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      Women and Children, Saved From Arab Villages, Pray At Holy Tomb

      Three buses of women and children arrived at the Tomb of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess during Hanukkah to pray after being rescued from Arab villages.
      By Malkah Fleisher
      First Publish: 12/23/2009, 11:36 PM / Last Update: 12/24/2009, 7:24 AM

      Three buses filled with women and children arrived at the Tomb of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess last week, during the holiday of Chanukah, to pray following their miraculous rescues from Arab villages. 

      The Yad L'Achim counter-missionary organization, who carried out the liberations, brought 40 women and their 80 children to the site, just weeks after they were evacuated from Arab towns.

      The mothers each had their own story, but they all began with romantic involvements with Arab men, to whom they bore children who were raised and educated as Arabs.  Many of the children had no idea they were Jewish until their Jewish mothers escaped with them to Israeli cities with the help of Yad L'Achim.

      The day begin with a boating trip and a Chanukah party featuring the lighting of the Chanukah menorah. Yad L'Achim officials noted that they sensed a kindling of the hearts of the women and children as they lit the menorah, with the traditional act serving as a heart-warming reminder to the mothers of childhoods lighting the menorah before they were captured by Arab clans and lost their Jewish identities.

      For many women it was heart-warming reminder of old days of lighting candles before falling into the hands of Arab clans and losing their Jewish identity. For the vast majority of the children, it was the first time in their lives that they lit the Chanukah lights.

      After the party, the attendees boarded buses to the tomb of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess (Rabbi Meir, 'Master of Miracles') in Tiberias. 

      Many people make pilgrimages to Rabbi Meir's tomb in order to pray for miracles or divine assistance. A Talmudic story in which Rabbi Meir enjoined a man to say "may the G-d of Rabbi Meir answer my prayers and save me from all evil" as a way of receiving instant heavenly intervention has led to a modern-day tradition of uttering the phrase in times of trouble, and pledging charity to the tomb, which is then distributed to the needy. Rabbi Meir himself was the descendant of the emperor Nero, the son of a convert, and a supporter of Bar Kochba's rebellion against Rome.

      Before the group entered the tomb, Rabbi Moshe Cohen, Director of the Emergency Unit of Yad L'Achim, spoke about Rabbi Meir and his relationship to the light of Chanukah, and even to the light in the faces of the women and children present.

      A few minutes after they crossed the threshold, the women began uttering spontaneous prayers of thanksgiving for the miracle which had occurred for them at the hands of Yad L'Achim. The prayers lasted approximately an hour.

      In the wake of the visit, some women were inspired to commit their children to Torah educations, some expressed their wish to return to the holy site in the future, and others vowed to increase their participation in Torah commandments and ways of living.

      Yad L'Achim Chairman Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifshitz, said the event was meant to establish strong ties with the women, and is part of the spiritual, physical, and mental concern for the individual that his organization provides. "The outcry of prayer of the escapees at the tomb of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess is the emotionally moving proof that 'the Eternal of Israel will not lie', and that it is forbidden to forsake or give up on any Jew."