| Magazine Feature |

Out of Africa    

    It took a detour through the jungle to bring Asher Fraifeld back home

Photos: Yinon Fuchs, Personal archives


he seemingly endless Nigerian jungle gave way to a breathtaking savannah covered with overgrown yellow grass, as a lone vehicle negotiating the dirt track swerved aside and came to a halt in the muddy soil. A young Israeli surveyor and project manager named Hadass Fraifeld ordered his loyal African guide to wait a few minutes while his eyes scanned the terrain, looking for suitable ground for the roads whose construction he would be overseeing for the next few years.

It was 1974, a few short years after the Nigerian-Biafran War fought between the government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra ravaged the country. About two million Biafrans died of imposed starvation, as images of malnourished Biafran children with bony legs and bloated stomachs saturated Western media and the plight of the starving Biafrans became an overriding humanitarian issue.

Fraifeld was sent to Nigeria by Israel’s largest building and engineering company, Solel Boneh, as part of an effort to rebuild the country. (Solel Boneh had quite a few African contracts, including building the airport terminal in Entebbe, Uganda, where the Israeli hostages were held in 1976, a fact that providentially aided the Israeli rescue.) But now, he hadn’t taken more than a few steps before he heard an ominous rustle coming from the direction of a tree a few feet away.

Suddenly, a black panther leapt out of the tree, and Hadass’s blood froze. He looked at the panther without moving, praying for a miracle. “If it pounces,” he told himself, “it’s all over.”

But then, the panther sat down, keeping a steady eye on the jungle intruder, and abruptly lost interest in this strange two-legged creature, turned around, and disappeared into the bush. Hadass remained rooted in place for a few seconds, waiting for the panther to get out of range, before sprinting in the direction of the car.

The guide was watching the interaction, machete drawn, ready to jump to his employer’s aid had the panther attacked. He grinned broadly at Hadass and called out in perfect English: “Welcome to Africa.”

I might have been in the African wilds, but I knew I had to look like a Jew. The Sereter Rebbe’s message to me was finally loud and clear
Hail to the Chief

If you visit Asher Anshil (aka Hadass) Fraifeld today in his Telz Stone apartment, surrounded by pictures of the Amshinover and Djikover Rebbes, his two mentors, you’ll probably assume he’s a typical chassidish retiree, yet he’s had adventures in 45 different countries and has traveled to some of the world’s most remote locales, including the Nigerian jungle, where he spent ten years on and off between 1974 and 1993 building roads and infrastructure. He visited towns and villages where no white man had ever been, forged close relationships with tribal chiefs, witch doctors and medicine men, and had a few close calls with the wild creatures of the jungle. He even wrote a book about those years, entitled Bushman (currently it’s only in Hebrew).

Fraifeld was totally secular when he arrived at his first posting, but those years in the jungle not only honed his survival skills, they forced him to take stock of his personal identity as well.

As you hear his story, though, don’t use the word “primitive.” Fraifeld will be  affronted. Those “primitives” saved his life on more than one occasion.

“They have a different way of thinking, and we have to respect that,” Fraifeld says. “When I first arrived at the worksite in Ogwashi Ukwu in 1973, I was assigned a car with a chauffeur to go with me wherever I went. His name was Moses Indikawa. Moses, a member of the Ibo (or Igbo) tribe, was my secretary, bodyguard, interpreter, and loyal and devoted friend, even willing to risk his life for me. He taught me the secrets of the jungle, what plants could be used medicinally, what roots could be eaten and which ones to stay away from.”

During the week, Fraifeld worked in the jungle by day and slept in a nearby village at night. On Fridays he would return to his family — his wife and three young daughters — who accompanied him to Africa but stayed in the more civilized city of Benin. One Friday when he returned to the village, a messenger of the chief appeared: “The chief asks that you come to his house.” He asked Moses if he knew what it was all about, but Moses was as clueless as he was.

“I was a bit nervous as I made my way to the chief’s house,” Fraifeld recalls. “To my surprise, he was very warm, asked me to sit down, and with his right hand, presented me with a kola nut, a caffeine-packed purple fruit. For a foreigner to be presented with a kola nut was considered a high honor. The chief told me, ‘Last night all the elders and people of the village assembled, and we decided to crown you honorary chief of the tribe, in gratitude for everything you’re doing for the village.’ What this meant in practical terms is that I would be invited to sit with the elders and share in the decision-making on all village affairs. He informed me that the ceremony would be held the next day.

