Sleep eluded Daphna*, as she stared into the darkness of the night. She tried in vain to still the hammering of her heart against her chest. Tomorrow was the day. All the clandestine phone calls, the desperate planning, the careful preparations were to come to its climax tomorrow afternoon. Right now, however, she didn't know what the future held in store for her. A fresh surge of fear rushed through her every limb. Would the plan succeed?
A sudden rustle startled her. She inclined her head to listen for its source. A low moan escaped the lips of Fatima, her young daughter, lying atop her mattress on the floor, entangled in an old blanket, groaning and tossing restlessly in her sleep. After a moment, Fatima's breathing resumed its normal pace and Daphna returned to her thoughts.
It was hard to believe that so many years had gone by since she'd agreed to Jamil's marriage proposal. Now, in the stillness of the night, the memory of those bygone days came tumbling back to her; her mother's death, her father's angry threats, the recollections saturated her with pain once again. How alone she'd felt then, she now remembered, when filled with sorrow, she'd wandered about the streets bereft, insecure, and confused.
That's when she'd met him, Jamil, an Arab lad, who in her eyes represented the knight In the silence, her eyes traversed the walls that had kept her in its confines for nearly two decades. in shining armor who had come to her rescue, filling the gaping void in her life. At that time, almost twenty years ago, Jamil had regaled her with colorful pledges of a happy, stable home. How she had believed him! She'd allowed herself to be swept along with his vibrant dreams of love and security, to turn her back on her Jewish heritage, and to be led by Jamil to a new home in the Muslim quarter in Jerusalem.
It didn't take long for her to recognize that Jamil's words, suave and enticing, had been empty promises.
As the hours crept by, Daphna, lying still on her mattress, allowed the tears to slide across her face, her thoughts roaming. In the silence, her eyes traversed the walls that had kept her in its confines for nearly two decades. No, she wouldn't miss those walls, now blackened with soot and grime; she wouldn't miss those walls that remained her silent witness to the many years of her shame, regret and fear.
Living in a single apartment together with Jamil's many relatives under appalling conditions, all those exalted dreams had shattered exceedingly fast. But by then it was too late. She knew her husband disliked her. Every nerve she had feared him. She longed to run away, but she had no money, she had no place to go, and she harbored no false beliefs about what Jamil would do to her, should he find her. The all consuming terror she felt, the constant humiliation and her own self-doubt, confused her senses, rendered her incapable of thinking for herself. Something inside her had died.
Thus, she gave birth to eight children who joined her in her captivity. Numb with pain, she watched as her children suffered Jamil's menaces, his beatings, his abuse, just as she did. They were the Jews, despised, lowly, of inferior stock. They had no business eating the same meals that the rest of the family enjoyed, and there was no reason for anyone to stand up for them in their mistreated state.
Tomorrow, all those years of misery would come to an end.
No longer would she be at the mercy of Jamil, her captor. No longer would she rush about, heart saddened, back bent in disgrace, obeying his every command like a common servant. Tomorrow evening she would be far away from all the members of Jamil's hamula (Arabic for tribe, or family), far from their scorn, their venomous eyes, their hateful comments.
Surely her mother's prayers, up there, right near the Throne of G‑d, were working for her.
One day an opportunity had presented itself to her. She was
sent outside on order to buy some provisions. As she rushed That day, her sense of mission had predominated over her fear of Jamil.
through the narrow alleyways and arched openings, her feet echoing on the cobblestones, she made her way to the open market place. Crowds of people, as usual, were gathered around the shops and stalls, smoking nargila and talking loudly.
The sharp scent of mixed spices and falafel hung in the air and the cries of peddlers with thin mustaches peddling their vegetables, ceramics and oriental cloths added to the raucous.
But that day her sense of mission had predominated over her fear of Jamil, or her anger at her father. Enough was enough. She had to find a way to escape from the insufferable oppression. Amidst the hustle and bustle, no one noticed as with trembling fingers, Daphna dialed the number of her aunt, her father's sister. She had taken her first, tentative step in her journey back to G‑d.
Her aunt heard her out, promising to contact Yad L’Achim, an organization dedicated to retrieving women like her from their hostile Arab environments and set them up in safe houses around the country, where they can build new lives for themselves. Surely they would find a way to rescue her from her plight. Reassured and no longer feeling so alone, Daphna's cloud of confusion began to dissolve.
G‑d listens to us, thought Daphna, even when we whisper; He bends His ears to our lips, and heeds our small efforts. Even in my self-imposed exile, as soon as I desired to reconnect with Him, G‑d extended His arms to me, and accepted me with love.
The members of Yad L'Achim had approached this task with their standard hallmark of self-sacrifice, courage and dedication. They had cared, really cared, given her another chance at life.
Tomorrow she would return to her people, to her Father in Heaven.
Daylight began to filter in through the grimy window. Daphna marveled at the special Divine Providence that was accompanying every step of the escape plan. Jamil was in jail for crimes he'd committed, his brother on house arrest. With those two out of the way, Yad L'Achim was springing into action.
A few hours later, Daphna, her heart beating thick, her face flushed, stood by the door and watched as a van rapidly approached her. Another moment and the driver pulled up noiselessly besides her, and leaving his engine running, he jumped out of the van. It was then that her endurance broke down and she began to sob uncontrollably. Through a haze of tears she led him to her apartment. Moving quickly, he packed her meager belongings into some cartons he'd brought with him, and hurried the children along to the van.
Meanwhile, waiting near the Jaffa Gate to the Old City, other members of Yad L'Achim sat inside vans, reciting Psalms for the success of their friend in this perilous undertaking.
Every minute counted. A delay of just a few seconds could give neighbors an opportunity to stream out of their homes and foil the rescue. But in the confusion of the moment, young Fatima wandered off in the direction of the marketplace and panic ensued.
With the help of G‑d, she was quickly discovered by one of the men and within minutes, the family was whisked out of the Muslim Quarter and spirited to a secret location.
It's been just a few weeks now. Her children well cared for; Daphna has devoted her time to learn more about her heritage. She continues to pray, lights Shabbat candles and she is steadily becoming acquainted with new friends and people who care. But most of all, she feels inexpressible relief and a soothing conviction that G‑d listens to her prayers.
(*Names have been changed to protect identity.)