Here is a miraculous story about Daniel Dvash, who grew up in East Jerusalem as Nidal.
Published in the Jewish Voice
At the age of 19, Nidal, now Daniel, discovered the significance of having a Jewish mother. He then embarked on a long period of secret study, left his family in the village of Jabal Mukaber, and began to live as a Jew.
The road back was not easy. Daniel, who lost his mother at a young age, was left alone, with constant threats to his life. Another struggle was learning a new language and discovering a religion.
Those who adopted him were members of the Lahava organization, headed by the Gopstein family. “Bentzi is like my father,” he told the Jewish voice.
This week, Daniel will be getting married. Lahava was able to raise enough funds to be able to cover all the wedding expenses as well as additional funds for the needs of the newlywed couple.
A HEADSTART campaign was launched and within a few days, hundreds of donors were mobilized and our initial fundraising goal was met.
Every shekel beyond the first NIS 50,000 will be directed to help the other children of assimilation, the true victims. In addition, they will also launch a campaign in Arabic aimed to reach and encourage the return to Judaism of members of the second generation who have assimilated into Arab villages.
“Daniel struggled and deliberated long before he agreed to let us publicly use his name to help finance the wedding, that is why the campaign was launched just a few days before the nuptials. “The time is short, so the right to speak to Daniel,” they explained representatives from Lahava
“I was born in an Arab village in East Jerusalem, I was called Nidal. At the age of 6, my mother disappeared. She was my protectorate. I was abused by my father’s second wife. They called me a “Stinking Jew”, and I was the punching bag of the entire family.
When I grew up, I was sent to work in construction. My salary went to my father. I spent my days performing hard labor tasks, and spent my nights in solitude, in pain and longing for Mother.
Even at a young age, I already understood that she was murdered (even though to this day “they do not know” who killed her). I also understood, with the help of people I encountered, that according to Jewish law, I am a Jew.
So I ran away from home and wandered from place to place, and more often than not I was eyed suspiciously. No one believed my story. They were fearful as if I were going to carry out an attack or maybe I was a spy.
Until I met Bentzi Gopstein, who investigated and verified that my story was real. He took me in and I lived with his family.
I returned to Judaism, changed my name to Daniel and with the help of Bentzi and his activists and supporters, who supported me, strengthened me, encouraged the observance of Mitzvot, and became my family.
Now, thanks to God, I was able to meet my soulmate, who is also an orphan. She is the woman with whom I want to establish a Jewish home and raise Jewish children to thank Hashem who saved and brought me back to the Jewish people.
Just before our big moment, I am humbly asking for your help in paying for our wedding costs. We have basic needs such as furniture and linens. With your help, I can begin the next stage of my life on the right foot and start from a clean slate. ”
Where did it all start?
“My mother immigrated from Russia, to Eilat, in the 1990s as a young girl with her family, ” Daniel relates his personal story. “She had a very difficult time acclimating, learning the language and adapting to cultural differences in Israel.
My father, an Arab who worked in Eilat, lived in the same building as us. He began paying attention to her, smiling and greeting her daily. She was about 16 loved the attention he was giving her, and that’s how they started to be friends. ”
“Although my mother’s family is religious, she was able to keep the secret of her Arab boyfriend for about two years,” he says.
“He called himself Lior, and even met my grandparents. As they were new immigrants, they didn’t recognize, nor pay much attention to his accent. Once he spoke in Arabic – then they understood – they tried to persuade my mother to leave him, but she did not agree. ”
Daniel says that his father persuaded his mother to move to Jabel Mukaber in East Jerusalem, a village known to be hostile, and from which many terrorists have come. He also took on a second wife, an Arab woman, and arranged a rental home for her. She imprisoned his mother in his parents’ home in the village.
In 2002, Daniel’s mother fled the village and returned to her family, but mysteriously died two weeks later at the age of 22.
The Son of a Jewish woman
Daniel was about five years old when his mother died, and he describes a difficult childhood as the, “Black Sheep” of the family.
Daniel continues, “My father moved with his wife to Shuafat, and I stayed there until 2010. I suffered terribly without a mother.
“I always knew my mother was Jewish, but I did not know how it affected me. For Muslims, religion goes according to the father. In our family, I verbally abused because of my Jewish mother. I could understand why they would say this to me.” he describes painfully.
At the age of about 14, after suffering constant verbal abuse from his father’s wife and his father, he fled to his paternal grandfather’s home, in the previous village where they had lived.
“My grandfather promised me a good life but in reality, it was the other way around. He took me out of school and I started working in construction. All the money I earned went right to him.” says Daniel.
“My grandfather also verbally abused mel. He never considered whether or not Ii should work or go to school He never paid attention to my feelings. He just thought about turning me into an asset that would bring in money.”
