Safeguarding joy
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Safeguarding joy

Teaneck couple on Jerusalem Purim Patrol looks out for at-risk revelers

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Yoni and Navah Mozeson, identifiable by their sober clothing, stand with anonymous partiers in Zion Square on Purim. Purim Patrol

Yoni and Navah Mozeson roamed Jerusalem’s Zion Square in the wee hours of Purim night, along with thousands of partying teens.

The Mozesons, who moved to Jerusalem from Teaneck in 2010, were not there to share in the drinking and revelry. Big badges on their coat lapels identified them as “Purim Patrol.” They were among about 50 volunteers from various organizations there to keep an eye on potentially dangerous situations. During the course of the night, between 700 and 800 inebriated teenagers accepted the offer to chill out in a safe tent set up by the municipality, and psychologists and drug counselors were on hand as well.

While Purim generally is associated with parades, costumes, and festive food baskets, it also carries a tradition of drinking. And for many visiting and resident teenagers, that can lead to risky behaviors and even rape and abduction on the late-night streets.

Yoni Mozeson, a marketing and advertising executive, said that one of the year-round problems Purim brings to the fore every year is the little-known phenomenon of young Arab men luring Jewish girls into fabricated relationships and ultimately into virtual imprisonment in West Bank villages. He works with Jerusalem-based Learn & Live-Learn & Return (www.learnandlive.org.), which acts on pleas by family and friends to intervene before girls disappear.

“Some see it as a new form of terrorism today that is being fought with roses instead of guns,” said Mr. Mozeson, drawing a distinction between fully consensual Arab-Jewish relationships and those initiated with nefarious intentions in response to a 2011 fatwa (Islamic legal ruling) that Muslim men may capture “infidel” – Jewish and Christian – women and have sex with them.

“The battlefields are restaurants and cafés throughout Israel where Arab men – often pretending to be Jewish – lure young Jewish girls into a ‘relationship,'” he continued. “Their motive is to convince these girls to go willingly back to their Arab villages.

“Once there, these girls are subject to untold torture and abuse. Israel’s hot lines report over a thousand requests a year from girls trapped in Arab villages. Imagine how many are unable to call.”

The organization was founded in 2008 by Rabbi Ariel Lurie, the director of a food-distribution charity. One day he questioned Jewish girls getting into a car with Arab men, and found out that the men had given the girls gifts and took them out on the town. “He was so haunted by this idea – that young, naïve girls can be taken so easily – that he started another organization,” Mr. Mozeson said.

Learn & Live offers counseling, safe houses, and programs that enhance social, vocational, and educational skills in areas of Israel that are home to a great number of at-risk teens. That list includes ultra-Orthodox girls from sheltered environments.

Live & Learn’s mission is not to prevent Arabs from dating Jews, he stressed. “We are simply educating young girls as to the true motives of certain Arab men. They must understand that not everyone who buys you food and gifts has your best interests in mind.”

Before venturing out to patrol Zion Square and the surrounding Ben-Yehuda Street, the Mozesons and other volunteers were briefed by city official Nati Aviva. The couple, who recently became grandparents, were advised to be on the lookout for girls who seemed as if they might need to be rescued from any group of men, Jewish or not, whose intentions seemed suspect. They were told not to endanger themselves and not to appear confrontational.

“You’re supposed to just let them know you’re there,” Navah Mozeson said. “If I saw a bunch of girls looking at my Purim Patrol badge, I told them if they know anyone in trouble who needs help or needs to rest, there’s a tent they can go to. You are not there to call their parents but to give them a safe place to rest. At one in the morning, when our shift ended, the tent was already full.”

She hopes to volunteer again next year, perhaps at a later hour, when the scene is even more intense.

Volunteer organizer Eliyahu Sargeon, a counselor who works with troubled youth, told the Mozesons the next day that eight girls were found to be in especially vulnerable positions because they were drunk to the point of total helplessness.

“On Purim we celebrate grief turning into joy,” said Mr. Mozeson, who has rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University. “In some sense, we were trying to make sure joy didn’t turn to grief.”

In April, David and Cynthia Zimm will host a parlor meeting in Teaneck for anyone who wishes to learn more about the organization’s work. For more information, call (201) 677-8871.

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