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Happy Hanukkah For a Jewish Great Grandmother: Girl Forced to Live As an Arab in Syria Finally Returns to Israel After 68 Years

( [email protected] ) Dec 16, 2015 01:18 PM EST
Rachel Elkayam, 85-year-old Syrian great grandmother, is experiencing a very special Hanukkah this year as she celebrates it in the land of her birth - Israel - for the first time in 68 years.
Rachel Elkayam, 85-year-old Syrian great grandmother, is experiencing a very special Hanukkah this year as she celebrates it in the land of her birth – Israel - for the first time in 68 years. Times of Israel

Rachel Elkayam, an 85-year-old Syrian great grandmother, is experiencing a very special Hanukkah this year as she celebrates it in the land of her birth - Israel - for the first time in 68 years.

The great grandmother who had fallen in love, had children, and married into an Arab family and lived in Syria for most of her life, was actually a Jew by birth and claimed, after returning to her native Israel, that she had "always wanted to come back, but couldn't," The Times of Israel reports.

Elkayam revealed that after she had got involved with an Arab man when she was 16, she went to live with him and his family in Syria and was not able to return ever since. But one of her grandchildren made an effort for her to be reunited with her family in Haifa in northern Israel.

Elkayam was a young girl in the Jewish-Arab city of Haifa in 1947. It was a time of turbulence and war that saw the burgeoning nation attain independence a year later. When the war took place, Elkayam's parents believed moving to Tel Aviv would be a safer bid for the family.

The problem was Elkayam had already fallen in love with the Arab Fuad. Fuad's family fetched her from Tel Aviv, and Elkayam proceeded in a secret marriage.

Elkayam quickly found out that she had made a mistake. After barely becoming a wife, the Jewish girl's happiness turned to grief when Fuad died in the streets. He was shot by a sniper and later died in a hospital.

After that her parents-in-law brought her to Syria and later told her she could return to Israel, but could not bring her son. Elkayam chose to stay in Syria for her son.

Later she was married off to one of her late husband's brothers and had more children - 8 in all.

Elkayam's parents died not knowing she was alive and well - a short drive past the northern border.

Last year, one of her grandsons went to the Israeli Embassy in London and told a staffer that his grandmother in Syria had told him that she was an Israeli Jew. Thus, one of Elkayam's siblings was found, and Rachel finally flew back to Haifa on December 8.

Elkayam joins Israelis around the world in celebrating the Hanukkah festivities. The World Jewish Congress mentions that Israel's President Reuven Rivlin, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder and the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, lit the last candles of Hanukkah at an event in New York on Sunday with the Jewish community.

Tags : Rachel Elkayam, Syrian great grandmother, Hanukkah, Israel, jewish girl, jewish community, arab family, arab nation, jewish nation, World Jewish Congress, Reuven Rivlin, Ronald Lauder, Haifa, northern Israel, Israeli independence, Tel Aviv, Arab Fuad, jewish tradition, arab tradition, Syria, Israeli Jew