In the beginning I tried to fast and feel the spirit of the holiday as I remembered it from my parents' home on Yom Kippur.
Yes, a lone woman in the middle of the Arab village of Musmus. Fasting on Yom Kippur and davening. I even lit Shabbos candles, and made sure there were mezuzos all over the house.
I thought back to how this reality began.
When he drew me out the loneliness of an apartment for National Service girls. He was pleasant, considerate and showed me warmth, as no one had before. He was always pointing out that even though we belonged to two different religions, we had more in common than divided us. This enchanted me. The ability to be the focus of someone else's world, who sees me, give me gifts and loves me as I am.
But little by little, it turned around. In a gradual but steady process, things began to change. We moved together to the village, the gifts stopped and his infatuation with me was replaced by anger and a desire to control me.
When I mustered the courage to ask if I could fast this year as well, he said it was impossible because 'this day in this village is a regular day, we learn and work.' In a mocking tone, he asked how exactly I intended to fast. I told him I'd close myself off in my room until the next evening. He laughed and told me to stop it with my nonsense.
My eyes filled with tears and I cried all night. I understood that I would no longer be able to fast. And to keep the holiday that I so loved and wanted. Only the Ribbono shel Olam listened to me that night in Musmus. It was quiet. The night of Yom Kippur; the synagogues are filled with men and women and prayer. And I'm here alone. Deep, deep inside an Arab village. Afraid to fast. Wanting to fast. To daven, but can't.
The process continued. He would humiliate me and laugh at me. Whatever little I could do to remain attached to Judaism, to keep some of my customs, he would go out of his way to make me feel uncomfortable, isolated, confused.
It reached the point that he demanded that I cook food for him on Yom Kippur even though there was prepared food left over from the meal I'd eaten before the fast began. But he screamed and threatened. He frightened me until I had no choice; I would prepare food for him in the middle of the holiday and cry, my tears mixing with the steam that rose up from the cooked food. But worst of all, were the cigarettes. He would tell me to smoke them and if I refused, he would hit me. Real blows of anger that tried to pound out of me the last drop of Judaism that I so wanted to keep. I hoped that the Creator of the Universe would have mercy on me and forgive me for all that I did.
Today, ever since Yad L'Achim entered my world, rescued me from the village and accompanies me at every step, I am in a different place. I am on a journey with many ups and downs, but they are here, at my side, and I am making progress toward a happy life. Yad L'Achim is connected to all parts of my life. Economics, education and essentially anything you can think of.
Today, everything is different. For me, Yom Kippur is the holiday I am most proud to mark and celebrate. The days leading up to it are days of joy and emotion. I look sometimes at the women praying at my side. They will never understand how special it is to do something you believe in, to allow your heart to burst open at Kol Nidre, when you are holding a siddur in your hand, in secure surroundings.
This year, when at the end of Yom Kippur the entire congregation will cry out, 'Hashem is Elokim,' I will think how Hashem took me out of my village and brought me home, to Him. And when everyone will scream out 'Next Year in Yerushalayim,' my heart will rise up to ask that everyone have a complete redemption.
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