The Meeting that Changed My Life
“I had worked for about five year when the construction company sent me to a work site in Bet Shemesh for three days because they needed extra hands to be able to meet a deadline.
A Jewish plumber worked with me on the work site. One morning I saw him putting on tefillin. Although I did not understand what he was doing, I just watched. The next day, again he put on tefillin and again, I just observed. On the third day, I just had to ask, ‘Tell me what are you doing?’ Daniel vividly recalled the question that changed everything.
“He told me that this is how the Jews pray, but I knew that he felt uncomfortable with the conversation. So I told him, ‘Sorry, sir, I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable but my mother is Jewish and I do not know anything about her religion.’
He looked at me and said, ‘What? Are you kidding me?’ I told him no, I’m not kidding. He asked me for my ID number. He checked with a friend who had verified the ID that revealed that I was in fact registered as a Jew. The man wept, hugged me and told me that I had to return to my Jewish roots and learn to live like a Jew. I did not believe it, ” says Daniel.
“I felt as if the world was spinning around me. I was overwhelmed. I went home and did not tell a soul, but it really struck my heart.
I started looking for videos on YouTube by Rabbi Zamir Cohen, Rabbi Yitzchak Panger, Rabbi Yigal Cohen, Yosef Mizrahi and slowly I came to understand a little more about Judaism but I did not know how to get out of my current situation.
I lived as a Jew in secret for about a year and a half. I said to myself, ‘I know what I’ll do. I’ll enlist in the army. ‘I went to a recruitment office and asked to enlist. They told me that they would send me recruitment information. I asked them not to send it by post, and to only update me with SMS, but unfortunately, they sent it to the post office. It was seen by my parents and they threatened me.”
Having no choice, Daniel fled from his home and began to sleep in the streets. “I ran to Davidka in the center of Jerusalem, slept on the street near the railroad tracks, and looked for an apartment.”
Lahava Angels, not Racists.
After a while he met the Lahava activists and volunteers who became his family, and lived for a while in ‘Yeshivat of The Jewish Idea’ established by the students of Rabbi Meir Kahane.
He also received financial and housing assistance from the charitable organization Yad L’Achim and spent a few months at a Chabad Yeshiva where he took the first steps in Judaism.
“Bentzi Gopstein is an angel,” says Daniel excitedly. “He’s just like a father to me. I spent many holidays with him, many Shabbatot, and I went with him and Baruch Marzel to the Ma’arat Hamachpela. He also helped me learn Hebrew because I knew almost no Hebrew.
Some people disparage Lahava. But in my heart, I know what Lahava really is. I know that Bentzi may not sleep for whole nights in order to save another Jew,” he says.
“I’ve heard from many leftists that Rabbi Kahane was a racist, and have been criticized for following his tennents. following him. But if Rabbi Kahane was really a racist, Benzi would have never accepted me.
While the State of Israel took two years to realize I wasn’t a terrorist, Bentzi accepted me in one day without a background check. I was immediately given a place to sleep, a place to rest in the Yeshiva of the Jewish idea.
To those leftists who support assimilation, they should believe that it is because of them I had to experience what happened to me in my life.
To those that say Lahava is cold and racist? Lahava taught me Hebrew, and helped me get on my feet. I never experienced negativity nor harsh glances. I feel as though I sit amongst my brothers.
As someone who left the Arab world, Daniel has first hand experience and has been helping Lahava, in various activities, to remove Jewish women from their connections with Arabs.
“The problem is that sometimes if you see a girl at risk, and try to help her, she may still lodge a complaint against you,” he says. “I have many friends who were arrested because they only talked to a girl, to try to convince them not to go out with Arabs, and the police pursued them.”
First Memorial After 15 years
Revealing his story has not been easy for Daniel, but he does so because he understands that his story can help thousands of Jews who live in Arab villages or are in contact with Arabs.
“Sometimes people ask me some very probing and personal questions when they hear my story. What they don’t understand is that every time I repeat this story it still hurts. I remember everything I went through, so sometimes I just tell people that I’m a new immigrant from one of the Arab countries. It is a way of keeping some of the more painful details to myself. ” he says.
After making his first steps back in the Jewish world, Daniel began to renew contact with his mother’s family.
“I met my mother’s family about a year ago. Last year, for the first time, I said kaddish for my mother,” he recalls emotionally.
“Hashem protects me”
His father’s family, of course, did not approve of Daniel’s return to the Judaism. Every once in a while, I’ve bumped into relatives or acquaintances from the village in central Jerusalem.
“They would meet me in Ben Yehuda on the pedestrian mall or in the area, and ask me, ‘What you became a Jew?’ They’d hurl abuse at me, and one time I was even threatened with a knife. But thank G-d, I was with someone from Lahava and we were protected.
