Noy Sheetrit and Alaa Abu Sajir (Image credit: Facebook Screenshot)
Apparently converting to Islam on the Temple Mount to marry a Muslim Arab wasn’t enough for Noy Sheetrit, a young Jewish woman from Ashkelon.
After briefly escaping her fiancé and returning to the Jewish people last week on Sunday, thanks to the Lehava anti-assimilation organization, she backtracked and left again during Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year), precisely during the Days of Awe when Jewish tradition teaches we are particularly judged for our actions and given a chance to repent.
The move came to public attention on Monday morning, when her polygamist Bedouin Muslim fiancé Alaa Abu Sajir uploaded a photo of them together as the profile picture on his Facebook page.
Abu Sajir also changed his background picture to a photo of a scantily clad Sheetrit, which visually objectified her as a conquest for the Muslim Arab - who already has a wife and children he initially hid from her, as Lehava revealed. When she found out about the prior wife he promised her he would get a divorce, before later changing his tune and refusing.
The group reported that Sheetrit also revealed Abu Sajir had already started shouting at her and throwing tables and chairs, in an act of intimidation and a stark indication of what things may come.
The Silver Lining
Lehava Director Bentzi Gopshtain issued a statement on Monday seen by The Jerusalem Herald in response to Sheetrit’s return to her Muslim fiancé. He began by quoting the famous medieval Jewish scholar Rambam’s words on free will, which note that every person has the choice to do good or bad.
Gopshtain pledged: “We will sacrifice for every Jewish woman and will help anyone that will want to help herself and repent. For a whole month our activists were in contact with Noy. Last week she wanted to repent. Noy asked that we film her returning to Judaism, and that’s what we did. She was in our emergency apartments.”
“Before the [Rosh Hashana] holiday we recommended to her to stay and receive accompanying support and professional care, but she asked to return to her mother’s home, and that’s what she did because we do not hold anyone by force,” he added. The two-day holiday which led directly into Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) spent back in her home environment was too much for the apparently still uncertain Sheetrit.
Noting the results of her refusal of support, Gopshtain continued: “On the eve of the holiday she sent us a moving thank you. And unfortunately, at the end of the holiday she blocked us. We waited and were in contact with the family and her with no success for now. And therefore we did not publish [her return] until she chose to post a picture of herself with the Arab man.”
“We have no regrets,” he said, in reference to Lehava’s decision to go public with the video of Sheetrit’s temporary return to the Jewish people, “and we will do it again any time for any Jewish woman who wants.”
Gopshtain revealed that the story was not without its silver lining.
“Since the story of Noy’s return [to Judaism] was published we succeeded, thanks to the publicity, in returning another four girls back to the Jewish people, and currently they are at Lehava’s apartments,” he said.
“And we started to take care of another 16 cases that reached us this week. We will continue to act for the girls of Israel. And we will remember that it is forbidden to give up on anyone.”
Sheetrit’s fragile state of mind was indicated by Gopshtain’s wife and fellow activist Anat, who told Galey Yisrael radio last Tuesday that Sheetrit showed signs of “ambivalence” characteristic of an addict trying to kick a habit while still emotionally tied to it. She noted Sheetrit still had feelings for Abu Sajir.
In all likelihood this is not the end of the Sheetrit saga, as her return to life in the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev may well see an intensification of the verbal abuse and physical intimidation she revealed to Lehava. When she left her fiancé last week, she did so after Anat Gopshtain asked her what future she sees for herself with Abu Sajir and she in response broke down crying.
It can be hoped that if and when she decides to leave her Muslim polygamist fiancé and return to the Jewish people, she will agree to Lehava’s recommendations that she stay under their care and allow them to give her the support she needs.
One final point on Sheetrit’s story: There are those in Israel who have defended her choice to convert on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, in order to marry a Muslim and potentially have children with him who will be considered Muslim according to Islam and will be distanced from Judaism.
To those justifying Sheetrit and decrying the backlash her move generated among the Israeli public, one must ask whether these same people would support a Muslim woman choosing to convert to Judaism at the Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, in order to marry a Jew, and to then have the video of her conversion spread online?
Would we still be hearing about tolerance and acceptance then, or would demands be made that she respect the religious sensibilities of Islam and avoid gross provocations that could threaten a religious holy war?
Concerning this case of choosing conversion to marry a non-Jew, which is forbidden by Jewish law, what would these people say in support of isolating her children from the Jewish people and having them raised as Muslims - especially if, instead of being around 15 million, the world Jewish population were five million - or only two million? At what point would the preservation of the Jewish people matter to them?