Jewish woman saved by Yad L’Achim to tell her story for the first time

For the first time ever, Tamar, whose surname has been withheld for safety reasons, is set to tell her story in the United States this week as part of the Achmed ben Sara speaking tour in New York.

Abuse (Illustrative Photo) (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Abuse (Illustrative Photo)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
As a young girl, Tamar always knew something was missing.
She had heard rumblings that her mother might be Jewish but as a 10-year-old Muslim child, she felt alone and confused. It was only as a teenager that she found out she was actually Jewish.
For the first time ever, Tamar, whose surname has been withheld for safety reasons, is set to tell her story in the United States this week as part of the Achmed ben Sara speaking tour in New York.
However, back home in Israel, Tamar still remains terrified to divulge the truth behind her horrific ordeal.
Then known as Maftuna, Tamar’s family moved from Uzbekistan to Israel and it was during this time that she realized that the missing puzzle piece in her life was her Jewish identity.
“I was an adolescent by the time I discovered my true identity. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, raised in an Orthodox Jewish home in Germany,” she said in a statement released to The Jerusalem Post by Yad L'Achim, an organization that rescues Jewish women and children in danger from Arab villages.
Three generations ago, Tamar’s  grandmother, Fraida fled Nazi Germany all the way to Uzbekistan, where she met and wed a man by the name of Ismail, “a dashing young Muslim,” with whom she raised her seven children.
According to Tamar, over the years, Fraida, who was renamed Fatima, never said or even breathed  a word of her Jewish identity. She was careful to spare them the persecution and brutalities that she and her family had suffered at the hands of their the Nazi’s before she fled Germany.
Fraida was afraid that if anyone learned the truth, “her offspring would forever be hunted.”
A generation later, Tamar’s parents immigrated to Israel due to financial difficulties. As they settled into their new home and lives, Tamar’s father, “who wished to uphold his family’s traditions, insisted that his children attend a separate school that preached modesty as a value.”
In a strange twist of fate, Tamar - still known as Muftana - was enrolled in a Jewish religious girls’ institution where she began learning Jewish values and customs.
In her new school, Tamar immediately felt a bond with Judaism, “as if my soul was yearning for something greater.
“When I learned the story of how God appeared to Abraham, I felt that He had appeared to me too and told me that this was my home and my people,” Tamar said.
“I learned a lot about Judaism,” but she was terribly confused because in school “I learned that Judaism passes through the mother, whereas at home my father professed that Islam follows the father” and she still was not sure of her mother’s real roots.
“When I was 12, I pleaded with a faculty member to help me discover who I was,” she recalled. “She took me to a rabbi who sat me down, showed me my family tree, and proclaimed -‘You are a full-fledged Jewess!’”
After finding out this secret, Tamar’s parents were enraged, and as they watched her growing passion for Judaism, they decided to return immediately to Uzbekistan.
While her school principal attempted to intercede and even contacted Yad L’Achim, it was already too late.
Once back in Uzbekistan, Tamar, not yet 16, was introduced by her parents to Mohammed, and they were soon married. 
“When she was 8 months pregnant, the couple returned to Israel,” Yad L’Achim explained.
But within a short time, her fairytale home in Israel “disintegrated into a nightmare.”
She was severely abused and threatened with violence
“I was forbidden to leave my house, and the smallest misstep could cause my husband to erupt in fury,” Tamar said.
On the day she told her husband she wanted a divorce, he beat her sadistically, warning her that “a woman cannot divorce her husband.
“The day you leave me is the day you die,” she recalled.
Despite the continued abuse, she gave birth to two children who were also victimized by her husband.
It was then that Tamar was determined to stop at nothing to escape her hell.
“It wasn’t just my life now, but also the lives of my children, at stake,” she said.
One day, when her husband was out, Tamar picked up the phone and called Yad L’Achim and asked them for help.
Following what was a shocking series of events that included the kidnapping of her two children and the family’s return to Uzbekistan once more, Yad L’Achim “formulated an intricate escape plan and guided Tamar and her children through a death-defying escape out of two countries,” the organization explained. Over 70 years after her grandmother fled Nazi Germany for her life, Tamar, helped by Yad L’Achim fled for her life back to Israel together with her children.
Safely back in Israel, the Yad L’Achim supported her through her divorce, therapy, and “positive reintegration into Israeli society.
“The children adapted quickly, yet there is still a lingering fear of a violent, abusive father who will demand their return home and take revenge on their mother,” Yad L’Achim stressed.
But, according to Yossi Eliav, director of Yad L’Achim’s Special Projects and organizer of the tour, there are plenty other stories echoing Tamar’s.
“People aren't aware how many hundreds of girls are drawn into these nightmares every year,” he said. “It's almost impossible for a Westerner to imagine how totally trapped a Jewish woman is in an Arab village.
“Some live truly like prisoners, without access to a phone or even the freedom to step outside,” he explained.
Once free, Yad L'Achim provides safe shelter for these women and their children and supports their reintegration into Israeli society.
“Our mission,” continued Eliav, “is to show their plight to the world and save as many lives as we can.”
The organization’s Special Operations branch saves Jews in situations of distress, “and one of our flagship projects is rescuing Jewish women and their children held against their will in Arab villages.”
In many cases, rescue operations are conducted in top secrecy in the knowledge that the lives of the women, their children, and the operatives are at stake.
Since its inception, Yad L’Achim has rescued thousands of Jewish women and children from life-threatening situations of abuse.