Jewish wedding
Jewish wedding Flash 90

The Lehava anti-assimilation organization will celebrate a unique wedding this week. At first glance, this wedding may look like any other wedding of a Jerusalem yeshiva student, but closer inspection will reveal that the groom's family is absent. Ahmad, son of Sarah, was born to an Arab father and a Jewish mother, and now, in the merit of Lehava and its head, Bentzi Gopstein, "Ahmad" is about to build his own Jewish home.

Gopstein recounts the chain of events leading up to this special occasion. "Ten years ago we managed, after great effort, to rescue a woman with two children from a village near Hebron. She stayed with us in Lehava's emergency apartment in Kiryat Arba for an entire year. But one morning, she approached me and said, 'Thank you very much, I really appreciate what you did for me, but it's hard for me and I want to go back to the village.' We were in shock," Gopstein relates.

The dilemma facing Lehava at the time was not only complicated but virtually unprecedented. "This was one of the first families we housed in Kiryat Arba, and it was really hard to digest. We didn't know whether to give up and say, 'we tried,' or do something else - but what?"

"We decided to go and ask Rabbi Dov Lior, the rabbi of Hebron. When we presented the case to him, he ruled that according to Jewish law, one may not redeem someone who repeatedly sells himself into slavery to Gentiles and that the same principle could be applied here. That could have been the end of the matter, had the Lehava volunteer presenting the question not asked 'But what about her son? Isn't he a Jew as well?'

"Rabbi Lior agreed that everything possible should be done to save the son [as the younger child would have to remain with the mother]. Our volunteer, himself the child of a Jewish mother and Arab father, then went to talk to the mother and described the hardships of a child growing up with a Jewish mother in a predominantly Arab neighborhood: 'People would mock me as the 'son of the Jewish woman.' I always wondered how my mother could have done this to me. Do you want your child to feel the same about you?' he said.

"The woman began to cry and said that she didn't know how she would manage to get by in Israel. She was clearly afraid of her Arab husband, but she was unable to leave the country due to significant debts she had incurred and a court order preventing her from leaving until they were paid. That same night our volunteer took her to see several special people who listened to her story and helped cover her debts, and just a few days later she left Israel for safety abroad."

Gupstein adds that the woman has since returned to Israel and celebrated her son's Bar Mitzvah. Both she and her two children now live as Jews in every way and are surrounded by highly supportive Jewish families.

Her son has remained in close contact with Gopstein, who helped him navigate the suspicion of Jewish relatives and overt death threats from his father's family. "I have learned so much from him," Gopstein says. "And what's more important, he has convinced several women to remain Jewish by relating his life story. He has risked his life, literally, for Jewish children, and now with G-d's help he is building his own Jewish home with a Jewish wife."