Yad L'Achim had a closing window of opportunity in which to get a mother and her four children out of an Arab village, in front of a Rabbinical Court and on a plane out of Israel
On Tuesday, Rosh Chodesh Elul, a man walked into the Yad L'Achim offices in Bnei Brak and asked to speak to Rabbi Sholom Dov Lifschitz, the organization's chairman.
There was something about his appearance that reflected both despair and hope, but above all a sense of urgency, and a meeting was immediately arranged.
The man told a tragically familiar story. His sister, a mother of four, had been trapped in an Arab village under Palestinian control for eight years. However, she had just received permission to leave her village the next day to make an urgent purchase. She would be allowed to leave with three of her children, while the fourth was to be left in the care of a local Arab woman.
It wasn't a coincidence that she wasn't permitted to leave with all four children. It was an "insurance policy" aimed at ensuring that she wouldn't run away.
The man's heart-breaking request was simple: Rescue my sister and her four children. "I've heard a lot about you," he said. "You're the only ones who can do this."
With the clock ticking, Rabbi Lifschitz called in the heads of Yad L'Achim's counter-assimilation department and briefed them. He instructed them to put everything else on hold and begin gathering intelligence information that would allow for the rescue of all five Jewish souls.
Less than 12 hours later, after a series of events that can only be described as open miracles, the woman and all four children were out of danger. During the actual moments of the rescue, as is his custom, Rabbi Lifschitz recited Tehillim and instructed all the heads of the organization to follow suit.
A short while later, the mother and her children were at the security checkpoint leading into Israel proper. The rescue had been made possible by close cooperation between local sources and Yad L'Achim.
On the Israeli side of the checkpoint, Yad L'Achim waited to welcome the family and bring them to a "safe" house in the center of the country. There, brother and sister met for the first time in eight years in an emotional reunion.
Due to special circumstances in the case, Yad L'Achim decided that the woman and her children couldn't be protected adequately in Israel and that she should be flown to a religious community in South America. The fact that the mother and children already had foreign citizenship made it unnecessary to obtain visas and helped overcome other bureaucratic hurdles.
Chaim Tirer, of the Tasim L'Chaim travel agency in Bnei Brak, was called at 1 a.m. and asked to immediately arrange the tickets. "On the line was a Yad L'Achim man who apologized for disturbing me at so late an hour, but he explained that it was a matter of pikuach nefesh (life & death). I was excited about taking part in this rescue and to help find them seats on a plane that would get them to safety. This wasn't the first time I was called at such unconventional hours by Yad L'Achim. This time, too, I felt like I was taking part in the mitzvah of Pidyon Shvuyim (rescuing of captives).
"With G-d's help, I managed to find five seats on a flight leaving the next day, Thursday afternoon. I was so happy and quickly notified Yad L'Achim, which quickly paid for the tickets and covered all the travel expenses."
On Thursday morning, 2 Elul, in a special session of the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court headed by Harav Tzvi Yehuda Ben Yaakov, the Judaism of the mother and her four children was officially recognized.
"The beis din verifies the return of the woman to Judaism and wishes that she merit to go in the ways of Torah and mitzvos and to raise and educate her children in the ways of Torah and mitzvos. The woman and her children are Jews in every way, and the Interior Ministry should change her status accordingly."
"Until that point," relates a Yad L'Achim official, "the woman and her children had official documents from the sharia courts attesting to their being Muslims, R"l. In addition to the halachic ramifications regarding her status, had we not arranged for this session in the Rabbinical Court, she would have faced serious difficulties in future legal battles over custody of the children."
Yad L'Achim took the mother and children from the Rabbinical Court directly to the Kosel. There, the mother burst into tears of gratitude to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for the miracles she had experienced in the past 24 hours.
On Thursday evening, accompanied by Yad L'achim and her brother, the woman and her four children boarded the plane that took them to a safe haven where they can start life anew.
Seconds after the plane lifted off, the brother turned to a Yad L'achim official and said with tears in his eyes: "I dreamed of this moment for the past eight years. I can't believe that it's happened in less than 24 hours. You made the impossible happen. I don't know how to thank you."
In South America, mother and children were met by a representative of Yad L'Achim, who phoned Israel on Friday to report that they were off to a good start. "There was a very warm, emotional greeting, and I'm sure that the entire community will stand at their side and do everything to help them progress in a new life."
Rabbi Lifschitz reflected that the entire rescue had been accompanied by Siyatta D’Shmaya (heavenly assistance) and open miracles. "Hakadosh Baruch Hu sent His angels to save this woman and her four Jewish children from captivity.
"We mustn't forget all the other Jewish women who are still trapped in Arab villages. We must take every legitimate step to rescue them from darkness and bring them to light."