By Mayaan Jaffe
“I always thought we could be happy again, but I now know that I am never going back to my abusive Arab husband … I had eight years of physical and emotional torture, I bore him three children, none of whom he is grateful for. Now I am ready to start over.” So says Sarah [all names have been changed], with an empowering grin on her face.
Then she tilts her chin, closes her eyes: “But it is really hard. There is always some reason to not feel good enough. Memories seep through my veins. They may be empty, but sometimes they are very powerful.”
A sigh; Sarah is ready to tell me her story, to explain how she ended up in Lev L’Achim’s rehabilitation center for battered women, to clarify how she lost so many years of her life to an Arab man who never really loved her…
November 1997: Sarah is a rebellious woman in her early twenties. Born into a traditional family and a graduate of the National-Religious school system, she says she needed a break. Enter Yasser, a dashing young Arab man with a decent occupation. He gives her all the love in the world. He whispers sweet nothings in her ear and slowly convinces her she doesn’t need her family or friends. They move in together. She converts to Islam. He becomes her whole world. They get married.
March 1998: Sarah becomes pregnant. Yasser locks her in their apartment. He comes home in fits of rage. “I own you,” he tells her. He yells. He hits. He pounces on her swelling stomach. The pain is great. Sarah fears for the baby’s life and asks for a divorce. Yasser agrees only on condition that they continue living together. Sarah doesn’t know what else to do, so she agrees.
“When our son was born in December 1998, Yasser didn’t even come to the birth. I had to drive myself to the hospital. He forbade me from having anyone with me. I gave birth in the hospital, but on my own. Screaming in pain, I had no one to turn to,” Sarah sobs. “When the baby was born and Yasser came to see him, he took one look at our son and he said, ‘He is not mine.’ I never felt so devastated in all my life.”
March 1999: Sarah realizes she must escape. She picks the lock of their apartment – her prison - and runs to her sister’s, begging for help. Her sister takes her in. Their son is given a brit milah [circumcision], and Sarah prepares to start a new life.
June 1999: Yasser finds out where Sarah is staying. He comes to her, reminding her of the times they had together, promising to change, offering to be the father her son doesn’t have. Sarah agrees to re-marry Yasser.
March 2000: Sarah gives birth to a daughter. Four months later she is pregnant again. When their third child is born, a boy, the abuse begins again at full force.
“He would hit me, throw heavy objects at me, bruise me all over,” Sarah whispers. “But the verbal abuse was the worst of all. I can’t even begin to tell you the repulsive words he said to me.”
Sarah perseveres. When she left her sister’s home the year before, she was told she could never return. She now has three kids, no money, and no self-confidence.
June 2001: Sarah is on her way home from the grocery store when she hears thunderous wails coming from her apartment. She recognizes her son’s screams and darts for the door. She enters and finds her two-and-a-half year old boy black and blue, bleeding. His father had beaten him to a pulp. Sarah goes crazy. She threatens to call the police, but she is too terrified.
Sarah shuts down emotionally. Her husband continues with his usual tirades against her, and against the children, but she has no strength to fight back. She cries. She prays.
For three more years Sarah lives in fear. She and her children are regularly beaten and Sarah each day understands more why she should leave this life behind.
Sarah begins secretly to reconnect to her Judaism. She practices holiday rituals when Yasser is away and reconnects privately with some former Jewish friends and with her sister. Sarah begins to plot escape. She knows she will need her sister’s help, but her sister takes more than a year to determine that Sarah is serious about her decision.
October 2004: Sarah's fateful phone call to her sister. Hearing Sarah’s voice, and recognizing that Sarah truly wants to rescue her children from this Arab prison, her sister immediately calls Lev L’Achim. Representatives of the organization arrive three hours later, when Yasser is out with his friends, to rescue Sarah and her family.
They come to the hostel.
Sarah is empowered. Her children change their names: Ali is Evyatar, Nura is Moriah and Abdul becomes Aviad. Sarah is trying to obtain a divorce through the Muslim court. Her husband refuses her; he wants the children to remain Muslim. She refuses to agree to his ultimatums. Lev L’Achim is handling the paper work.
Yasser tries to call, but is told by the hostel director that their relationship is over. He can’t get through to her by phone. He writes her letters, but she just tears them up, often without even reading them.
Sarah says the fight to leave her Arab husband is almost as difficult as it was to stay with him. She is constantly battling positive memories, as well as his current provocations, which sometimes reach her via mutual friends. Inside she knows what is right, and she believes she can succeed in breaking away.
“I have so much strength,” Sarah says. “I am so thankful to G-d that I have this chance. I will get a divorce and I will raise my children as Jews. If he won’t give me one, I will disappear. I will change my name and Yasser will never find me. He can’t have these children – he doesn’t deserve them. I am the one who will take care of them, I always have. If he loved and respected us, he wouldn’t have been violent.”
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 also a related Arutz-7 op-ed article, Jewish Wives are Arab Husbands' Prey.
See also the other articles in this series:
"I Was Silent and I Was Alone"
"He Was Taking Over My Mind"
and "When Israeli Women Marry Arab Men".
?The Verbal Abuse Was Worst of All? - 4th in a Series
Thousands of Jewish Israeli women marry Arabs, unwittingly entering a trap of torture. Mayaan Jaffe has spoken to some of the women who were fortunate to escape.<BR> <BR>
By Mayaan Jaffe