Israel National News - Arutz Sheva spoke with Ma'or about her Hanukkah experience two years ago, living as a Jewish woman in a Muslim neighborhood in South Africa.

"I was married to a Muslim guy. I came to visit South Africa and, like all the other stories, you fall in love and the rest is history.

"We were married for two years," she said, explaining she was pregnant with her second child when she received a package from her father, who lives in Israel.

"The box had a lot of sweets and snacks from Israel, and some toys and clothing for the children. At the bottom of the package was a simple hanukkiah [menorah] and a box of candles."

She explained she was "a bit upset" at her father for sending the hanukkiah due to the risk involved. "I obviously didn't want my neighbors or anyone else to know that I had something like this at home."

Despite her concerns, she said she decided to light the hanukkiah, and asked her Arab neighbor, Fatma, who owned a bakery and with whom she was friends, to secretly make her sufganiyot, jelly doughnuts, in honor of the Hanukkah holiday.

"My husband was at work. It was only [my son] Michael and me. We lit the candles, sang, made a blessing, ate the doughnuts - it was very nice."

Later, she explained, her husband, who knew of her plans to celebrate Hanukkah and hadn't indicated that it would be "a problem," came home. But things turned sour when her in-laws paid a surprise visit and her father-in-law became "very upset" upon seeing the hanukkiah.

At that point, she said, "My husband put [the hanukkiah] under the water in the sink and threw it in the garbage."

Ma'or explained that, at that moment, "I felt very bad that I have to lie about who I am and to cover up my religion."

She said she was forced to continue living as a Muslim, while keeping her Jewish identity secret, until this year, when she contacted Yad L'Achim and the Jewish Agency.

"They helped me to escape," she said, adding that life at home had become "very violent."

"The day they came to get me, I could barely walk," she explained. She said she escaped with her two babies while her husband was at work, with only a small bag.

"For six months we were hiding in the secret house in South Africa. There were no flights because of COVID, also we needed approval to take the kids out of South Africa. The Israeli embassy didn't know how to get the kids out, because [doing so would have been considered] like kidnapping them.

She said her ex-husband ultimately gave in after six months and signed the necessary papers, "mostly because my eldest son, who was three-years-old at the time, was mentally in a very bad state."

"He signed the papers, and we were on our way home the same day," on a rescue flight via Ethiopia and Egypt.

Ma'or said she has "no words" to describe her excitement at finally being able to freely celebrate Hanukkah in Israel.

"Yesterday, we lit the candles in our new home in Israel, with no fear, with a lot of joy and happiness. We sang and danced, and my kids were extremely happy."

She said Hanukkah has special meaning for her due to her experiences.

"I don't think my kids will ever forget that holiday," she laughed.

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