The 10-year-old boy, who immigrated to Israel with his mother six years ago, had not seen his Syrian-Muslim father since then - until this summer. In August, the boy and his grandmother visited Moldova, from where his father snatched him and refused to return him to his mother. The man forced his son to behave like a devout Muslim, threatening to take him to Syria if his mother tried to retrieve him.

The mother, who lives in Ramat Gan, was stubborn and persistent, however. With great effort, she was able to track down the whereabouts of her kidnapped son to a town in southern Russia, and was even able to speak with him for a few moments. She finally filed suit in a Russian court, but without legal counsel - or her former husband's connections - she knew that her chances were slim. The Muslim father is a wealthy man, his former wife said, "who owns four large stores and has several lawyers... He has five other children from his first wife and his present wife, and he told me, 'I have six children, and they will all live with me.'"

A month ago, the Israeli Supreme Court gave her case a boost by ruling that the Justice and Foreign Ministries must take an active role in returning the boy. The mother's Israeli lawyer lamented at the time, "This is a straight-out kidnapping case. A Jewish 10-year-old boy, an Israeli, who spent almost his whole life in Israel and doesn't even know his father, whom he last saw at the age of 4, is suddenly kidnapped, forced to live like a Moslem, detached from his family, country, friends and his whole life..."

For the three months since the boy was taken, the mother lived first in the local synagogue, and then in an apartment in Volgograd, where the father was keeping the boy. This was facilitated by Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, the Jewish Communities Organization of Russia and the Ramat Gan municipality.

The turnabout came this past Monday, but not in the legal sphere. The Israeli Hebrew news site Ynet, which first broke the story, reported that Interpol police identified the boy in a store, apparently alone. They alerted Attorney Yael Yofeh, wife of Volgograd's Chief Rabbi. She informed the mother, and the two took a train to the store. They found the boy, but he was accompanied by the father's new wife. The mother managed to obtain the woman's permission to speak with her son, and mother and son quickly rushed into the waiting Interpol police car. They sped away, changed cars, and drove several hours northwards to Moscow. In the meantime, Atty. Yofeh alerted the Israeli Embassy, a travel agency was contacted, and Rabbi Lazar and his community purchased a plane ticket, and within a short time, mother and son were on an El Al plane home.

The boy appeared tired but healthy upon his arrival, and had no dramatic announcements to make. "It's good to be home, and I'm not going back to Russia," he said.

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