Anat Gopstein posted in the Eshet women’s magazine (she posts once a month there):
Releasing an emotional frame of mind
“I want to help you go into the villages to rescue girls from Arabs”. Everybody is looking for action and wants to do something, they talk about rescue, looking for (real-life) movies. I won’t deny it, there are exciting moments and sometimes we feel like we’re living in a movie. But most of the work is more spiritual, emotional.
The rescue of a life that’s being held prisoner in a village.
All of us want to help a Jew in distress, but what is really required to help? What causes a young girl who grew up with values in a normative home, to connect with the enemy?
These are usually girls with emotional instability, most of them in their teen years, an age of changes, of accelerated physical and cognitive development . A complex age when lines can be crossed. Teenagers can’t find themselves. This is an age of examination, clarification of identity, the girl moves away from her parents in order to find her own voice in the world. The girl carries on a dialogue between worlds: The old, known world and the new world, between the forbidden and the permitted, between alienation and connection.
In risky situations typical at this age, like addiction to drugs or alcohol, we also discover that there is addiction to Muchamad. Lately, we’ve been meeting single-parent women whose troubles and loneliness have been exploited, and lately, there’s a new phenomenon: married women from the religious and Charedi sectors, too, mothers of successful, amazing kids.
Regarding most of the girls we meet without family support, most of the family has despaired of them. They are alone in the world, and they have no supportive circles; these are girls who are thirsty for some kind of stable, secure connection, and we are there for them.
Along with the war on the phenomenon of assimilation, we of the Lehava organization try to provide a solution to rehabilitation, and over the years we have set up professional locales in order to provide a solution to the phenomenon. Currently, we’re setting up a therapeutic farm that will give rest to a weary soul. There will be a girls’ seminary on the farm for those who want to connect with nature, engage in art and creating new things, alongside Hashem’s work on the farm. Girls in need of a warm, loving home are also taken in. Occupying themselves with creativity turns away the (evil) inclination and gives a timeout for rethinking and reconstructing their lives. These are girls with emotional deprivation who have been exploited and harmed, and it takes time for them to trust.
Great patience is required; significant change and processes are not accomplished in a day. There are ups and downs, returns to the old, known world, and every “down” is only meant to go up again.
It takes time to go from being a dependent person, to one who is independent.
Self-worth and self confidence are acquired with good and enriching experiences, and it takes time to discover herself and to discover the strengths inside of her, and in order to proceed, a beneficial, supportive and inclusive environment is needed. Slowly but surely, she sheds the defensive layers she wrapped around herself over the years in order to survive, and she develops a backbone and manages to stand on her own two feet on the way to independence.
We attempt to stimulate motivation in the girls and belief that they are capable of making a change, that they have the power to return. The most important thing is a good connection with the girls. To get closer, not to bring closer. To respect, to include, to believe and not to judge. Don’t judge your fellow until you’ve come to his place. These are girls who have been through a lot in life and are in need of empathy – to see the world from her window. To try to understand her as much as possible.
These are girls whose emotions are regulated by a sort of emotional roller coaster, and this is evident in instability in interpersonal relationships and radical mood changes. Emotional awareness is something that’s needed by every person. A person who’s been hurt, tries to avoid emotions. The right thing is to be good at feeling.
Communication that reaches out and draws close is a meaningful tool for each person, especially for a person undergoing difficulties. To know how to listen to someone else without being judgmental, and to speak in “I-messages”, i.e., what I feel, and less, what the other person did wrong.
Healthy communication and a healthy relationship with the environment contribute to security and self-worth. We try to give what we can from ourselves, but we should always remember the rule that “you are not required to finish the task”; there must be a distinction between our lives and the life of the other person. That’s her life, with its successes and failures and her choices in life. We come to help her and extend a hand on the high road back to Judaism.
There are unstable women who go back to the same battering husband. The battered wife syndrome. I won’t forget the woman, mother of two children, who was with us for a year and we gave our all to her. And a year later, she returned to the village. What a disappointment that was! That was on a Thursday, and the next day, Friday afternoon, an important rabbi sent someone to our home for us to help him, a son of an Arab father and a Jewish mother.
On Motzei Shabbat, we were at a rabbi’s home and wanted to clarify whether there is a mitzva to rescue her again after she went back to the village. For the children, who have not sinned, we must rescue them, ruled the rabbi. So together with the boy who grew up in the village, we tried to convince her. Your child will not forgive you, he told her. We were successful. She went abroad with the children for several years. The disconnection from the country did its thing. But last year, we celebrated a Bar Mitzva and a Bat Mitzva with the kids. The children grew up as Jews. She asked my husband Benzi to go up to the Torah with her son. It was a moving event.
These girls are holy, and we have no right to despair of them.
LEHAVA - Preventing Asimilation
In light of the growing severity of assimilation in the country, several community organizations have focused their energy, for many years, to save Jewish girls. We have established an organization named Lehava which fights assimilation in the Holy Land. Together, the experienced leadership of Lehava has made it their mission to reach these girls, before they reach villages and are gone.