|Neighborhood playground (Ir Ganim- Kiryat Menachem facebook page)|
ot a dry eye in the hall. Bet you’ve heard that phrase before, but how often do you really see a room full of guests sniveling collectively to keep composure at a seemingly routine family event?
Eleven years of waiting, hoping, praying for a child came to an apex at a recent brit milah in an obscure Jerusalem neighborhood synagogue.Ir Ganim-Kiryat Menachem is best known for the culture clash between the old-timers and the newcomers. The older residents are comprised of Jewish families from Arab countries which had been forced out after centuries of living in thriving communities. In Israel’s infancy they were settled in quickly-constructed shikun (cheap public housing) buildings in the 50’s and 60’s and have since been joined by Russian immigrants who came in the big waves of aliya from the former Soviet Union. They have carefully guarded their secular lifestyles. Add into the mix immigrant families from Ethiopia with their own culture and traditions. The new faces on the blocks are the young, sincerely observant families lacking the means to choose more established religious neighborhoods. Together this makes for a tasty Salat Yisraeli with a touch of pilpel harif (hot pepper).
Both mother and father came from strongly devoted Jewish families. They married young, the click between them was fast and strong and, as their beliefs and education would presume, they expected to raise a family, much like their own large, warm, loving families.
But it just didn’t happen for them. Year after year went by, they watched as siblings gave birth to baby after blessed baby. Cousins, friends, colleagues delivered newborns one after the other, endless family gatherings centered on strollers, toys, discussions of maternity departments, then kindergartens, then schools, and they remained on the sidelines as it seemed everyone else was living their own dream but they themselves.
It is assumed that married religious couples are trying to conceive, and part of the cultural norm in religious circles is not to ask about such intimate private matters. In some circles one does not even comment on heavily pregnant bellies, to avoid any reference which may be immodest. It is also assumed that the couple is seeking medical help to help achieve fertility, but beyond the technical treatments to conceive, what is not obvious to the outsider is the anguish they are going through as individuals, as a couple, as adult children in their respective families, and as part of their wider communities.
They felt ever more isolated, while each family event became a painful reminder and seemed to shine a spotlight on their disappointment, causing those who most loved them to be at a loss for how to help them cope. . .
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