Every few months, we are presented with media reports about Jewish women rescued from their Muslim husbands in the Palestinian Authority or within Israel.
The stories are always similar. The women were tortured by their husbands, often locked in their homes or under constant guard by members of their husbands’ families. Either with or without the help of their Jewish families, they reached out to Yad L’Achim which rescues Jewish women and their children from Muslim husbands. Yad L’Achim volunteers plan and carry out often dangerous rescue operations and bring these women and their children to safety.
In January, Channel 10 presented live footage of one such rescue. Viewers saw relatives of a mother of four named Dana waiting anxiously at the Erez checkpoint as she and her children fled her husband and his family in Gaza and took their first steps of freedom.
During their courtship, Dana’s husband showed her every courtesy. After their marriage, he began regularly beating her and kept her under around the clock surveillance. A visit to Yad L’Achim’s website makes clear that her story is anything but unique.
Yad L’Achim’s work in saving Jewish women from violent Muslim husbands is especially notable given the nature of the organization. It is an anti-missionary haredi organization led by Rabbi Dov Lipshitz. It is not feminism that motivates its members to save these women. It is Jewish law. And specifically, the halachic command of the ransoming of Jewish hostages. According to the organization, it carries out scores of rescue missions like the one that rescued Dana every year.
The question naturally arises, why do haredim dominate what by rights ought to be a field occupied by secular feminists? Why aren’t Israeli and American Jewish feminists at the forefront of efforts to save these women from their violent husbands? Where, for instance, is the New Israel Fund? Its website brags, “The New Israel Fund founded or funded most of Israel’s women’s rights organizations and networks.”
Obviously Yad L’Achim, which defends these women’s right to live without fear is a women’s rights group. So why doesn’t NIF fund it? Yad L’Achim and other religious groups have been pilloried with allegations of racism in recent months for their public calls for Jewish girls and women not to date Arabs. In principle, these attacks seem fair. Blanket denunciations of Jewish-Muslim dating and intermarriage are problematic, even if they are justified from a religious perspective.
But whether one agrees or disagrees with the religious precepts that guide Yad L’Achim’s actions, the fact is they are not saving a principle. They are saving women and children. Shouldn’t that be enough to earn them the respect of the Left that is supposed to be motivated by concern for the weak and downtrodden? In her interview with Channel 10, Dana said that in Gaza, “what they do is curse the Jews 24 hours a day.”
The fact is that both misogyny and Jew-hatred are facts of life throughout the Muslim world. This state of affairs renders marriage to Muslim men a particularly dangerous prospect for Jewish women.
But the feminists throughout the Jewish world are silent on this issue. And this isn’t surprising. The egregious mistreatment of Jewish women by their Arab husbands involves two issues that the Left – which encompasses most feminist groups – is intent on ignoring: Islamic misogyny and Islamic Jew hatred. Just as the Left ignores, underplays, trivializes or justifies the fact that hatred of Jews is the most universal sentiment in the Muslim world today, so it systematically ignores, underplays or trivializes the endemic brutalization of women and girls throughout the Islamic world.
Take a purportedly feminist discussion of the impact of the Arab revolt on the position of women in the Arab world from ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour on Sunday. In a segment that lasted roughly 15 minutes, Amanpour said essentially nothing about the appalling lives of women and girls under Islamic law.
When Newsweek editor Tina Brown mentioned “the barbaric custom of child brides,” in Yemen, Amanpour didn’t ask her to elaborate. In accordance with that Yemeni custom, little girls are routinely married off to grown men.
When Iraqi women’s rights activist Zainab Salbi noted that the key issue for women in the Muslim world is changing the family law that governs their societies, Amanpour didn’t ask her what she meant.
What she meant was that under Islamic family law, women and girls are considered the property of their male relatives. And their “owners” can legally beat them and rape them and genitally mutilate them and force them into marriages they object to. If the women and girls are “disobedient,” their male relatives can expect little or no punishment for murdering them.
Rather than discuss the real, truly life-threatening dangers faced by women and girls throughout the Islamic world, Amanpour presented her viewers with a superficial and false depiction of recent events in which a few well-dressed, perfectly coiffed, pretty young women in Egypt and two Western dressed women in Libya are supposedly transforming the position of women in their societies one tweet at a time.
It was a complete lie. But it wasn’t shocking. It would have been shocking if Amanpour had provided her viewers with any relevant facts about the subject she was purportedly discussing.
The contrast between Yad L’Achim and traditional feminist groups and icons worldwide is statement on the state of the free world today. Whereas the feminists obscure the plight of women living in the Muslim world, a haredi group is saving women living in the Muslim world.
For years the New Israel Fund and countless other Jewish and non-Jewish leftist organizations have waged a culture war against the haredim for what they allege is their mistreatment of women.
Many women – both Orthodox and non-Orthodox – disagree with the position of women in the haredi world. But it cannot be denied that today haredim are the only ones rescuing battered Jewish women from their abusive Muslim husbands.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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