“All the chiefs of the neighboring villages were invited to the ceremony. They dressed me in traditional garments and gave me a stick with long goat hairs with which to swat away the ubiquitous mosquitos. This stick was a mark of high honor, being usually carried only by chiefs.

“A large bonfire burned in the middle of the square. All the people of the village were present at the ceremony. The tam-tam drums started beating, and when the drums stopped, the chief from the Ossissa Umueze tribe stood up, approached me, and offered me a kola nut with his right hand before the whole crowd. After him all the other chiefs each presented me in turn with a kola nut, and they even gave me a customized leather scabbard for my machete.”

That honored status helped save his life. Many dangers lie in wait for those who walk through the jungle, from four-legged predators to reptiles such as the mamba snake, whose bite kills its victim within 5 to 10 minutes. In addition, there are also billions of flies and mosquitos that can wreak havoc with one’s health.

Fraifeld says he wasn’t bothered by the insects — he soon got used to them. He estimates he came down with malaria — passed on from the bite of the Anopheles mosquito — dozens of times over his years in Africa, qualifying that malaria isn’t a particularly dangerous disease, if properly treated. But there’s a little fly that can literally kill you.

“One day when I was walking in the jungle, I was bitten by a tsetse fly, which is known to carry a lethal parasitic infection,” Fraifeld relates. “I scratched at it a bit and expected it to pass, but three days later my arm swelled up and became extremely painful. In the end I turned to the missionary hospital, which had doctors with experience in healing tropical diseases.

“It was decided to give me an antibiotics injection. The serum was very thick and was injected with an enormous needle, the likes of which I’d never seen before. For two days I couldn’t stand from the pain, which was all in vain, as three days later the swelling had grown to grotesque proportions. I then decided to pay a visit to the old Polish doctor, who had escaped from Europe at the beginning of World War II and somehow found his way to the villages. He was appalled by the smell of the infection. The doctor showed me a red line extending from the bite and up my arm. ‘If the line reaches your heart, you’ll die,’ he warned. That really scared me, so I asked him to operate immediately. I sent Moses to bring anesthetic from one of the neighboring villages that had a pharmacy.

“The doctor was about to start treating the wound when he realized that the anesthetic spray had long passed the expiration date. I insisted that he treat me even without it. The doctor spread a newspaper out on the table, laid my arm on it, and ordered Moses and another friend I brought along to hold my arm down. When he started cutting open the wound, a burst of blood and pus came out, which made my friend run outside. The smell was terrible.

“I asked Moses to hold me while the doctor continued to cut. When he was finished, there was a five-centimeter hole in my wrist, and I fainted from the pain. When I woke up, the wound had been cleaned and dressed. The doctor apologized for being unable to stitch the wound shut, as it was too large.

“While I was resting, Moses told me that the Juju doctor — that was the witch doctor who lived in Ossissa Umudike — has a medicine that could cure the wound. I asked Moses to take me to him. When we arrived, I removed the bandage and showed him the wound. Thanks to my high standing in the villages, he immediately went into the forest and returned 20 minutes later carrying a bundle of long, thick leaves, which he rinsed with water and then applied to the wound in place of the bandage. He promised that within three days it would be over, the hole would be gone.

“I was pretty skeptical — it was impossible that a hole that large would disappear without stitches. But after three days I removed the leaves, and to my shock, the wound had completely closed — only a scar was left,” Fraifeld says as he pulls up his left sleeve.


It’s Not Fighting, It’s Learning

Fraifeld returned to Israel with his family in 1979, bought a home in Beer Sheva, and within two years, he’d built up a large surveying company that was contracted to work in the new Samarian town of Emanuel, which was in the beginning of being built.

“I’m on the worksite,” he remembers, “When suddenly I see a bus pulling up, and out comes a group of men dressed in black and white. “Where are you from, who are you?’ I ask. I couldn’t figure out what a group of rabbis was doing on a building site. ‘We’re from Jerusalem, and we’re starting a kollel here to open the city,’ one of the fellows said and the rest followed him into a semi-built structure. I had no idea what they were talking about — what was a ‘kollel’? — but I was curious. I watched them go into one of the new buildings and saw them leave at night.

One day I decided to look and see what they were doing in there. These two guys had seforim opened, and they were yelling at each other and banging on the table. I never saw anything like it. So, shy I’m not, I approached them and practically demanded, ‘Why are you fighting?’ They said, ‘We’re not fighting, we’re learning.’ Now, I’m a university graduate and never saw such a thing — I know that learning means sitting in a lecture hall listening to a professor.