I complained to the police a few times but I’m not a case of interest. They would ask, ‘Tell me what you want security guards 24/7?’ I know that I’m not worth much to the authorities here, but God protects me and I am not afraid. ”
Daniel would like to enlist in the army, and he hopes it will happen soon.
“I hope the army will give me a significant role in which I will serve meaningfully and productively – after all I have a lot of knowledge of the Arab community and am fluent in Arabic But in any capacity, I will serve proudly and I’ll fight for it,” he says.
How Does No One Interfere?
Daniel explains the Arab mentality that leads to the exploitation of Jewish girls.
“In their villages, “boyfriend – girlfriend” relationships are not permitted like the Western society among the Jews. Therefore, a man who wants to pursue a relationship seeks out Jewish women.
Unfortunately, some young Jewish women are not properly educated, and there is a very large percentage of girls who would go out with Arab men. She lives a secular life. She goes to clubs, gets drunk and dates Arab men. Once they’re in love, it’s like an addiction – she stays with him.
Girls should respect themselves. Be protective of themselves and only be with their husbands. Not with anyone and no matter whether it is Arab or Jewish.
When I was born, my father was about 22 years old and my mother was about 17 years old. A marriage to a 17 year old is illegal. I still do not know how no one interfered or did anything to stop this union. ”
“Children Lying in Welfare Shelters”
As someone who was tossed from one home to another, and someone who lived on the street, Daniel has been exposed to many difficult and painful stories.
“The people of Israel must return back to the traditional values of observant Judaism. The culture of secular living is destroying lives. There are many children who do not know who their parents, children who have been placed in the welfare system, living alone in the country’s shelters,” he says painfully.
“I see 20-year-olds who do not believe in G-d, and they have been through so much suffering. It is hard to help convince them that bringing G-d into their lives will bring fulfillment.
Change starts from within. Educate our girls and pray for these girls and for the people of Israel. ”
I do not want anyone else to suffer as I did.
Daniel recounted how he discovered Judaism and his love for Hashem
“I am very proud to be a Jew. I learned that I am the son of a king and God loves me. I get up each morning and say “modeh ani – thank you” – to our creator. I felt holy, and love doing mitzvos.
I am still facing challenges with Hebrew, especially when I study Torah or Tanya or Pirkey Avot, but I’ve met Jews who have learned their whole lives and sometimes have a hard time learning them too! … ” he says with a smile.
“I want to send a message to young Jewish Women. Don’t go with Arabs. You’re Jewish now, you will forever remain Jewish and I do not want any more children to suffer as I did. It is not easy to be a Jew, but be proud of your Judaism,
I know of other Jewish women who still live in the village where I grew up, they’re now in the 50’s. Thank God I have left that life, but there are still many who continue to live as Muslims. ”
מקור הכתבה הקול היהודי: https://bit.ly/2CAqulV
מקור הסרטון ערוץ 7: https://www.inn.co.il/News/News.aspx/378102
Transcription of YOUTUBE VIDEO
Daniel: My name is Daniel ____?
My name is Daniel I’m 23.
When I was 5 ½, my mother passed away. I lived in the village of Jabal Mukabar, near Jerusalem.
At 18 I realized that I was Jewish – because my mother was. I was working on a construction site and I noticed a plumber was putting on tefillin each day. I asked him, “What are those belts that you’re putting on each morning?” He explained that they weren’t belts, they were tefillin and that each morning a Jewish man puts on Tefillin.
I could tell that I was making him feel uncomfortable, so I explained that my mother was Jewish and I don’t know anything about her religion. After a few moments, he told me that I am actually really Jewish because my mother was.
At the beginning, I didn’t even believe him! It didn’t sink into my brain! I’ve been told in the past that my religion came from my father, I prayed 5 times a day, I fasted on Ramadan, I celebrated Arabic holidays etc. I returned home and slowly I began looking at YouTube videos from Rabbis and reading the posts on Facebook about assimilation of the Jewish community with the Arab Community. I didn’t really understand what I was reading.
Interviewer: What did they say to you at home?
Daniel: I was Jewish in my heart, and kept it secret. I never revealed to anyone what I had learned.
Baruch Hashem, after I lived this way for about 1 to 1 ½ years, I knew that I needed to get out, I was watching YouTube and Facebook and I knew that I needed to leave, but didn’t know where to go. I thought that If i joined the army, I could reconnect to my Judaism. When I went to the recruitment department they told me that it would take about 3 months to process the paperwork.
I asked them not to send me any paperwork in the mail and explained that my entire family has one mailbox and I didn’t want to let them know. However, they still sent it in the post. When the mail arrived, my family knew that I wanted to enlist. My family was furious, and they threatened my life.
Interviewer: That’s when your family realized that you wanted to live a jewish life, like your mother.
