A man who grew up in the Gaza Strip was recently reunited with his Israeli Jewish mother after she finally manged to track him down, three decades after he was abducted by his Palestinian father.
The man, 30, entered Israel and received full citizenship last week under Israel’s right of return, which grants automatic citizenship to any Jew who wants to live in the country, Yad L’Achim, a nonprofit that assisted in finding the man, said in a statement Wednesday.
“The very first time she called and told me, ‘I’m your mother,’ I nearly dropped the phone,” said the man, identified only as Muhammad. “I barely spoke a word of Hebrew at the time, and I was so shocked that I was speechless.”
The story began three decades ago when the mother, identified only as Rina, at the time a teenage girl, had a relationship with a Palestinian man.
They had a baby together and then one day, when their son was six months old, the father left, taking the infant with him and moved to the Gaza Strip without telling the mother.
For nearly 30 years Rina had no information on his whereabouts or his fate. Then, two and a half years ago, she was encouraged to contact Yad L’achim, an anti-assimilation group, and asked for its help.
The Orthodox organization works to counter missionary work and opposes relationships between Jews and Muslims in Israel.
The organization, which says it “locates Jewish women and children trapped against their will in Arab villages” in order to rescue them “from captivity,” set to work trying to find Rina’s son.
Making discreet inquiries and conducting research they were able to locate the boy, now a man, living in the northern Gaza Strip, they said. They later obtained his cellphone number which was passed on to Rina, who made the first call.
“I asked my uncle to speak to her and verify the facts, Muhammad said. “Two and a half years later, with tremendous support from Yad L’Achim, I’d learned Hebrew, and we were speaking daily,” Muhammad said, according to the group.
Rina decided she wanted to bring him out of Gaza, which is under the control of the Palestinian terror group Hamas, and last week Muhammad entered Israel and became a full Israeli citizen.
“I can’t describe the feeling,” Rina said. “I can’t believe that this day has really come after thirty years of heartache and endless waiting. I’m so happy. I want him to work and marry here. I want to be a mother all over again.”
“I have many friends who envy the fact that I’m living in Israel,” Muhammad said. “Here in Israel, people respect each other; they value life. Here, there are jobs and opportunities. Gaza is one giant jail.”