Weekly Chasidic Story #858 (s5774-36 / 5
A Palestinian Journey from Jail to Yeshiva
Early release from jail meant return into the areas of the
Palestinian Authority--where many would seek to kill him for his connections
with Jews and Israelis.
A Palestinian Journey from Jail to Yeshiva
[I saw this on Arutz Sheva* 3½ years
ago and stored it, hoping that further developments would be disclosed.
I never found any, nor did Prof. Google. Clearly his need for secrecy trumps
alleviating our curiosity. --YT]
AS more details on the story of an Palestinian Authority Arab
ex-con on his way to converting to Judaism are revealed, the more astonishing
Yaniv Ben-David, an Arab from the PA territories and Haifa whose official name
until recently was Busmon Abu-Ras, found Judaism and G-d while serving a 12-year
term in prison. The full miraculous story has come out in three interviews,
including one with Arutz-7 and another on Radio Kol Chai with the head of the
Civil Administration, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, known as 'Poli.'
Yaniv's speech is liberally sprinkled with "May G-d's Name be blessed"
and the like, as if he had grown up all his life in a traditional Sephardic
neighborhood. But in actuality, his story is very different. Without getting
into details, he explains that he became involved in criminal activity of which
today he is very ashamed. Once in jail, no one in his family ever visited him.
"My crime was not related to terrorism, Heaven forbid, chas veshalom,"
he says, "but I don't want to discuss it."
"Some of the Jews in prison with me," he relates, "began talking
to me, and said things like, 'There's something special about you, something
that doesn't seem to belong to that world that you came from... You seem to
have a spark of Jewishness... Specifically, one very special guy began teaching
me about Judaism, and little by little, I began to enter the world of holiness
and Torah and the Chosen Nation, etc., may G-d's Name be blessed..."
At the same time, however, that he was undergoing changes in his religious outlook
and identity, the prison authorities were preparing him for another change:
Early release from jail, back into the areas of the Palestinian Authority -
which terrified him because he knew many there would seek to kill him for his
connections with Jews and Israelis.
Here's where Providence stepped in. Gen. Mordechai relates:
"I was driving shortly before midnight on Route 443 to Modiin where I
live, when I saw a strange sight at the checkpoint, and I stopped. It seems
everything is truly from Heaven. I saw this young man, Yaniv, crying and sobbing
at the checkpoint, and he told me an amazing story - of how he had come close
to Judaism while in prison, and how all his requests and pleas to be recognized
as a former prisoner whose life would be endangered in the PA were turned down,
including by the Supreme Court. I had trouble believing this, but I saw him
quoting Biblical verses and all... Meanwhile, he was stuck at the checkpoint;
the soldiers wouldn't let him cross, and he refused to enter the PA. I did some
quick checking with the social worker in the prison and with the prison rabbi,
and they said very complimentary things about him, such as that he had been
released for good behavior, and how sincere he was... I had no immediate solution
for him, but I was able to have him brought to a nearby IDF base for a couple
of days, and then, after some not-simple struggles with the Shabak and other
government bodies, we were able to find a place for him..."
Yaniv is now studying and living at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, whose name
and location he will not disclose.
Both Gen. Mordechai and Yaniv do not cease to express their amazement at the
Divine providence of the story. Yaniv said, "Poli is truly an agent of
G-d, blessed be His Name, sent specifically to save me. He is a true tzadik
[righteous person]..." Asked what he would have done had Poli not happened
by at that time, he said, "I would have waited there all night, and put
on my tefillin in the morning..."
"I was standing there at the checkpoint, I saw two Palestinians coming
close to me - I was afraid not only for my life, but even more that maybe they
would take my tefillin! For them to take my holiness, the holiness of
G-d, I couldn't take it!.. But I said, If G-d wants me to put on tefillin
next to these Palestinians, I'll do it! I stood and screamed out, Shma Yisrael,
Hear Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One!"
"...And then G-d sent Poli to save me. I had already been rejected by all
the courts, and I went to the synagogue and said, 'G-d, thank You for all you
have given me - the good and the bad. If this is Your will, that I return and
have to die for the Sanctification of Your Name, then I'll do it... But G-d
sent Poli; G-d never abandons anyone who doesn't abandon Him, Blessed be His
Yaniv, who is towards the end of his formal conversion process, says he does
not know exactly when he will become an official Jew. "Meanwhile, I'm enjoying
learning Talmud, praying, etc... When I pray the Amidah, it is not from
this world; I see lights..." He acted as the gabbai (sexton) of
the prison synagogue. "Gathering people for the prayers, setting up the
prayer books - this is where I feel my holiness, this is my blood, this is my
life, nothing else, may G-d's Name be blessed."
He related, as well, that he was forced to withstand many difficult situations
in prison: "G-d sent me many tests, but I believe that, with His help,
may He be blessed, I was able to stand up to them."
On the day of his release, the deputy commander of the prison, a Bedouin, wanted
to cut off his sidelocks - customarily grown long by Hassidic and other religious
Jews. "I told him, without fear: You can kill me, you can do anything you
want - but no one will ever touch my peyot, my holiness. I didn't care
about anything; it was unthinkable that I would lose my holiness, my sidelocks...
How could it be that someone wanted to take my holiness!"
Yaniv related that when he first began to observe Jewish customs in jail, "there
were some goyim there [Arab Muslims] who mocked me, and even threatened
me. I couldn't understand those people, that nation: I find something for my
soul, why should they care? ... But I was not afraid. I felt that I would rather
die to sanctify G-d's name, than not be observant."
He said that he hopes to continue studying in Yeshiva, and in the future,
to possibly give lectures about Judaism and Torah: "The Jewish people -
for some reason, I just don't know why - many of these holy people don't observe
G-d's will. I hope I can help them to truly return to G-d, and bring the Messiah
- who is here, by the way; as soon as everyone observes two Sabbaths, he will
be revealed... This is a very difficult generation, a very, very hard generation,
G-d knows, there are very strong temptations. But the place in which stands
someone who returns to G-d, even a righteous person cannot stand..."
"I want to tell all of Israel: Just like a convert loves G-d with all
his heart - I do His will with all my heart, He performed great kindnesses for
me, and I serve Him with all my essence, with perfect faith and with serenity,
even though I went through many tests - so too G-d loves Israel... G-d took
care of me. G-d never abandons anyone; we just have to try to perform His will;
give Him an opening the size of a needle [as the Sages say - HF.] and He will
open entire worlds for us...."
*Source: Excerpted by Yerachmiel Tilles from an article by Hillel
Fendel on November 1, 2010. © Copyright IsraelNationalNews.com
Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor
of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories
to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells
them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.
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