“So I ask them why they’re screaming instead of learning quietly, the way the world learns. They said, ‘We have a hard sugya here, and we can’t figure it out.’ Now, I considered myself very smart, so I said to them, ‘Here, I’ll help you. Show me what the problem is.’

“They showed me a sefer, it was Hebrew so I understood the actual words, but I didn’t understand a thing. It was a real shock to me. ‘Tell me, where do you learn these things?’ They told me, go talk to Rav Yehuda Bloi, he was their rosh kollel. I was so obsessed about this that I actually went to talk to him. I asked him, ‘Where do you learn this chochmat Yisrael?” He said, ‘Give me your number, and someone will call you.’ ”

Meanwhile, Fraifeld moved from Beer Sheva to Haifa, and one day he got the phone call that would change his life.

“The fellow tells me he’s from a new organization called Arachim, convinced me to come to a seminar, and for the next three months, I was learning regularly with an avreich from Rechasim. By then, I realized Torah is the emet, and I have to go with the emet. So I put on a yarmulke, and that was it.”

For the next three years he was building up his business, becoming a wealthy man, and growing in religion as well. “I guess I was ‘dati-light then,” he says. But he did begin to retake his birth-name, Asher Anshil, the name his parents gave him in the German DP camp where he was born in 1947, in memory of his religious grandfather who was a Chernobyle chassid from Crakow. Yet after the young family arrived to Israel on an immigrant ship in 1949, gannenet Ilana promptly changed his name to Hadass.

(By the time he’d become shomer mitzvos, he had four little girls, but his wife never became enthusiastic about the new religious journey. They stayed together for the next ten years and finally divorced in 1993. Today, his oldest daughter, Dikla Yosefburg, is a well-known chareidi chinuch and relationship coach.)

And then, in 1983, Fraifeld got an offer to go back to Nigeria, and the timing couldn’t have been better. He’d been a rich man, but all his capital and investments were wiped out with the Israeli Stock Exchange crash of that year — all he was left with were his house and a car, and this would be an opportunity to recoup some of his losses.

“If you’ve never been to the jungles, you can’t really understand the pull,” Fraifeld relates. “It’s a totally different plane of existence. The Africans have tremendous life wisdom, and I’d formed a strong connection with those hard-working people whose lives are so different from the western life of unchecked materialism.”

But his enthusiasm was dampened after speaking to several rabbanim, all of whom told him to stay put — after all, he was a fresh baal teshuvah, and who would guide him in the thick of the African jungle? One rebbe, though, saw the inherent opportunity.

“From the rabbanim I’d asked, the consensus was pretty much the same, but I was in Haifa and I was a few blocks away from a great rebbe — what did I have to lose?

“It was a Motzaei Shabbos Melaveh Malkah tish at Seret-Vizhnitz,” Fraifeld recalls. “I arrived at the beis medrash a few minutes before the Rebbe and obviously stood out with my longish hair and small yarmulke, but the Rebbe stopped in front of me and asked my name before moving on. I wanted to speak to the Rebbe, so I decided to hang around for the event.

“Suddenly one of the gabbaim approached me and said that the Rebbe wanted me to sit near the table. I refused politely, but it was explained that if the Rebbe asked, I had no choice. So I sat down, and then came the second surprise — a platter with fish was handed to me. ‘The Rebbe requested that it be passed to you,’ the chassidim said. I can still taste that fish after all these years.

“Then the Rebbe began to speak, and as I spoke Yiddish from home, I listened intently, taking in everything he said.

“The next day I came back. The Rebbe wanted to hear every aspect of the situation. He thought for a few minutes and then said, ‘Go. There you’ll discover whether you’re really a baal teshuvah or if it’s just a phase.’ I was taken aback, and even a little offended — I didn’t see how he figured that. But I was also happy, because it seems the Rebbe read my heart.

“I even went out and bought white shirts and black pants. If the Rebbe had faith in me, then I wanted to dress like the bearers of the truth. My tzitzis would be blackened by the moist jungle trees, but I didn’t care. I wanted to look like a Yid.”

I Became a Jew

Fraifeld’s posting was in Kwale, Nigeria, which lies along the Niger river, the third longest in Africa. The city was home to a rich and powerful priest who controlled extensive territories in the area.

