A Jewish Neshamah Is Revealed in the Darkest of Places // Shira Peretz spent 24 years in an Arab village secretly trying to live as a Jew

By Chaya Gross

This past Thursday, Ami Magazine’s office was visited by a woman who had an incredible to share. Her effort to teach her children Torah while living in an Arab village is astounding—especially because the father of her children is a member of the most feared and dangerous mafia family, whose members have murdered many who did not do as they were told.

To understand why and how it is possible for a Jewish girl to choose to move to an Arab village and raise her children among Muslims, we must go back to where it all began.
“I was born in 1977 in the Rivka Ziv Hospital in Tzfat,” Shira begins. “It is a very special and spiritual city. I still love visiting there with my children whenever I can. My background is complicated. My mother has been married three times and divorced twice, so I have a number of half-siblings from other fathers and one full sister from my father.

“I had a very difficult childhood and I went through a lot of trauma at home. My parents divorced when I was young. My father was addicted to hard drugs and he was also an alcoholic; he was a lost soul. He traveled the world and wasn’t in contact with me or my sister for many years. He passed away while living in Miami. I was 18 years old at that time.

“Sometime before that my father had joined a Chabad House and become a baal teshuvah. He had cleaned himself up from the drugs and completely left his old life, but I believe he was still drinking. The circumstances of his death were mysterious. Some say he was murdered, while others say he may have committed suicide, something he threatened to do because of me. I have thought about every possible scenario that might have happened, but I never got a definite answer as to what really happened.

“The man my mother married after my father, unfortunately, was also addicted to hard drugs, and even worse, he was also a drug dealer. I remember waking up in the morning to the smells of the drugs permeating the house. I remember the smell of the customers who purchased the drugs from my stepfather. Life was very hard; I was abused at home, and I didn’t have anyone I could talk to. I didn’t think that any of my family members would believe me if I confided in them.

“I kept all of this frustration bottled up inside of me and built up an emotional wall around myself to ensure that no one else would be able to hurt me. But when you cut yourself off from those around you, you end up falling into an even deeper hole. I was a young girl, and I really didn’t have the tools to deal with my unfortunate circumstances.

“One day when I was 15 years old, I decided that I had had enough of it all and I attempted to kill myself. There were other suicide attempts as well. I simply didn’t want to live. Thank G-d, the attempts were unsuccessful. I then decided that I no longer wanted to live at home; I just didn’t feel safe, so I made the decision to run away from home. I preferred sleeping in the streets and in alleyways to living at home.

“That was the point where things really began to deteriorate. One of my friends knew that I was living on the street and invited me to live in her home. My friend had a connection with an Arab boy, and she invited me to go out with him and his friend. I was about 16 years old then. That fateful meeting was the reason I spent 24 years of my life in an Arab village.
“Because of my very difficult childhood and the trauma I suffered at home, I was very vulnerable when I met Mohammed, and he knew exactly how to give me what I needed. All I needed was love, someone to give me a compliment, embrace me with a warm hug, be attentive and empathetic. Mohammed did all of the above. He showered me with attention and constantly complimented me. He charmed me and won me over. He told me that his family wanted him to marry me, and for my part, I was also very happy to marry him.
“When my father found out that I had married an Arab, he returned to Israel. He sent people to tell me that he was very ill in the hospital and that I must go see him right away. By then I was expecting my first child, my daughter Yasmin, but I left the village and went to Petach Tikvah to see my father. When I got out of the car, I saw a group of religious men and I got very scared. Then I saw my father, and I saw that he was perfectly fine. That really angered me. The big mistake my father made was to lie to me.

“These men then took me to Meah She’arim and tried to convince me to give up the baby. I was very upset and didn’t understand why I should give up my baby, but my father said he didn’t want to have a grandchild who had an Arab father. He then took me to the clinic of a religious doctor. I was very afraid.”

“He took you against your will?”

“Yes. The doctor asked me a few questions, and then he turned to my father and said, ‘Tzion, when your daughter gives birth, you’ll be able to hold your grandchild’s hand and walk proudly because your grandchild will be a Jew.’ That calmed my father down, but I couldn’t forgive him for what he had tried to do. He had held me against my will—I tried escaping at one point—and the whole incident was very traumatic for me. After that he took me to Bnei Brak.

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