Daniel: Yes, I have many cousins who are very anti-semitic and anti-Israel. They were threatening my life. In short, I ran away from them and went to Jerusalem to try and find a place to live. Every time I saw a sign on yad-2 or a street sign for a rental I would try and call the listed number. But everytime they heard my name, “Nidal” they recognized it as an Arab name. They refused to rent me an apartment. They would put me off and tell me that “we’ll get back to you”, but they never did.
I put a post on Facebook asking for help, I told them my story, I told them that I was Jewish and told them that I was sleeping on the street near Davidka square.
People were very kind, and posted Bentzi Gopstien’s telephone number. But what was I going to do? Call a complete stranger? I hesitated to call, he was unknown to me. Was I just going to call him and say I need 1, 2, and 3? At some point, he was tagged on my post, and people kept posting his number on Facebook. I checked his Facebook profile and sent him a PM. He invited me to meet and connect with him. He was very kind. And invited me to the “Yeshiva of the Idea”
Slowly I began to learn Hebrew, as my Hebrew was not very good, and slowly, slowly through Bentzi’s kindness and warmth he invited me to be like part of his family.
Bentzi: When I saw Daniel’s post on Facebook many people “tagged” us on the post and we began to connect. He was very suspicious and doubtful at the beginning….sometimes when people find my name they read very negative information. It could be quite frightening. To assuage his fears, told him that we would meet in public at Kikar Tzion. He got to the meeting early, still nervous. At the moment we met, we gave him a very warm hug. He has become a member of the Lahava family.
Daniel: Everyone loves me, Benyamin and Moshe and have very many friends. Lahava is my family, I am very loved I’ve been with the Gopstein family for Shabbatot. You know, when someone lets you sleep in their house, they have put all their faith in you. I don’t feel that I’m different from anyone else. They love me. And I love them. Everything is wonderful,
Interview: do you have any connection to your family from the village?
Daniel: The truth is no. I have no connection with them any longer. For about a month after I left because I had yet to change my telephone number, so they were able to call, SMS me – all the messages were violent and threatening. In the end, I changed my number, and all connection was severed.
Bentzi: This is the amazing part of Facebook. I know that there are many in the Orthodox world who struggle against the use of Faceobook,. If you don’t have to be on Facebook, don’t be on Facebook. But this is what’s amazing, Daniel was able to find me because people reacted to his post. I need to be on Facebook because there are many kids and women in this situations like this who seek out people with whom to speak – on Facebook. They prefer anonymity, they prefer to speak in a more disguised way. However, they they won’t be able to find me on Facebook. Currently Facebook doesn’t allow me to open a page with the name “Lahava” or “Bentzi Gopstein”. I am in the process of suing facebook in order to allow me to open pages in those names. This way the next “Daniel” will be able to find me on Facebook. I will hopefully force them to open these pages on Facebook. These pages will be about Judaism and Ahavat Israel; no incitement of violence will be on my agenda.
Guy Ofir, a lawyer who has been successful in lawsuits against Facebook, will be representing me in this lawsuit Facebook is a giant with a much more financial backing than I have. So it’s important to have a lawyer who has been successful in these types of lawsuits. When I raise funds, I make sure that it goes to supporting the children we rescue, helping women reintegrate into society and housing. I am trying to raise money that I will need for this lawsuit against Facebook as well as continued funds to help women and children find housing. I am trying to fundraise in order to pursue this lawsuit. Maybe we will even be able to raise enough money beyond our target. We will win with or without Facebook, but I will need your help. Without your help, we can’t win.
Daniel: When I was “there” I thought that Jews were dirty, Jews were an awful nation, full of murderers, they were disgusting. You understand? That was my thinking before I understood about Jews. I can’t tell you why i thought that way, other than that was the way I was brought up to believe. learned. But I see now how much the Jewish people love one another. For example, when someone posts on Facebook that they need help, quickly people step up and give support and help you. There is “ahavat Chinam.”
Interview: Do you have knowledge about more Jews that you know that live in the Villages because they married with arabs?
Daniel: I know many that are in this situation. Yes, there are many that just can’t leave – out of fear. There are many that are just used to this situation. It’s pleasant and good. And there are others that really want to leave, but are just waiting for the right moment.
Interviewer: What is your message for them?
Daniel: I wish them that they will leave there. It will be difficult, not everything is “rose colored” . It’s not so simple to be a Jew. You have to fight for it. But you get amazing merit.
Bentzi: Once, I was taking a young child with me to shul. He was the son of a Jewish woman and and Arab man. He said to me, “Let’s go open the Aron Kodesh to see how many Sifrei Torah were there.” When we went to count them, we saw about 8-9 sifrei Torah there. He said, “Do you know what? You have permission to sell a torah save a child (“redemption of captives”). Do you know how many Jewish children are captive in the Arab villages? And you’re writing Sifrei Torah instead of saving these diamonds.” That’s way we work day and night to save these diamonds.