“The road I was building ran through some of the towns under his jurisdiction, so we became friends,” he says. “But we’d actually known each other before, from my previous posting. Back then he’d try to preach to me about the Christian faith, but I never wanted to discuss religion — anyway, I knew nothing about my own religion back then. Now he wanted to honor me with food and drink, but I declined. ‘What happened to you, Hadass?’ he asked in shock. ‘I became a Jew,’ I said, ‘and I don’t eat away from home.’ He was furious. And that’s when I started to understand what the Seret-Vizhnitzer Rebbe had meant. I had reached the realization that Judaism is the truth. I got up and left.”

Fraifeld’s reputation as the white man living in the jungle and building roads for the natives spread across the land. Some saw him as a savior, others viewed him as a spiritual figure of great mystic power, and a few were even interested in his Judaism.

“One day when I was standing at the side of the road a white Mercedes pulled up,” he recounts. “The driver stepped out of the car and asked me to join him. ‘The Obi Okongi wishes to speak with you,’ he said. (‘Obi’ is the title for local tribal chiefs among the Ibo people.) The driver opened the door, and I climbed in. The obi was an imposing, educated man who had emigrated to London, become wealthy, and even started a family. But as his father’s oldest son and heir, he had to leave it all behind when his father died, returning to Africa to take his place.

“When he heard I was Jewish, he was delighted and asked me a lot about our traditions, but to my amazement, he knew more than I did. I noticed that he wore a necklace with a Magen David around his neck. He told me that he had studied Judaism in England for a year and half and had wanted to convert, but his father died in the middle of the process. When he returned to Nigeria he had to scrap his dream of converting because as chief, he had to preside over the tribal rites, and any change in the ceremonies would have led to an uprising. We would meet twice a week and talk for hours.”

Some of the Nigerian locals were afraid of Fraifeld, believing he possessed mystical powers. When he arrived at one village for the first time by helicopter, the natives aimed their bows and arrows at him. They had never seen a person with white skin before. They finally laid down their weapons, but they were convinced he was a powerful wizard.

“It had its advantages, because I was never attacked,” Fraifeld says, “but the truth is that I didn’t feel comfortable in a place where there were so many forces of tumah and talk of magic.”

One time a stock of extremely expensive and valuable equipment was stolen from Fraifeld’s camp, which meant not just a monetary loss, but a work stoppage as well. They filed a report with the local police, but that proved ineffective.

“One of my workers suggested asking for help from a local witch doctor,” Fraifeld relates. “The witch doctor was a tall, gaunt man, blind and very old. He performed some mysterious rites at the end of which he turned toward us and said, ‘I’m forbidden from disclosing the thief’s name, but I will give signs.’ He gave the name of the town, someone he was connected with, and added that he was married and had a son. ‘If he doesn’t return the goods within seven days,’ he warned, ‘his wife will go mad, his son will die, and he himself will be gravely injured.’

“The news of the witch doctor’s curse spread, but no one came forward. On the eighth day, I received the news that one of our workers had been involved in a car accident. I hurried to the scene of the crash, where the driver was lying inside the crushed vehicle, seriously hurt. We managed to extract him and rushed him to the village hospital. The entire way he was crying and screaming and admitted that he was the thief. He even revealed the names of the merchants he had sold the merchandise to — and believe it or not, that same evening, the man’s son died suddenly, and his wife went mad. The man lived, but remained wheelchair-bound.

“This incident really shook me up. I realized that if this was the power of tumah, how much stronger is the power of kedushah? I longed to explore Judaism more in depth.”

But there were two more incidents which pushed Fraifeld to come back to Israel for good and leave the witch doctors behind. The first was when he was walking down a narrow jungle path with Moses when suddenly Moses caught him from behind and yanked him back, tearing his shirt in the process.

“Master, look, we had a miracle!” he cried. On the branch ahead of them was a green mamba snake, 80 centimeters long, angry and ready to bite anything that came within range, its victims dying within minutes.

The second time his life was saved was in a swamp where the surveyors were working.

“As we were making our way across the logs we’d cut down to make a bridge, I slipped and fell into the swamp, which was mud and quicksand,” Fraifeld relates. “I caught onto a branch, and Moses tried to pull me out, but with no success. The harder he pulled, the deeper I sank. Moses ran to get the other surveyors, but meanwhile I was already sinking into the swamp up to my chin. In a matter of minutes, it would all be over — either I would sink or I’d be finished off by the water snakes. I found myself praying to Hashem from the depths of my heart. Clinging to the branch, it felt like I was clinging to the Creator Himself.

