Benzi’s latest column “Behind the Flames”, in the Shabbat weekly Matzav HaRuach:
Adam – Jew or Arab?
The current column, and the next few columns, we will dedicate to children: The children of mixed parents; children torn between two different worlds, who share contradictory religious and national identities. Every week we will touch upon a different story. This week will be the story of Yael and her son Adam (fictitious names).
We won’t elaborate on how Yael and Ibrahim met; in short, she met him during the height of a difficult time in her life, and in spite of years that included violence and humiliation from him, they got married and brought a child into the world. A short time after the wedding, Yael turned to Lehava. She still did not want to leave. She just wanted an attentive ear to hear her troubles.
Four years after the wedding, Yael decided to get divorced. This happened after Ibrahim brandished a knife and waved it at her in a threatening way. She called my wife Anat, who accompanied her under Lehava’s auspices, and informed her that she was leaving home. She went to live with a friend in Kfar Saba, and starting that day, the fight over Adam began.
Yael opened a divorce file in court, along with a procedure to return to Judaism that she successfully passed, accompanied by my wife. She got an Arab lawyer from the Legal Aid office, who instead of helping her, tried to close a deal with Ibrahim behind her back, supposedly in her name: The boy would live with her until age 5, then he would live with his father for good. When Yael found out about this, she fired her, and we appointed an expert lawyer for her under Lehava auspices.
In the preliminary arrangements, it was determined that due to Ibrahim’s addiction to drugs and alcohol, Adam would live with Yael and come to visit his father once a week. That’s the way it was for two years, but the long weekly trips were hard on Adam and hurt him. Yael related that every time he would return from a visit with his father, he would cry and ask her, “Mommy, am I a Jew or an Arab?” She would hug him tearfully and tell him that he always was Jewish, and will forever remain Jewish.
Yael sought to make a change in the existing arrangements, for the good of the child, but Ibrahim, in response, wanted to reopen all the visitation arrangements; absurdly and unprecedentedly, the court agreed to remove all the limitations placed on him thus far. And then the earthquake came: The judge decided that for all the Muslim holidays Adam would be with his father, while for the Jewish holidays, Adam would be split between Yael and Ibrahim. The reason, according to the judge: “The child needs to develop an identity with his father’s culture and religion.” Yael’s culture and religion, on the other hand, didn’t interest him as much.
After this scandalous decision, we decided to hire two more lawyers for Yael to submit an appeal against this outrageous decision. We have no intention of giving up on this story; the decision made in the appeal will determine not only the new visitation arrangements, but also Adam’s fate: Is he a Jewish boy, or G-d forbid, Arab?
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