Local believers help Muslim Palestinian family in distress
Palestinian family helped by The Joseph Project and Operation Blessing
Local believers recently teamed up to build and furnish a safe home for a Palestinian mother of 12 children in the West Bank through the Israel-based Joseph Project and the international organization Operation Blessing, which has a Middle East bureau in the region.
The family had been the victims of a near honor killing at the hands of the woman’s murderously abusive husband.
Because Operation Blessing provides humanitarian aid in the region, OB Senior Project Manager for Israel and the West Bank, Mark Othman, was alerted to the plight of this family.
“We met the family through Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans, a local organization with whom we partner. We were told the mother and children had suffered longterm domestic abuse by the husband,” Othman told KNI. “We learned the man had recently locked his family inside their house and had set it on fire.”
Othman said that one day when the mother and nearly all the children were at home (the eldest girl is married and out of the house), the 17-year-old daughter smelled smoke while she was studying. She realized there was fuel on the floor and the house was burning.
“Neighbors managed to break in and rescue the woman and 11 of her children aged between four and 17,” Othman says. “The husband had been trying to kill the family for some time. He told his wife he would kill them slowly, and had been starving them by locking them in the home without food.”
Apparently, the married daughter “had kept them alive by sneaking sandwiches in through a window,” Othman added.
Because the family lives in Area C of the West Bank, they live under Israeli military rule with very limited recourse to social workers and police, services normally available to citizens of a state.
Moreover, Othman explained, the family lived on the outskirts of Bethlehem in a relatively isolated rural community divided along tribal lines, and in which one man does not interfere with another man’s business.
“Because of the culture, women tend to be seen as a man’s property,” Othman said.
The family, therefore, was exceedingly vulnerable.
“We were told that when the neighbors broke in the children were visibly traumatized,” Othman said. “The mother took them all to her own mother’s house which consisted of one room and a kitchen.”
Operation Blessing determined to the help the family by building them a house on a piece of land belonging to the mother, and upon which there was a permit to build.
“We were able to hire labor for little or nothing and buy materials for construction very cheaply. When the local Palestinian community came to realize what was happening, they wanted to help too,” Othman said.
Then, with a three-room house built, Operation Blessing asked the Joseph Project, based in Israel, to help furnish it.
A well-known humanitarian organization, the Joseph Project is an Israeli NGO staffed and run by local believers. The project imports aid into Israel from charities around the world. Among the items gathered are clothing, blankets, medical supplies, furniture, linen and bedding, diapers and family items, tools and shoes.
The imported goods are stored in a 22,000-square-foot warehouse close to Jerusalem.
In an expression of God’s love, aid is then distributed to Jews and Arabs, both religious and secular, helping tens of thousands of needy people in the land every year.
With the help of its charitable partners in America, Holland and China, the Joseph Project provided 11 mattresses, two closets, two sofas, four arm chairs, crockery and new sheets and blankets.
“We were honored to participate with Operation Blessing in helping to bless the family and provide a lasting solution,” JP Executive Director Jim Schutz told KNI. “The horrific circumstances that led to the crisis of losing of their home are mind boggling.”
KNI has learned that the mother and her children were overjoyed with their new home.
“The mother was speechless and the children kept jumping on their new beds,” Schutz wrote in a special report. “The mother continually thanked Operation Blessing Israel and its partner, the Joseph Project, for the unexpected act of kindness. She also repeatedly mentioned that ‘now finally, my children can have a good night rest.’”
Indeed, Othman confirmed the family were appreciative upon learning the provision came through both Jewish and Gentile believers as an expression of the love of Jesus. This is perhaps all the more remarkable as Othman himself is a Christian who originally came from a Muslim background.
“Through working with OB we are able to build relationships with people, and witness to them,” Othman reflected. “It can be especially impacting in the West Bank that my own background is Muslim.”
Meanwhile, the woman’s former husband has remarried and has let the family go. While it is troubling to think of what this means for his new wife, there is gratitude that this family, which has suffered so much, is now safe.
“We hope this will truly be a new beginning which will help bring forth good fruit for the rest of their lives,” Schutz said.
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Karen Faulkner is a British Israeli citizen. She has a Master's degree in Human Rights & Transitional Justice from Hebrew University, Jerusalem.