After Long Awaited Return, He Made a Mad Dash for the Kosel

Having been raised in a poor section of Bat Yam and suffering an emotional breakdown, Nicole was abducted by an Arab man. After a long and difficult journey, their son Yichye was able to return to Yiddishkeit.

The 18-year-old had waited a decade to undergo his “Return to Judaism” ceremony in the Yerushalayim Religious Court. The moment it was over, he made a mad dash for the Kosel to offer his first prayer as a kosher Jew.

This moving story begins 20 years ago, when a young Jewish woman by the name of Nicole, born and raised in a poor section of Bat Yam, suffered an emotional breakdown and was hospitalized. On her release, she was pursued by an Arab man from Yaffo who worked at a grocery store in her neighborhood. Picking up on her distress, he succeeded in getting her to convert to Islam and marry him.

The two joined his hamula in Yaffo and a year later had a son, whom they named Yihye. “This is a name that is acceptable to both religions, Islam and Judaism,” the father said, when Nicole insisted on giving him a Jewish name.

The years that followed were excruciating. Nicole was subjected to harsh violence and her emotional state deteriorated. Thanks to the intervention of an alert Jewish nurse in a local medical clinic, Nicole contacted Yad L’Achim. She and her then-seven-year-old son were rescued and taken to a furnished apartment prepared for them by the counter-missionary organization.

The Arab father understood that he had no chance of getting his Jewish wife back, but was determined to gain custody of their son; he turned to the police and claimed that Yihye had been kidnapped. When the police investigated and found that the charges were baseless, he petitioned the court.

The proceedings were long and stormy, but after Yad L’Achim’s lawyer presented the judges with proof that Nicole had been subjected to systematic abuse, the court ruled that the boy would remain in her custody and be seen by his Muslim father once a month for a few hours.

A year later, Nicole had another emotional background and it was decided that Yihye should be placed in the custody of her parents. His grandfather and grandmother were only too happy to adopt him, and did everything to meet his needs, including enroll him in a top religious school to help him acquire the basics of Judaism and embark on a new path.

Yihye was an outstanding student. He loved Judaism, and hungrily consumed his sacred studies.

However, one thing bothered him: Legally, he was registered in the Interior Ministry’s Population Registry as a Muslim. His Arab father would remind him of this every month, during their few hours together, and try to convince him to leave Judaism.

“You’re a Muslim like me,” he’d say. “Even the Israeli Interior Ministry says so!”

As stubborn as his father was, Yihye was even more strong-willed. His father’s attempts at persuasion only caused him to want to draw closer to Judaism. “The first thing I’ll do when I reach 18 is change my ID card,” he told his Arab father.

For 10 years, Yihye continued to dream. The month before his 18th birthday he was too excited to sleep. “The day is finally arriving when I can choose my Judaism by myself,” he told the Yad L’Achim mentor who accompanied him on his journey. “The day is arriving when I will accept upon myself the G-d of Israel and proclaim na’ase v’nishma.”

And so it was, on the morning of his 18th birthday, Yihye attended a moving “Hashava L’Yahadut” ceremony in the Yerushalayim Rabbinical Court. After immersing in the mikveh and being proclaimed a Jew by the Rabbinical Court judges, Yihye broke out in a run to the Kosel.

On arrival at the remnant of the Beis Hamikdash, he hugged the large, holy stones, and, with tears streaming down his face, offered the following tefillah: “Father in Heaven. I have chosen You …, please accept me before You with Mercy.”

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