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Three Jewish Children Trapped in Gaza

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Galit and her three children with whom she escaped Gaza
Galit and her three children with whom she escaped Gaza

"Galit Popok is afraid to say the truth," says Rabbi Sholom Dov Lifshitz, chairman of Yad L'Achim.

Galit fled Gaza two years ago after having been trapped there by her husband, Rami Mahmoud Kadera. Rami was recently killed in Operation Cast Lead but Rami's family is, so far, refusing to return her children to her. Rabbi Lifshitz explains that Galit fears that if she talks too much her husband's family will retaliate by hurting her children.

Galit Popok immigrated to Upper Nazareth, Israel, from Russia when she was eight years old. The struggle to integrate into a new society created a lot of painful and stormy emotions within the youngster. "In Russia," Galit explains, "my life had been so good. But we were forced to leave following the Chernobyl disaster that occurred near our hometown."

At sixteen, Galit met Rami Kadera at the wedding hall in her town where he was employed. "He was so excited about me; he ran after me and coddled me. My parents weren't happy about it, but I was a young, rebellious teenager. Only his father accepted me from his family, no one else—they didn't want him to marry me."

"She didn't even grasp that he was an Arab," says Rabbi Lifshitz. "He told her that he was an Israeli and she thought he was a Jew. She was a new immigrant and a pretty confused girl."

At first Rami remained in Israel illegally, but after being forced to leave Israel, he took his family back to Gaza. Galit, thinking they were just going for a short visit to his family, didn't dream that she would be held captive by her own husband against her wishes. "According to him, I was his property for him to do with me as he wished," says Galit. "He beat me and tortured me all the time. He was jealous of me, especially when he imagined that everyone liked me."

Two years ago, Galit was allowed to leave home to go to a children's clinic with three of her children. Seizing the opportunity, she drove to the Erez border crossing, showed the soldiers her Israeli ID card and was allowed through. In her desperation to escape, she left behind three of her children, including newborn twin girls.

A relative of the family, upon hearing of her escape contacted Yad L'achim, asking them to help her. Yad Lachim has been assisting Galit ever since.

"She escaped with only the air she breathes," Rabbi Lifshitz told Chabad.org. "We had to find her an apartment, a job, and a school for the children. She needed a psychologist to help heal her traumas; she needed a lawyer to help her in the court battle to gain custody rights for her children. We won't sit back and allow a person to remain alone in the woods.

"Let's leave Galit alone for a moment, think about the children. Tami, 8, and her two brothers Lior, 6, and Daniel, 3, are enrolled in a Chabad school. Last week Lior made a poignant statement when he announced to his teachers that he wants to grow up to be a big rabbi—so much for growing up in Gaza!

"These children are learning Torah; they're acquiring knowledge of their Jewish heritage while their own siblings are stuck in Gaza, living as Arabs. It's heartbreaking."

Rabbi Lifshitz and his team at Yad L'achim are working to help Galit negotiate the release of her children—nine year old Yasmin and two and a half year old twins, Galia and Salima. According to international law, she has the rights to her children. The hands of the IDF are tied, however, since they cannot get into Gaza.

"I'm here in Nazareth Illit "We will never agree to return the children and I would like all six to be here with us." and my girls are in Beit Lahiya," says Galit, who recently made the rounds to the resting places of holy men and women buried in Meron, Safed and Tiberias, where she prayed for the wellbeing of her children and their safe return to her. In addition, Rabbi Lifshitz has helped her write a letter to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and to First Lady Michelle Obama, pleading for them to help return her children.

But the grandparents in Gaza refuse to hand over the children to the distraught mother, even though their father is no longer alive.

"We will never agree to return the children," the children's grandfather, Abu Rami Kadera, told Ynet. "I won't give up the children and I would like all six to be here with us." He invited Galit to "come home and mourn with us together in Beit Lahiya," where, he said, "she lived like a queen."

Popok claims that that her life and those of her children were in physical danger in Beit Lahiya and that Kadera's words are a trap.

Bringing these children back home to their mother is proving to be as difficult as returning kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit back to his parents. But Popok will not rest until they do. "I want the IDF to go into Gaza and save my children by force," she says. "There is no other way."

Mirish Kiszner is a teacher, counselor and lecturer living in Jerusalem. She’s published hundreds of articles in numerous Jewish publications. Her latest book is Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary People (Artscroll), a collection of true stories about real people. She is also a regular contributor to our Help! I’ve Got Kids . . . parenting blog.
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Sarah Masha W Bloomfield, MI/USA November 2, 2009

Let Go HUH???!!!

My word! With all the education about domestic violence, you still missed the point entirely...

Galit, I hope you and all your children are safe, and together. Reply

aviva April 27, 2009

something is wrong The above comment is so peculiar that it must have been accidentally posted.
Please review it and remove it.

Galit, my heart goes out to you and your children. May G-d bless you with nachas from each and every one of them. Reply

Anonymous USA April 27, 2009

Let Go This is a perfect example of how peace is not happening in the M.E. and how it could happen overnight. Galit can throw away the hatred and labels and youthfulness and show respect to her marriage and her husband's memory, and to her inlaws. She can move back in with her children. She can reconcile. She can move beyond labels and religion and acquire fulfillment. She can show the way to peace. Or, she can blame it all on the Arabs and keep fanning the flames until she has nothing. What a gift this woman has to give the world! Reply