Anat Gopstein, in this week’s Shabbat publication Gilui Da’at:
Out of the Straits
It was two days before Rosh Hashana when we received a message in Lehava’s operations room. “I saw someone going with an Arab, I spoke with her. She’s a single mother, she has older kids, she lives on an income allowance, she doesn’t have what to eat. Her financial situation is hard, and the Arabs are using her. Help her, please, this is saving their lives.” That same day, we spoke and met. We sat together, I saw her kids, and it pained me. They’re big, they already understand their mother’s situation.
She told me that a lot of people try to help and to convince her that she knows that one day she’ll get up and leave, but in the meantime, it’s hard for her to make an immediate change. When everything looks dark, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. She only wanted people not to judge her, to listen to her and help her financially. She was not ready for a significant change in her life. I understood that it wouldn’t do any good to try to convince her, just to connect with her. I understood that this would have led her to close herself off and be in opposition.
I needed to listen, to include her, to get to know her, to check out and understand what’s important to her. To connect to her inner soul and connect her to herself and to her motherhood. I took an interest in her and her children to see her view of her parental role. I got the impression that she is a loving and devoted mother who got stuck in hardships.
She shared her life with me, and I tried to understand her and see the world through her window, and how she got to this place. To help her help herself. To ask her questions she could ask herself, so she could go inside herself and gain insight and think about a concrete change in her life. To dare to dream of the day after and to weigh the possibilities of taking steps to freedom.
We tried to keep in continuous touch, in spite of the limitations of the corona period. A month ago, she was already in a different place. She wanted to make a change, to move to another apartment. She started checking out the possibilities and think about the day after. Seems she went through a process, she already had the motivation to make a change. She spoke about her return to observance, how much she wanted to return to Hashem, to make teshuva and keep Shabbat. She understood that she had to get away from where she lived, for herself and for her children. As a victim of violence, she could quote all the symptoms of distress over physical, mental and verbal violence. After she saw the film about Shira Iskov, she was shocked, it shook her up and she decided to leave quickly and quietly, so that no harm would come to her and her children. “Shira Iskov gave me the inspiration”, she said, and decided that she would not stay in that harmful relationship. Within a few hurried days, she got up and left.
She moved to an apartment somewhere else, she sounded so satisfied and strong. “I want to start over”, she said. “I don’t want people to see me as somebody who went out with Arabs. I want to guard my good name for the sake of my kids.”
We will try to help her, hold her, support her as she rises and recovers and learns how to cope with the challenges ahead of her. So she can keep what she succeeded in and rebuild her life.
There is no more fitting time to leave the straits, the straits in the heart. To go out of the narrow places and into the wide-open spaces, from the tough place, to a free and safe space.