Etti was born into a large Moroccan family of seven kids. She was one of two girls and the rest were boys. “We had a very traditional Moroccan household, and so when my father became ill, my oldest brother ran the family with an iron fist,” Etti said.
Poverty permeated their home even before her father became ill. Food was scarce. The older brothers always got to eat before Etti and her sister. Because of the dire situation at home, Etti was sent to live with her grandparents, who she took care of until they died.
“After my grandparents passed away, I went back to live in my parent’s home,” Etti recalled. “During this time, my father was very sick, and my mother spent her time taking care of him, which was a full time job.”
Etti was 13 when she moved back home. And while her oldest brother was supporting the family and trying to keep them all under one roof, he was very controlling and abusive towards Etti.
“My brother controlled my every move. I couldn’t go to the grocery store without his consent. He would often abuse me, and put me down in front of my other siblings,” Etti recalled.
Etti couldn’t wait for the day she could leave home. “At age 17 I fell in love with a much older man who knew my family well,” Etti said. “He treated me like no one had ever treated me. He bought me jewelry, took me shopping for clothes, and within months of dating, he asked for my hand in marriage.”
Etti thought she had struck gold, and that her life would finally come together. She was young, and naïve, and she assumed that her new husband was a business man, as he had told her. Sadly, that wasn’t the whole story.
“My ex-husband was a drug dealer,” Etti said with tears streaming down her face. She found this out about a year into their marriage when he was hauled off to jail. Etti felt as though the ground under her feet had opened up and swallowed her whole.
The next few years revolved around her visits to jail, where her husband threatened to kill her if she didn’t pay his debts and provide him with cash. “I worked, took out loans, and in the end, I was stuck with a 150,000 shekel [more than $40,000] debt.”
Etti was broken. She couldn’t return to her family, who had cut her off for the choices she had made. Her husband finally granted her a divorce, and Etti was left alone.
“I’m not making excuses, but my situation, of loneliness and utter isolation, led me to make more bad choices in life,” Etti explained. “I met a man who once again gave me the feeling of security and love. We dated and I got pregnant, and our first child was born with autism. When I got pregnant again, he simply disappeared.”
With utter despair, Etti said, “It feels like everyone in my life has used me.”
Thankfully, she found an exception. “The only ray of sunshine in my life and my children’s life has been The Fellowship.”
When Etti, now 28 and living in Israel, gave birth to her second child, she received a gift basket full of baby products and baby clothing from The Fellowship’s Small Gifts project. The project also provided her 200 shekels (a little over $50) each month for six months, which she used to buy diapers and formula.
During the holidays, The Fellowship made sure Etti had food and clothing for her children, and whenever Etti has a problem she can’t solve she turns to The Fellowship for help.
“The Fellowship has given me hope, it has restored my belief in the goodness of people, and has restored my sense of dignity,” Etti explained. “My children would have gone hungry if not for The Fellowship. What can I say besides I love The Fellowship! And I sincerely bless everyone involved with the holy, lifesaving work that you do!”