe that this is how a court in the State of Israel behaves, and even more painful that a Jewish judge ruled that way.
The judge ignored the mother’s rights and merits and the child’s needs. He made sure to please the father while harming the mother, both her rights and the law he is obligated to uphold. This is a woman who absorbed extreme violence from her ex-husband and abuse by the court. That judge took the joy of the holiday away from this woman, but this is a woman who has undergone many difficulties and learned to stand up for her principles and to fight back.
We are currently filing an appeal against this scandalous ruling, and pray for justice in court. And also that this woman, who lived like a Muslim, celebrates the Jewish holidays and will not give up.
The memory of the holidays burned strongly inside of her within her childhood memories, and she is not giving them up. And it’s so painful that she can’t transfer this memory to her son.
Her son was born into a difficult and complicated reality. A child of two halves, a boy who carries two nations within him, two religions, two conflicting cultures. The child carries the conflict, the dispute and the war over this land inside of himself. A poor child with no identity, trying to live between the worlds.
This child, we are commanded to bring close and to love. And we are fighting over him in court, which is leaning towards the enemy, but we will fight for him, because we do not give up on a Jewish child.
Published in the Shabbat weekly Gilui Da’at, 30/9/20