Giving birth in Jerusalem

“We already sealed the womb itself,” explained Professor Elchalal. “Now we’re stitching the tissues around it.”

The professor’s voice rose, oddly disembodied, from behind the curtain that separated my head from the rest of my body. A C-section, I thought, is all about separations – we separate tissue from tissue, baby from womb. Under these circumstances, a curtain cutting the body in two is only fitting.

“And how do you stitch the tissues together, professor?”

He was preoccupied for a moment, busy pointing out something to his colleague, Doctor Eliad. “No, no, start here-”

And then he returned his attention to my questions. “In layers. Many, many layers, that we sew together one at a time.”

I lay there and thought about the layers of that moment.

My baby exists because my parents fought for their right to leave the USSR and be free here in Israel. And because my husband came here from the USA.

The room where my baby was born was a broader variation on the same theme. Doctor Eliad came here from India. The nurse overseeing the operation spoke perfect Georgian on the phone before we started, to the surprise of another team member, a native Israeli who thought his colleague was from Russia. The anesthesiologist was from Russia. And Batia, the smiling children’s doctor who let me spend a few precious minutes with my baby before taking him to a different ward to be washed and cared for, spoke English.

What is it that holds us together, I wondered. What kind of thread can stitch together such different backgrounds, and people, and dreams?

A C-section may be all about separations, but they’re temporary.

My baby will be returned to my arms, I knew. The curtain will be removed from my body, and my body itself will be put back together, one row of stitches at a time.

But how do you stitch together tissues that were never attached to begin with? How do you take us, differences and all, and create one functional society?

I was carted out of the operations room into the recovery area, where doctors and nurses exchanged greetings and medical comments and snatches of personal conversations in Arabic and Russian and Hebrew.

I thought of the road we traversed that morning. We drove past the elegant homes and bougainvilleas of the German Colony, where the Templers tried to recreate Europe in the Middle East, and past the projects of Katamonim, formed to accommodate the waves of Jewish immigration after 1948. We left them behind and passed the uber-modern Holyland Towers, and the turn to the Biblical Zoo. Kiryat Yovel came next, a neighborhood known for the clashes between its Ultra Orthodox and secular residents, and then the ground seemed to drop from under our wheels, and the green valleys of Ein Kerem opened up around us. The sunlight reflected off the golden domes of the Gorny Convent, better known to locals as the Moscovia, and the hospital sprawled across the horizon in the distance.

Haddasah Ein Kerem (Moshe Milner, via The Government Press Office)

Haddasah Ein Karem, I thought as I lay in the recovery room, is a microcosm of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is a microcosm of Israel. Our pasts are different. The dreams that brought us here – be they visions of Utopia or a longing for refuge – are different. Yet here we all are, side by side, speaking our different languages, walking our different paths.

Bumping shoulders. Delivering babies.

Creating life.

I closed my eyes and thought about Jerusalem.

This city, I realized, was both the setting of my baby’s birth, and the secret at its heart.

Jerusalem is a road that weaves through neighborhood and histories and differences.

Jerusalem is the hospital where all these different people meet.

And Jerusalem is also the reason my parents chose to come here. For it was that moment fifty years ago today, when young soldiers stood by a very ancient Wall, that inspired my parents’ generation to fight for the right to join Israel’s story.

Jerusalem is why my baby now exists.

The original Hebrew word for a baby delivered with a C-section is ‘Yotze Dofen‘,”he who comes out through the side”. Modern Hebrew appropriated this expression to describe anyone who is unusual or exceptional.

And Jerusalem, I thought as I waited for my own ‘yotze dofen’ baby to be brought to me, truly is exceptional. The stitches that hold us together might fray at times, but the threads that attach us to Jerusalem itself… Those threads, different though they are, are strong.

 

Rachel Sharansky Danziger

Posted by Rachel Sharansky Danziger

Rachel Sharansky Danziger is a life-long Jerusalemite who's in love with her city's vibrant human scene. She blogs about life in Israel, Judaism, and parenting for The Times of Israel, Sifriyat Pijama, and Kveller, and you can follow her adventures on Facebook and via her personal blog.

12 comments

A beatifully written post. First, mazal tov on the birth of your child. What an amazing thing to share. I remember distinctly the televised appearance of your father being released. So happy for you all.

Rachel Sharansky Danziger
Rachel Sharansky Danziger

Thank you so much!

Ellen Bernstein

This story brought chills to my arms and tears to my eyes. So symbolic and beautiful. A joy to read after all the sadness of the past week.
Thank you and mazel tov on your special baby.

Rachel Sharansky Danziger
Rachel Sharansky Danziger

Thank you!

David Cohen

Shalom!! your article brougth me happy and beautiful memories: both my daughters (Anat and Ronit) were born in Hadassah Ein Kerem 28 and 30 years ago, while I was a resident in Radiology and my wife Renee worked in the Chagall windows and visitors center….
David Cohen, Mexico City

Rachel Sharansky Danziger
Rachel Sharansky Danziger

Thank you. I’m happy to have brought back happy memories – sounds like you spent a lot of your time there! Shabbat shalom!

Rolinda Schonwald

Mazal Tov to you and your beautiful, growing family! Thank you for posting this essay, which captures what Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach used to call the realm of the “beyond.” You beautifully stitch together the narratives of your family, our people and the city of our dreams, Yerushalayim, which we call our home. We demonstrated for your father’s freedom; we named one of our daughters Avital (after my grandfather, Abram and also in admiration for your mother), and we are so happy to read your eloquent post c-section thoughts. Sending you blessings for a complete and speedy recovery, and much joy raising your new baby boy in Jerusalem! Rolinda and Rabbi Joseph Schonwald

Rachel Sharansky Danziger
Rachel Sharansky Danziger

Thank you for reaching out – and for being part of the struggle all those years ago. Shabbat shalom and chodesh tov!

Jolly G Moose

Bs”d
Mazel tov! Chodesh tov! Good Erev Shabbat! Thank you for your very exquisite essay.
May H’ bless you with much good health & nachat! Bbrachot, Jolly

(pseudonym for security reasons, having been only Observant Jewish woman to be part of White House Press Corps…had some close calls, b”-h)

Rachel Sharansky Danziger
Rachel Sharansky Danziger

Amen and thank you! Chodesh tov:)

Zehava griff

Thank you for your inspiring words. Your writing reaches down and through words and into my vision and heart. It helps me see life clearly and enables me to share its’ richness.
May you continue to enjoy and appreciate the life that god has given to you and your new little one along with your parents and husband.

Rachel Sharansky Danziger
Rachel Sharansky Danziger

Amen and thank you so much!

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