I can hear Efraim lamenting: You have chastised me, and I am chastised Like a calf that has not been broken. Receive me back, let me return, For You, Hashem, are my God Jeremiah 31:17 (The Israel Bible™)
For 13 years, Galit Popok hasn’t seen her daughter who was only 6-years old when they were forced to separate. Today, at 19-years old, she is the mother of a baby girl.
Galit, an Israeli woman married an Arab Muslim and lived with him in the Gaza strip. She was just reunited with her daughter who she hasn’t seen in 13 years.
Galit never wanted to leave her daughters but did so out of necessity. As a woman in an extremely abusive relationship in subhuman living conditions in Gaza, she “had to make a choice” explains Anat Gopstein, a member of an organization that rescues Jewish women who naively married Arabs called Lehava (torch).
So one day she received permission to enter Israel to see a doctor and was able to take 3 out of 6 of her kids with her. This was her only opportunity to escape the hell she was living in. It was a difficult choice but that’s how it is when you are the victim of severe domestic violence and your life is in constant danger.
After she escaped, she completely lost contact with her 3 daughters she left behind.
Several years ago, Galit’s Arab husband was killed in an airstrike in Gaza.
At that point, she turned the head of Lehava, Bentzi Gopstein. Gopstein managed to locate one of her daughters during Operation Protective Edge.
During Operation Protective Edge, when IDF soldiers were in Beit Lahiya (the neighborhood where Galit’s daughter lived). The IDF could have easily extracted her and reunited her with her mother. Some Members of Knesset wanted to help with the efforts to reunite the two while Galit begged then-Defense Minister Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon to instruct the IDF to bring her into Israel. Yaalon rejected their pleas and “had a heart of stone and wouldn’t allow such a humanitarian measure to take place” explained Gopstein.
“Until this day, I remember that moment, the mother and daughter arrived at the Erez crossing but the daughter was forced to return home to the Gaza Strip. I will never forget the Galit’s disappointment. A mother with a broken heart who wanted nothing more than to hug her daughter” Gopstein adds.
But despite the failed attempt, they managed to obtain on thing: a virtual connection between the mother and daughter, especially the older one who got married and badly needs a mother’s love.
But on Thursday Bentzi and Anat Gopstein “came full circle” and returned to the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza. They stood there for hours in the heat until it happened: Galit’s daughter, Yasmin, arrived at the crossing and this time, she made it through to the other side, together with her baby.
The mother and daughter rushed straight into each other’s arms for a long, warm hug after being separated for 13 years of not seeing each other.
“There were no dry eyes during that reunification,” Gopstein said as they thanked Bentzi,
This project was done with the help of Likud MK Patin and Rozfia Nahon. They will continue their efforts to rescue the other 2 daughters.
Ironically, on the same day of the reunification, Israel’s Supreme Court was deliberating whether or not Bentzi Gopstein was too racist against Arabs to run for Knesset.