Three Jewish kids trapped in Beit Lahiye, Northern GazaMrs. Carl gets a magazine called Mishpacha, with which I am sure many of my Orthodox Jewish readers are familiar (she gets the English version, not the Hebrew Israeli one). She had it open in the room this morning and I saw this article about an Israeli woman named Galit Popok, who escaped from her Arab husband in Beit Lahiye, Northern Gaza with three of her six children, leaving the rest behind. That's Ms. Popok at the top left of this post with three of the kids (probably the three who escaped with her). The other three children were supposed to be brought out by the IDF with her ex-husband during Operation Cast Lead. But they weren't, apparently because of a foul-up by the Red Cross. The ex-husband was killed five days later and his family is now refusing to give up the three remaining children - a nine-year old and two toddlers.
I thought the story might be interesting to all of you (and that some of you might want to help out the organization that is helping Galit and many other women in her position), so I found it on the web (Mishpacha is not on the web). Here's Galit's story.
Galit met Rami Kadera, an Arab from Gaza, ten years ago when he was employed as a waiter in a wedding hall. She was just sixteen — “I knew he was an Arab but all my friends were meeting Arabs”— and thought he had Israeli citizenship and would be allowed to live in Israel. When he eventually took her and their four children back to Gaza after being forced to leave Israel, where he had been working illegally, she thought it was for a short visit, never imagining she would be taken hostage by her own husband. Instead, she found herself trapped, stripped of her documents, and routinely beaten and tortured.Please read the whole thing. The link also includes another story that may even be considered more amazing, which has a happier ending.
Two years ago, three weeks after the birth of twin girls, she ran for her life, taking three older children with her. She then began an Israeli court battle for divorce and custody rights for the remaining children, and lawyers affiliated with the Yad L’Achim organization, which has been assisting her since her return, finally saw a window of opportunity as Israel was about to reenter Gaza at the end of December. On January 8th, a week into the war, the Nazareth District Court issued a verdict that the children must be delivered to their mother immediately, but Rami was nowhere to be found. The next day, Friday, January 9th, Galit managed to make contact with him, but he denied that the children were with him — he said they were staying in a children’s shelter. Several hours later she called back, this time under instructions from Yad L’Achim to inform him that he, too, would be taken out of Gaza if he would deliver the children. “Get me out and I’ll deliver the kids,” he told Yad L’Achim’s Alex Artovsky, “and if you don’t get me out, you won’t ever hear from me or the children again.”
Negotiations for the children’s release went from the top army brass all the way to the Prime Minister’s office, with Cabinet Secretary Oded Yechezkel stating, “Within twenty-four hours, they’re out.”
“I was 100 percent sure the operation would succeed. The exact location, everything, was arranged,” Artovsky later reported. But something went wrong. Rami was a security risk, and the army personnel at the border didn’t authorize his departure. So Rami did an about-face with his Jewish daughters, Yasmin, nine, and Dalia and Salima, two and a half, taking the girls back with him to Beit Lahiye.
Five days later, he was killed by rocket fire.
Now, Abu Rami Kadera, Rami’s father, has taken charge of the girls and refuses to give them over to their mother, even as their father is no longer alive. Furthermore, he has begun his own legal proceedings — with the aid of an Israeli lawyer -- to force the other children back to the Gaza Strip.
“I want all six back together with me,” he told Ynet. And, despite his anger at his daughter-in-law for running away from the family, he said all doors are still open for her. “She is welcome to come back home to us and mourn with us together. She lived here like a queen. Allah has given me blessings of wealth, and her life here was pampered and perfect. She is welcome with open arms to partake of our riches and become one of us.”
Galit told Mishpacha that the overtures are a trap, and that when she fled, her life and those of her children were in physical danger. Her escape might not have had the rescue drama of volunteer “commandos” running barricades, being shot at by PA strongmen. But Galit felt she was in a now-or- never situation and so, with three children — a six-year old girl and a three-year-old and one-year-old boy — on the way to a doctor’s checkup, she jumped into a cab which took her to the border crossing. She had previously enlisted the help of an Arab relative who was in touch with her mother in Nazareth. Her mother arranged to pay for the cab, and the relative made contact with the Israeli soldiers at the Erez checkpoint, explaining that an Israeli woman and three children would be passing through. When she arrived back in Israel, she was covered with bruises and weighed under a hundred pounds.
How does a mother decide which children to take and who to leave behind? “It wasn’t a choice. I had an opportunity and I took it. Had I taken them all, it would have been too suspicious. I would never have made it, and who knows what he would have done to me afterwards? For the last two years we remained in telephone contact, and he constantly threatened to burn down my house and take away the children.”
An Israeli court order doesn’t mean much to the Hamas authority in Gaza, and chances are small that the IDF will initiate a mission to rescue the children, even though it is known where they are being kept — camera crews had no problem converging on the grandfather’s house on Aslam Street in Beit Lahiye.
The army claims the lost rescue opportunity was the fault of the Red Cross. “We made every effort for the father and kids to come out,” said Peter Lerner of the IDF spokesman’s office. “As far as I know they never came to the Erez Crossing and were certainly never turned back. I believe they were afraid to leave their homes. The IDF offered to help facilitate their passage from their home to Erez and into Israel, but (Rami Kadera) did not want to leave without the Red Cross helping out. We asked the Red Cross to facilitate movement, but it refused, saying it had other priorities. Currently, it is an internal family affair. The children can leave Gaza immediately if they want, but the family does not want to send them to Israel. The IDF will not get involved in an internal family dispute, and the family does not want to bring the children out.”
Meanwhile, Yad L’Achim chairman Rabbi Sholom Dov Lifshitz said his group is currently putting together a team of religious and non-profit organizations to rescue the children from Hamas-ruled Gaza.
“It is important that we remain focused on the issue at hand,” he told Mishpacha, “especially with such an emotional issue. This is not a political issue, and we are working hard to ensure that it remains nonpolitical. This is a humanitarian and a religious issue, and we have to pressure the family in Gaza to do the right thing. There are three Jewish children that belong in Israel with their mother.”
For those of you who think this is rare - it's not:
Galit Popok is not the first — and won’t be the last — woman to find herself trapped in an Arab village, hostage in a violent marriage. According to estimates of rescue organizations such as Lev L’Achim and Yad L’Achim, more than 3,500 Jewish women in Israel are married to Arabs and live in Arab towns and villages. Thousands of others are in common-law marriages or dating Arab men. Some of these women have married and live relatively quiet lives, having made their peace with a ritual conversion to Islam and integrated into their Arab communities. But many scenarios are complicated by drug addiction, immorality, and physical and emotional abuse.Again, please read the whole thing.
The most tragic victims are the thousands of children, sons and daughters of Jewish mothers and Jewish according to halachah [Jewish law. Under Jewish law, if the mother is Jewish the children are Jewish. CiJ] , but not according to Islamic religious law which upholds patrilineal religious status, thereby rendering these children Muslim. If a woman chooses to divorce, children from age three are automatically given back to the father. And the Israeli government policy is to accommodate Islamic family law in Arab communities.
Aside from the halachic [Jewish law. CiJ] prohibition of intermarriage and the inevitable abuse — there isn’t a Jewish woman who winds up in an Arab village and escapes abuse — there is an entire generation of children lost to their Jewish heritage. Galit Popok’s nine-year-old daughter already told her mother how proud she is of her father, who died a shahid ['martyr' CiJ]. She knows nothing about Judaism and identifies with her father’s family.
UPDATE 11:59 PM
Mrs. Carl says that Mishpacha is online and that the article may be found here (pdf link).