Mordechai Goldman August 2, 2019
An Israeli online campaign in Arabic has been a surprising success. The campaign, which was launched just before the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which started on June 8, encourages Muslims with Jewish roots according to Jewish law to return to Judaism. This unusual and unprecedented effort was launched by the group Yad L’Achim, which describes itself as doing everything so that “we do not give up even on a single Jew.” The organization fights against “missionary activities,” loss of identity and assimilation of Jews, seeking instead instilling Jewish values.
According to Jewish law, a person’s identity as a Jew is passed on through matrilineal descent. This means that if the mother or the maternal grandmother are Jewish, so are the children and grandchildren. The organization is now attempting to reach Muslims who are Jewish according to the principles of Jewish law, so that they can be led back to the Jewish people. The campaign has made waves across social media, with Muslims from countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen approaching the organization in response.
The star of the campaign is Ziv Yehezkel, an Israeli liturgical performer who speaks fluent Arabic. Yehezkel is active in revitalizing classical Arabic music — such as that performed by Umm Kulthum, Abdel Wahab and Abdel Halim — and serves as a soloist of the Arab Orchestra of Nazareth. He appeared as a soloist in tributes to Umm Kulthum, and his performances are popular among Israel’s Arab sector, in the Palestinian Authority and Arabs around the world.
“Anyone whose mother or grandmother is Jewish, is a Jew as well,” Yehezkel tells viewers in his videos. “The Jewish people want you back and welcome you with open arms. … This is an opportunity for anyone born of a Jewish mother to say to himself, ‘I want to renew my bond with the Creator.’ If you are the child of a Jewish mother, it’s time for you to start your life anew.”