Eleven years ago, Ibrahim, a 14-year-old Palestinian Arab from Judea, came to pre-1967 Israel for the first time.
Today, Ibrahim is Avraham, a yeshiva student at a Charedi yeshiva in Bnei Brak.
When he first crossed the pre-1967 Green Line, Avraham was an illegal worker residing in the coastal city of Netanya.
After moving to Israel, Avraham – then still Ibrahim – became acquainted with Jewish law, Jewish tradition, and the Charedi community through a friend an employer who provided him with a place to stay, and eventually introduced Ibrahim to his family.
“I met a man who really helped me. He gave me a place to live. I worked for him for a very long period of time. He introduced me to his family, a Charedi family – they’re religious,” Avraham told Hadashot 12.
Spending his teenage years among Charedi Jews in Bnei Brak and Netanya, Avraham picked up the basics of Jewish culture and tradition.
Feeling alienated from his Muslim heritage, Ibrahim abandoned his Palestinian Arab identity and became Avraham, and enrolled in a Bnei Brak yeshiva.
Fearing for his life, Avraham says he has concealed all of this from his Arab family.
“No one knows. All they know is that I’m living in Netanya and am working and living my life,” said Avraham. “If I’d go home, it would be a death sentence.”
While he says that he “feels at home in Bnei Brak”, following through with his decision to leave his Muslim Arab identity behind hasn’t been without difficulty.
Recently, Avraham, who does not possess Israeli citizenship and was living illegally inside the Green Line, was picked up by police and expelled back across the Green Line.
Unable to turn to his family for help while adhering to a traditional Jewish lifestyle and barred from returning to Israel, Avraham was left homeless, living for two months in a grove on the east side of the Green Line.
With the help of his friends from yeshiva, Avraham survived in exile, before the Coordinator of Governmental Activities in the Territories (COGAT) intervened, offering Avraham a temporary residency permit.
Avraham has since returned to Bnei Brak, where he continues his studies, though with only a temporary residency card, his future in yeshiva remains uncertain.