Guests at the Mercazi Hotel in Tzefas last Shabbos couldn’t help but notice, and be moved by, the special event taking place in one of the halls. More than 20 Jewish women who had recently been rescued from Arab villages, and their children, were participating in a special shabbaton organized by Yad L’Achim.
These survivors, who have been kept in secret “safe houses” and cared for by Yad L’Achim, were driven directly from their homes to the hotel to spare them unnecessary exposure. The participants included a family of children who had been raised as Arabs, but a few months ago discovered that their grandmother was Jewish. Shortly after the discovery, when one of the children was hospitalized in the center of the country, he stunned his Jewish roommate by declaring in Arabic, “Ana Yahud,” ("I am a Jew").
That brief exchange led to the family being brought under the care of Yad L'Achim, and four of the boys have since entered briso shel Avraham Avinu. They participated in the Shabbos as proud members of Klal Yisrael; the boys who are bar mitzvah age were even called to the Torah.
The very special Shabbos included moving divrei Torah from, among others, Rabbi Alex Artovsky, a senior Yad L'Achim official, and a lecture given by a Muslim who converted to Judaism. A well-known educator gave the mothers tools for how to help their children overcome their difficult pasts and succeed in their new settings.
After the Friday night meal and lectures, the women spoke among themselves long into the night, sharing their experiences and their process of rehabilitation.
Staffers from Yad L'Achim’s education department ran special activities for the children to free up their mothers for the lectures. But the children proved to be the highlight of the Shabbos: Mothers and Yad L'Achim staffers alike were moved by the sight of children who only recently were being raised as Arabs now singing Shabbos zemiros, bentching out loud and listening to stories of tzaddikim and parashas hashavua. This was the fruit of the education the youngsters received in the Torah schools and kindergartens that Yad L'Achim had sent them to.
Yad L’Achim chairman Rabbi Sholom Dov Lifshitz emphasized the importance of the continuing relationship between the survivors and Yad L’Achim. “The rescue from captivity was just the beginning of a long, continuous effort that is being handled by social workers and other staffers who are doing everything to return them to Klal Yisrael,” he said. "These efforts must continue."