“Ultimately Moses returned with the surveyors at the last minute. They found some bush rope — woody vines that can be used as ropes in a tight spot. They threw me the vines, and with my last bit of strength, I wound them around my wrists, as the men managed to pull me out of the swamp.

“I felt like Hashem wasn’t taking his eyes off me for a moment. Once I was extracted from that pit of death, it was clear what I wanted to do — to shelter under the wings of Hashem Yisbarach.”

After the tumah of the jungle, it was time to connect to holiness. Reb Asher at a wedding with the son of the Aleksander Rebbe, who became mechutanim with the Djikover Rebbe

All Planned Out 

After returning to Israel, Asher Fraifeld made good on his promise. He became close to the Djikover Rebbe of Rechovot (now Beit Shemesh), and to the Amshinover Rebbe, whom he connected with after remarrying and moving to Jerusalem’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood. (“How can you live in Bayit Vegan and not connect with the Rebbe?” he asks.)

For the past nearly 30 years since his final return to Israel after 10 years on and off in Nigeria, Asher Fraifeld, who today is a full-fledged Amshinover chassid, has been involved in building and project development for some of Israel’s biggest industries, including the building of several supermarket chains and the Malcha Mall in Jerusalem.

Now, he’s finally retired. “When corona hit, I was already 73 years old,” he says, “and I decided to close up shop. Now I learn in kollel full-time, and there’s nothing like it.”

Still, even when Nigeria was off the map, he continued to travel around the world, often picking up lost and wandering souls along the way — although he doesn’t like to share too many of the details.

Two incidents he does share are related to a trip to India and Nepal in 2000. He spent time in Dharamshala, a northern Indian city that became a refuge and makeshift capital for the Dalai Lama and his entourage when this highest spiritual leader and former head of state of Tibet fled decades ago after the Chinese takeover of the region.

In Dharamshala, Fraifeld was told by one of the governing ministers that there was a Jew in the personal monastery of the Dalai Lama. “I was surprised, because as far as I knew, the Dalai Lama didn’t accept Jews into his service,” says Fraifeld. “I knew the Dalai Lama is positively-disposed toward Jews, and I told the minister, ‘Please tell the Dalai Lama that an Orthodox Jew wishes to speak to him.’ By the next day I received an invitation to the Dalai Lama’s palace. I hesitated, as it’s a place of avodah zara, but on the other hand, I wanted to save a Jew.

“I arrived at the monastery where 1,000 students were learning. The head of the order led me down a long corridor, until we reached a large door. He ordered me to go in. The room was decorated with orange and red tapestries. In the center of the room sat the Dalai Lama in a high chair. He shook my hand and invited me to sit down next to him, asking me some questions about Judaism and discussing Israel and politics. We spoke for some time, when I finally felt comfortable to drop the question: ‘Is it possible that there’s a Jew in the monastery?’

“The Dalai Lama looked questioningly to the head of the monastery. ‘Indeed, there’s a Jew here,’ the latter confirmed. The Dalai Lama asked that he be summoned. After a few minutes a shaven, barefoot man dressed like a monk in an orange robe approached. The Dalai Lama indicated that he be seated, and he sat down on the floor.

“ ‘You’re Jewish?’ The Dalai Lama asked him. The monk confirmed this. ‘How long have you been here?’ he continued. ‘Seventeen years,’ the monk replied. ‘And what’s your Jewish name?’ he pressed. ‘Shimon,’ came the reply.

“Then the Dalai Lama started to berate him: ‘What are you doing here, if you’re a Jew? How could you abandon Judaism? I’m ordering you to travel to Israel and live there as a Jew. Don’t ever become involved with our religion.’ Shimon wept, but he couldn’t refuse the leader. To my great joy, he left for Israel the next day.”

While in Dharamshala, Fraifeld reconnected with Rabbi Michi Yosefi, a well-known Israeli kiruv personality who today lives in Shiloh and who spent many years in his Bayit Yehudi center in Dharamshala. From there he decided to travel to Kasol, a small village in the Himalayan mountains.

“The bus was packed,” Fraifeld relates, “so the driver told me and a few other travelers to sit on the roof — but just try to envision this dirt road with a cliff on one side and a ravine on the other, and the driver zooming like a maniac even as another bus passes. I prayed for the ride to end safely, and fortunately I arrived in Kasol in once piece. I rented a room and went out to explore.

