´He Was Taking Over My Mind´ ? <I>Second in a Series</I>

Thousands of Jewish Israeli women marry Arab men each year, unknowingly entering into a trap from which only a few manage to escape. Mayaan Jaffe spoke to one who did.

, | updated: 14:25

Second in a series, by Mayaan Jaffe

"There was always violence, always humiliation" says Miriam [not her real name], who spent 12 years with a Palestinian-Arab, the last four in his village over the Green Line in southern Israel. "First he would hit me with his hands. Then he moved on to using small objects, and finally iron rods and a metal rake. He broke all of my teeth with the rake and then refused to give me any medical attention."

In the end, incessant verbal abuse drove Miriam to leave her husband permanently.

Miriam met her Arab boyfriend while she was working in the south. When she decided to move in with him, her parents cut her off. She has not spoken to them since.

While they dated, the Arab treated her wonderfully. But when they decided to tie the knot, she lost more than she bargained for. He cut her off from her volunteer activities, and then demanded that she quit her job as well. Miriam wore the traditional Muslim garb and converted to Islam (via an at-home ceremony and not through the Muslim court).

"He simply disconnected me from the whole world so that I would be completely for him," Miriam says. "For the Arabs it is a big mitzvah [religious commandment] to take our women, but they are stealing our lives. We lose everything." She says that while she was devoted to her husband and acting like a Muslim, she knew in her heart she was Jewish.

When she became pregnant with the first of their two children, her husband built them a family home in his village. They pushed off moving in, but three months after having the first child, Miriam became pregnant again. When her second child was six months old they had no choice. Her husband was unable to support them in Israel proper, and so they moved to the village.

Their home was a mansion from the outside, but it was worth nothing, Miriam says, because it was located in an underdeveloped dump. There was no electricity. Everything ran on gas generators and there were days when her husband failed to bring fuel. And there were rats.

She had to drag a huge clay pitcher to the well each morning to draw water for drinking and washing. It turned out that the water was worm-infested, and as a result, her infant son contracted dysentery. There wasn’t enough food to feed the children. Miriam says that for a period of time they ate nothing but sag (Arab bread), lentils and humus (chickpea spread).

Even though she agreed to live in the Arab wasteland, Miriam never changed her Israeli identity card. During her training to be a certified sociologist and through her volunteer work with Arab women, Miriam learned that if she changed her identity card, her children would also be registered as Muslims. This would mean that if she ever left her husband, by law her husband could keep the children. She also knew that Muslim women have no rights and no laws to protect them.

All that Miriam had learned – all the nightmares she had heard from her former Arab clients – became Miriam's reality in the Arab village. There she met her husband's first wife and their 11 children. She was "convinced" to allow him to marry a third woman.

No matter how much she gave her Arab husband, he continuously abused her. She describes the situation like this:

"Each time he would give me something I would get more beatings… He tried to make me believe I was crazy. He told me in front of the children that I needed to be institutionalized, that I needed to go to a psychiatrist…

"He would say I was doing nothing in the house - when in fact I worked like a donkey from 4:00 a.m. until late into the night. He would bring home guests without notifying me and order me to cook for them. I just had to do what he said…

"He told me I was a dog. He said I was worth nothing and I was lucky he married me. I lived in jail. I had no right to say anything, to tell him what I was feeling. If I made a mistake and told him, he would take off his belt and start whipping me."

One day Miriam was forced to watch as her brother-in-law lit his wife on fire and burnt her to death!

Three times she escaped from the village, but each time he would hunt her down and coo her with his words, promising to change and to provide for the children. One time he told her his mother had died and he needed comfort. When she arrived in the village, she found his mother alive and well. Each time, when the bruises would heal she would forget the pain. "The bruises heal and you forget," says Miriam.

Her fourth escape from the village was different. Carried out via a 1:30 a.m. Lev L'Achim clandestine mission, her final attempt to leave her Arab prison led her to the safety of the Lev L'Achim hostel in the center of the country. This time she has support, someone to remind her that her husband's words are not reality, and she says there is no turning back.

"He was taking my mind, and it was all I had left. He threatened my life. He told me he was going to kill me and hide my body. It would be like I never existed. I can't return," she sobs.

Miriam has not spoken to her former husband for more than three months. She is on the path of teshuva [becoming observant], and she says she is more alive than ever.

"I wake up each morning and thank G-d. I am thankful to Ze'ev Shtigletz, head of the Lev L'Achim counter-assimilation division, to hostel director Chaya Stashevsky and to Lev L'Achim's Director-General Rabbi Eliezer Sorotzkin," Miriam says. "This Arab man took 12 years of my life away. I accept that loss, but I am starting a new life and in my new life I am empowered. I am so grateful to have this chance."

Lev L'Achim is an outreach organization working to bring the lost souls of Israel back to their roots.
Mayaan Jaffe runs Jaffe Reporting and PR.

See a related Arutz-7 op-ed article here, as well as the first article in this series here.



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