The first time I saw mention of ISIS’s extreme ideology and tactics on my Facebook feed, I was greatly disturbed. An intense sensation of bewilderment quickly, however, regressed into a hopeless inner shrug of what can I possibly do to change things? Soon ISIS concerns were replaced by other concerns, and the day rushed by me, tantalizing me to join it, as I closed my laptop and forgot about yet another group’s proclamation of intent for world domination.
The next day rolls by. Weeks follow. I don’t listen to the radio. I don’t have a newspaper. I look at my daily FB feed, but little now comes across about ISIS. I see pictures of l’chaims, humorous posts about daily happenings. The world is stabilized and safe again. I concentrate on my own growth, my own worldly responsibilities.
Then it happens again. A post appears in my feed about the Islamic State. My eyes glaze over with concern, I am dismantled once again. The virulent hatred, inhumane killings. Gaining land, gaining control. What must it have been like, my mind circles around the question, for American Jews, nestled in safer homes, while the concentration camps raged in another distant corner of the world. What should I do? What can I do?
But the world rushes in as I pause to think about my next step in this global drama, and smaller concerns fill up my brain. Days, weeks go by. I have no radio tuned to daily news. No newspaper to scream what’s going on. I have no patience to search the internet for news updates.
This man, Steve Maman, thought of a plan to save the Christian and Yazidi sex slaves of ISIS. I read up on the situation. Disgusted, revolted, and barely able to order my Shabbos food that night, I learn about approximately 2,700 women and children who are caged, raped, and put in inhumane living conditions (as stated by the United Nations Human Rights Violations) by ISIS fighters. Some young ones, sold to brothels, are raped up to 30 times a day. What can I do?
This time, I don’t let other thoughts dare to flow in. I’m so disturbed, I need to know more.
I search an article by The Atlantic on ISIS that explains that
“In October (2014), Dabiq, the magazine of the Islamic State, published “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,” an article that took up the question of whether Yazidis (the members of an ancient Kurdish sect that borrows elements of Islam, and had come under attack from Islamic State forces in northern Iraq) are lapsed Muslims, and therefore marked for death, or merely pagans and therefore fair game for enslavement. A study group of Islamic State scholars had convened, on government orders, to resolve this issue. If they are pagans, the article’s anonymous author wrote,
‘Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations [in northern Iraq] … Enslaving the families of the kuffar [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophet … and thereby apostatizing from Islam.’ ”
I am aglow with the appreciation that Steve Maman did not find an answer to this atrocity; he created an answer. Through our pocketbooks. Maman’s eight month old organization,The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq (CYCI), has contacts in ISIS controlled areas, who act as brokers for the release of these women and girls: buying each one of them for $1,000-$3,000 (they are sold as slaves on the market). There is a way out. We can save these women.
There are concerns for this project, that the money will go into ISIS hands and create more damage or fuel more abductions. But, as reported on Vocative, “Maman remains undeterred. ‘Compared to the billions ISIS has reportedly made from looting from banks, seizing oil fields and other illicit activity, the money spent rescuing these women and girls is nominal,’ he said. ‘This is pocket change to them.’ ”
He has already raised more than $550,000 of the estimated $2 million dollar cost . He already brought back 134 women. Many of these women he saves are pregnant from there “masters”. Can you imagine? Can you imagine that a Jewish man is reaching into the deepest depths of golus, into the sinkhole of evil, and bringing out women, impregnanted from their attackers, who believe that this type of “sexual slave servitude” is a Gd given right?
Should I fight this war from afar?What are our tools and who will emerge our leaders, directing us how to do it ? It just takes one man to cleverly devise a pathway to redeem people from evil. And for the rest of us to hold to the reins and give his dream the strength to fly. We are nothing, if not warriors. Maybe the answer is in our hands.
The Daily Tanya on the day I read about this campaign stated, interestingly, “The only means now available to secure full atonement is through tzedakah…And this is what our Sages, of blessed memory, meant by saying that “Israel will be redeemed only through charity.” [This refers to the charity] that they will perform even if they are legally not obligated,for [Mashiach] the son of David will not come [until the pocket will be empty of even the smallest coin].”
Maybe I can be a part of world conversation, I start to think tentatively. Maybe I can be a part of the solution to world peace. Against my nature, I begin to research online, to learn more about ISIS- it’s history and ideology.
Maman’s decisive action thrilled me, empowering me to keep on reading up on this, to try and stay informed and involved.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, ” Marianna Williamson insisted years ago, “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” We live in an incredible age of information. So much information that I don’t know what to do with it. So little time, especially with the raising of a small family, to invest in searching the internet. I need guides along the way, like Maman, who show me what actions I can take with the information that floods my computer screen.
I’m all for the approach that sometimes to fight darkness, the best thing to do is to just bring a little light into the world. To fight evil, the best thing many times one can do is to concentrate on one’s own growth, one’s own spiritual relationship with Gd, his fellows, and himself. To take on more; more learning, more mitzvahs. But I think I also used that philosophy to avoid the overwhelming nature of being involved with current events: If I don’t know how to fix it, it’s not worth it to sink my sorrows and time in trying to understand the scary and complicated state of world affairs. Yet something about researching about ISIS and what’s really happening around me in the world felt so right. Maybe through learning about world events, I can be more involved and I can help change things from the bottom up.
Maman’s actions ring loud and clear: This is what we believe in. This is another way we bring about redemption. We are nothing, if not warriors. And this is how we fight.