We’re Growing Up Together

My husband’s rabbinical training required that we spend a year in Jerusalem. Now at the tail end of this time, I’ve been feeling a lot more “in progress” than complete. A dear new Israeli friend and I have just gotten into the swing of things on our babycare swap. A local midwife I just worked with said she had wanted to send clients my way all this coming year. I’m just starting to memorize phone numbers, get some major growth in the garden, get my yoga schedule down pat, string together (three-word) sentences in Hebrew, and figure out a good system for refilling our brita. I’m so ready for NY, but I’m not quite done here.

I’m also grappling for meaning because it’s so hard to make sense of the political climate in Israel. There are so many hurt feelings and different perspectives that I don’t always know the right questions to ask, let alone how to put forth my own assertions. And there’s often a big white elephant in the room (or playground, where I’m told it’s best not to talk politics in casual conversation).

Still, what I know about birth brought a few insights for me: The more comfortable you can get with a little discomfort, the less big discomfort comes your way. Be willing to sweat. Meet someone new even if you think you already know them, or have no idea how to greet them. We never know what can shift and make a seemingly insurmountable barrier disappear.

I was privileged to attend and teach babywearing at a gathering of Israeli and Palestinian woman joined together under the moniker Midwives of Peace. We talked about birth politics and procedures, traded trade stories, and told a few (dirty) jokes to break the tension. I learned the Israeli homebirth midwife makes 4 times what the Palestinian one does. I got to attend hospital and home births, and was surprised and relieved to find the hospital experience a bit more humane than what I often experience in NY. I attended a seder in Tel Aviv for the hundreds of refugees who walk here from Africa each year in search of asylum. I got to visit the Hebron Hills, East Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, hear perspectives from Israeli soldiers (including cousins and friends) meet a few Palestinian families (among them dear friends), and see Jewish Israel through new and challenging lenses.

Three years ago when visiting a bedouin family in the Negev desert with my husband’s family organization Kivunim, all the women were hidden – this year, just having a daughter was enough to grant me effortless entrance to this (and other) women’s areas. Thankfully Kivunim is teaching students to speak both Hebrew and Arabic, because rifts between people are great enough without the language barrier.

Amazing things happen when you put people in a room together. This is a feat unto itself; but if you can witness it, you can have a tactile experience of the other. Sometimes we learn the other is just like us. Other times it’s not all pretty, we even deepen our stereotypes. But putting even an ugly face on a nemesis is much better than a bullseye.

Nothing is lost – people I just meet now can be friends in the future; I might not have pragmatic answers for the peace process but I can trust that our abilities improve just by baring witness.

One thing has come full circle – the searing hot sun has returned to bleach the streets of Jerusalem white again.

Maybe I can expect answers the very day we fly home, which is immediately following Shavuot, a time for revelations.

But I still feel like I’m piecing together a puzzle.

Except-

Over many years I’ve been becoming a yogi, a doula, a Hebrew-speaker, and a witness to the middle east peace process.

This year, I’ve become a mother.

Maybe an iconoclastic mother who likes to practice handstands, but still a snack-prepping, nose-wiping, heart-in-my-mouth-when-my-baby-is-hurt mother. I knew it most when I searched the fridge during Passover for the leftovers I figured the rest of the family wanted least.

On paper it’s strange that the thing which feels most definite is the thing that is still so new, and the thing I will continue to grow into over my entire lifetime.

Yet it helps answer the question of why I’ve been feeling so much more “in progress” about this year, when after most big adventures in my life I have felt a lot more complete – the biggest part of my adventure this year, looking after my little toddler, is no where near complete.

“We’re just growing up together,” said a student of mine, when I asked her how she and her three-month old had been doing.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put so eloquently.

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