Buy­ing the car­riage before the baby

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - OBSERVATIO­NS - BAR­BARA SOFER The writer is the Is­rael di­rec­tor of pub­lic re­la­tions at Hadas­sah, the Women’s Zion­ist Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­ica.

The rule of thumb in In­ter­net videos is “keep it short.” Swamped with time-ab­sorb­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions – on­line videos re­put­edly ac­count for more than half of web traf­fic every day – we’re re­luc­tant to click for more than a minute or two.

How­ever, a cer­tain 10-minute video in He­brew has gone vi­ral with more than 2.5 mil­lion views. An en­gross­ing story will hold our at­ten­tion, par­tic­u­larly when it ex­pands our hearts. This one does.

Rivky and Yossi Bar, a very re­li­gious cou­ple from Na­hariya, have been mar­ried for some 15 years. After a decade of in­ter­minable med­i­cal or­deals and spir­i­tual ex­er­tions, they re­al­ized they would not have bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren.

He’s an ed­u­ca­tor and she works in the pub­lic health sys­tem. They ap­plied to so­cial ser­vices to adopt. Rivky told the so­cial worker who in­ter­viewed them that she wanted a child that no one else wanted, a spe­cial needs child.

After the usual bat­tery of psy­cho­log­i­cal tests, they were ac­cepted as po­ten­tial adop­tive par­ents. They shared their happy plans with their own par­ents.

Yossi’s par­ents were re­luc­tant, but un­der­stood their quandary. Do as you wish, they told him, but don’t ex­pect us to be grandpa and grandma to such a child.

Rivky’s fa­ther ac­tu­ally used the term Holo­caust re­gard­ing the spe­cial needs child and for­bade them to con­tinue.

Go­ing against the pa­tri­ar­chal au­thor- ity in Rivky’s fam­ily would mean that they would be ex­cluded from all fam­ily events. Nev­er­the­less, she and Yossi were de­ter­mined to face those con­se­quences in or­der to be­come par­ents.

They were promised a baby boy with Down syn­drome whose par­ents sim­ply didn’t want him. Rivky was ec­static. They or­dered a car­riage and di­a­pers. She was go­ing to be a mother!

At the last mo­ment, how­ever, the child’s par­ents re­jected them. Yossi and Rivky weren’t re­li­gious enough.

And then, some­one who had heard from some­one else told them about a baby in Jerusalem, Ta­mar. The tiny girl, also born with Down Syn­drome, needed heart surgery. Her bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents felt they couldn’t han­dle her.

Yossi and Rivky some­how man­aged to get her med­i­cal records. They con­sulted a spe­cial­ist in Haifa, who warned them that Ta­mar would prob­a­bly live only three months.

“Then I will give her an earthly par­adise before she goes to the heav­enly one,” Rivky in­sisted.

They called so­cial ser­vices and re­ceived a rep­ri­mand. It wasn’t their place to find ba­bies and sug­gest them­selves as par­ents. They should wait pa­tiently for the so­cial ser­vices to find them a baby.

But Rivky wasn’t pa­tient. She be­lieved that baby was to be her daugh­ter. The day of the surgery, she woke Yossi in the mid­dle of the night. “I’m go­ing to Ta­mar,” she said. “If you like, come with me.”

Ta­mar was in the pe­di­atric in­ten­sive care unit, which one can’t en­ter with­out per­mis­sion. Rivky and Yossi rang the bell. The nurse in charge asked who they were.

“We are Ta­mar’s new par­ents,” they said. With the ap­proval of the bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents, they were al­lowed in.

Ta­mar then weighed less than two ki­los. She was pale as white­wash, at­tached to ma­chines with mul­ti­ple wires. Rivky lifted the tiny child in her arms. “Don’t be afraid,” she cooed. “Mommy is here and I will never leave you.”

The com­plex heart surgery was a suc­cess. Rivky and Yossi rented an apart­ment in Jerusalem to be with Ta­mar through­out her re­cov­ery. With the help of Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, the pa­per­work was sped up.

When they got home, Yossi’s par­ents to came to visit. They de­cided they would be grand­par­ents to Ta­mar after all.

Then Rivky’s fa­ther came. He asked their for­give­ness for his harsh words. He, too, wanted to be a grand­fa­ther to Ta­mar.

That was three years ago. De­spite her dire prog­no­sis, Ta­mar is thriv­ing – run­ning and singing and charm­ing ev­ery­one. Rivky’s fa­ther proudly dis­plays a screen shot of him­self push­ing the stroller when they go for a spin around town. Rivky says that, of his 150 grand­chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren, Ta­mar is her fa­ther’s fa­vorite.

“Peo­ple praise us, but they don’t un­der­stand how much bring­ing up Ta­mar has con­trib­uted to our lives as a cou­ple,” Yossi tells me.

Para­dox­i­cally, Yossi and Rivky have gone pub­lic with their story to con­vince new par­ents to cher­ish their spe­cial- needs chil­dren, al­though that di­min­ishes their chances of adopt­ing a sis­ter or brother for Ta­mar. A year ago, he and Rivky had al­ready bought the out­fit for the cir­cum­ci­sion of their soon- to- be son, when the birth mother de­cided not to give him to them.

“We be­lieve stay­ing with your bi­o­log­i­cal fam­ily is best, un­less the fam­ily can­not han­dle this and will make the child feel re­jected and re­sented,” Yossi said. “These de­ci­sions are so per­sonal and dif­fi­cult.”

I am re­minded of the story of the child­less has­sid who went for a hol­i­day bless­ing from his rebbe. He is ac­com­pa­nied by the child­less keeper of the inn where he spends the night.

On their re­turn, the innkeeper buys a pram, to the con­ster­na­tion of the has­sid. On his next year’s jour­ney to the rebbe, the has­sid stops at the inn and sees a baby in the pram, while his own prayers haven’t been an­swered. The rebbe ex­plains, “He bought the car­riage.”

Watch the video, even if you don’t know He­brew.

Shana tova! ■

(Screen­shot)

YOSSI AND RIVKY Bar en­joy a mo­ment of gai­ety with their daugh­ter, Ta­mar.

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