The Girl Who Lost Everything
"I've lost everything!" isn't the message you want to get from your daughter who is hitching around somewhere in South America. A mother writes to Tel Aviv Shliach Rabbi Yosef Gerlitzky.
A letter sent to the Shliach in Tel Aviv Rabbi Joseph Gerlitzky from a mother who is a member of Rabbi Gerlitzky’s Chabad House. The letter speaks for itself:
Harav Gerlitzky Shalom,
"I've lost everything!"
That's not exactly the message you want to see from your daughter who is hitching around somewhere in South America. I imagined every possible scenario, but the least was her standing in the middle of a small village with nothing but the clothes on her back, begging to be allowed a few minutes in some Internet cafe to write the message.
I wrote back - what do you mean "everything"? And lost? Stolen? At knife point? Gunpoint? Were you robbed? What exactly do you have left?
"Nothing - I've lost everything...".
After a few more nondescript statements like that, she went off-line.
I didn't even know what country she was in. She had been in Brazil, somewhere in a place where the mosquitos laughed at the anti-bite spray I had equipped her with, and were bigger than horseflies. So I waited, not very calmly, till she came back on line. A few hours later, she wrote very clearly, that she is in some crazy city in Paraguay. Ciudad del Este. She kept saying it's a crazy place, the police aren't helping, in fact, they stole her friend's camera. What should she do?
So far away from home, what was I to do? I looked up Ciudad del Este on Wikipedia and a few other sites. On the border with Brazil and Paraguay, drug-smuggling, human-trafficking major industries, police paid to not do anything, and the cherry on the top of the Sundae - logistics center for fundraising in Latin America for Hezbollah. The city is full of both Shiite and Sunni Moslems. My daughter, an Israeli, chose a great place to get stuck.
Finally, she wrote. "Contact Chabad! Where is Chabad in Paraguay? Ask them to help me!" This warmed my heart. She is the most secular of our children, not interested in religion. However, she respects me, and before she left, I told her if she runs into trouble, look for Chabad. I didn't imagine that she was listening to my advice. I guess when you feel really lost, you look for home.
After conacting the Chabad house in Tel Aviv, I wrote an e-mail to Rabbi Levi Feigelstock in Asuncion. He wrote me back in minutes. "What is your number?' Huh? I think her phone was stolen.
I didn't get it. He wanted my home phone number to call me in Tel Aviv from Asuncion. He phoned and asked a few details. "Where is she? Oh, that city isn't as bad as it sounds, in fact my in-laws, my family and I spent the Passover week there."
He calmed me down a bit. I told him she is sleeping at the Cathedral. He asked me what she looks like, and told me to hold on, he's calling Manuel Atias, part of the community in Ciudad Del Este.
He's right there, near the cathedral. I heard him talking in Spanish on his phone, and he told me that Manuel is going to the cathedral to find her, he told me she has gone downtown to the police maybe. I had to go out, and Rabbi Levi couldn't get hold of me so he called Rabbanit Hinda Gerlitzky here in Tel Aviv to send me a message to Skype him.
Within a few hours, Rabbi Levi got back to me. "They have found her and are helping her". Such a relief! Now she was in good hands, safe.
Just so you don't think it's no big deal - Ciudad Del Este is a city with 700,000 people, built on two sides of a river, each side being in a different country, and it's a 5 hour drive from Asuncion.
So my daughter eventually ended up getting to Asuncion, staying in Chabad House with the Feigelstock family, and learning a little Tanya for good measure!
I was amazed. I hear so many stories about how Chabadniks in every far-flung place in the world help Jews, and here was my chance to see it in action.
One more thing. My daughter didn't lose "everything". True, she lost her passport, camera and memory card, which is a shame, but she will never lose her Jewish identity and that was wonderfully revealed.
M. Bar, Tel Aviv