A 50-year-old bachelor chooses to marry a widow with seven children. “It’s like I was bungee jumping,” says Gil Efrati. “And the Almighty himself was pushing me along.”
Elisheva Chai believed she’d always be a widow. “I never thought I’d reach this day of a second marriage.” In December 2009, her first husband, Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, was murdered as he was driving to their home in Shavei Shomron, a religious Zionist settlement about 11 miles northwest of Nablus.
Elisheva, then 33, was left with seven children, aged two months to sixteen. The organization One Family came to her aid. “They were my lifeline,” says Elisheva.
However shattered she felt, Elisheva had no choice but to move on. She learned to drive and bought a car. She was traveling the same roads where her husband was killed.
Two years after the tragedy, Elisheva, a teacher, was living jam-packed days. Still, she had trouble sleeping. She volunteered with Yashpe, a network of volunteer matchmakers for religious Zionist singles. “Though I wasn’t ready for a match for myself, I enjoyed helping the young folk.” She began surfing the web at night, looking for matches for others. “I slept better, too,” she adds.
In July 2012, she got a call from Avigayil, another volunteer at Yashpe, who was looking for a match for Gil, a truant officer who worked in Jerusalem.
Avigayil specifically asked if Elisheva knew any widows. He would appreciate a ready-made family. Elisheva did not mention that she herself was a widow. “I wasn’t ready to start dating,” says Elisheva. “I wasn’t even ready to start looking.”
But her friend went to city hall, where Gil worked, to check him out. The friend told Elisheva that he had “possibilities.” Elisheva responded: “I’m not ready. Maybe after the holidays.”
Avigayil was persistent in her search for Gil, who had never married. The next time she called, Elisheva admitted that she was a widow. Avigayil wanted more details. Elisheva put her off, suggesting she ask a friend.
After the holidays, Elisheva went to Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, where her husband was buried. “That’s where I made a pact with the Almighty – at the end of 24 hours, I would do what He says.”
When she got the call from Avigayil, it was a sign to Elisheva. “I am not one to interfere with the work of the Creator,” she says.
Gil was given a green light. He phoned Elisheva and started to visit. Though there are no coffee shops in the area of Shavei Shomron, the couple found some space and made the time to get to know each other. Within two months, they were committed.
“It was simply a miracle,” says Elisheva. It was not her first miracle. Twelve years before her husband was murdered, he was in a traffic accident and declared clinically dead. Yet he survived.
“My children know that their father will never be forgotten,” says Elisheva, “that he will always be a part of our lives.”
When Elisheva told her children about Gil, they were very supportive. “We have wonderful memories from the past and now look forward to making new memories,” she says.
Gil offers this advice: “Never say never. And be open to all possibilities.”
In December 2012, Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, blessed Elisheva with these words: “May the Almighty give you strength and grant you simchas.”
Elisheva and Gil were married on January 28, 2013. Mazal tov!