“In this village,” Fraifeld continues, “they build one dwelling on top of the other with stones and logs, and as I went out for a walk, I suddenly heard a woman calling out to me in Hebrew, ‘Shalom.’ I craned my neck upward and saw a young Jewish woman on the porch above me, asking me if I would like to come up and talk to her. I sensed that she was in some kind of crisis, and within a few minutes she told me her life story, and how she was going to marry a non-Jewish sado, a kind of Indian monk. The sados aren’t allowed to marry, and so they threw him out of the order, and he was renting this apartment. She wanted some kind of validation from me, but I did my best to convince her to leave him — although she didn’t budge.

“I told her I’d come back the next day. I was supposed to be in Kasol for two days, and instead I was there two weeks, trying to convince her to leave this guy. After two weeks, I realized that I couldn’t convince her, but the day I was to leave, when I went to say goodbye to her, her entire face was swollen — he’d clobbered her when he realized she was having conversations with this Jewish man. So I decided to take some drastic measures myself. There was a coffee house where all the Israelis hung out, and I’d befriended them over the past two weeks. One of them was a fellow named Shalom, a former border policeman and a literal giant — seven feet tall and 350 pounds. I told him the story and asked him for an eitzah. He told me what they used to do in the army when a person needed a punishment: They’d throw a blanket over his head and beat him up, and he wouldn’t even know who the culprits were. ‘Shalom,’ I said, ‘what do you say we do this to save our Jewish sister?’

“So we went into his apartment in the middle of the night, grabbed him, threw a blanket over his head, dragged him to a nearby forest, and gave him a workover. ‘That’s what you get for tampering with our Jewish sister,’ we told him and left him there.

“I ran back to the girl’s apartment, gave her some money, and told her to get out as soon as possible and take a bus to Dharamshala, to Rabbi Michi Yosefi and his Bayit Yehudi. He would help her. Meanwhile, I returned home, and happened to mention the story to one of my daughters.”

Fast forward a few years later, Rabbi Micky Yosefi was back in Eretz Yisrael giving seminars, and at one of those weekend programs, Asher’s daughter Naomi met a young woman who told her an incredible story of how she met Rabbi Yosefi in Dharamshala, after some crazy middle-aged chassid wouldn’t leave her alone when she was about to intermarry in Kasol, and finally beat up her non-Jewish fiancé, gave her money to travel to Rav Michi’s hostel, and saved her from marrying the Indian.

Naomi was shocked. “Do you remember the man’s name?” she asked, incredulous. “Yeah,” said the woman, “it was Hadass.”

“You won’t believe it,” Naomi told her. “That crazy chassid is my father.”

“A few years ago,” says Fraifeld, hardly able to contain his excitement at this closure, “my wife turned to me one day and said, ‘Let’s find out what happened to that girl.’ So we decided to pay a visit to Michi and his wife, whom we’re friendly with. At the time, they were living in a small ecological-friendly Breslov-oriented yishuv outside of Shiloh. I asked him, ‘Michi, remember that girl I sent you back in Dharamshala? You have any connection with her today?’ He went out of the room to make a phone call, and five minutes later, this familiar-looking woman in a long skirt and tichel comes in — it was her! She’d married a Breslover chassid and was living on the other side of the yishuv.”

Actually, it wasn’t Fraifeld’s first Jewish rescue. Back in Nigeria, he once traveled to the city of Lagos, and while he was in a store there, a woman with a small child passed by him, turned around suddenly, and said to him, “Finally, another Jew.”

The woman explained how she’d married a Nigerian lawyer in Europe, and when their son was born, her husband insisted that they return to Nigeria, his birthplace. After they arrived, his behavior changed — he became abusive and even took her passport.

“I had no idea how to help her, but I asked her for her address and phone number anyway, hoping to find an opportunity to rescue her,” Fraifeld says. “A few days later I called her back and said, ‘If you promise me that you’ll leave your husband and bring only your son, I’ll arrange for you to fly to London, even without a passport.’ She immediately agreed.

“I bought them tickets to London, and, without going into details about some deals I arranged with a few well-placed local connections, the woman boarded without a passport. As I returned to the car, I realized that this was all Hashem’s plan, and isn’t that why he sent me there in the first place?”


—Rachel Ginsberg contributed to this report


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 909)

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