July 29, 2019

Planting Peace

In the early morning of July 16 (13 Tammuz), my daughter Aviva gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. 

I was extremely privileged to be there during the birth, assisting and supporting my daughter as she slowly and painfully progressed with her labor.

She spent the last hour in a pool set up in the middle of their bedroom. The midwife sat calmly, watchful, Buddha-like in the darkness.  Shaarya, Aviva’s husband, assisted at the side of the pool. Playful fairy lights graced the wall behind them, their soft reflection flickering across warm, glistening water.

Although the labor pains swelled in intensity, this one room set in a tiny yishuv in the Shomron was calm and serene. Soft music played and as Aviva swayed, she and Shaarya sang. In this moment of transition from one world to another, time ceased to be; or maybe eternity unfurled, unfolded, opening to potential, overflowing with abundance.  

Their voices united, sweetened by love, intention and presence quivered like a ring of water, rippling, spreading to the ancient olive trees in the ink black valley below. And, as she cried out, the notes soared up rock-clad mountains to meet the full moon rising. 

She entered another realm where time stood still, ever watchful. The muezzin from a neighboring village called out for the faithful. And still she swayed. Gripped. Fully present, giving mind over to body so it could work its miracle.

And then her baby crowned and gently slipped into the pool of water. She scooped him into her arms, kissed his forehead and held him close to her.

Eyes opened wide to this new reality, this brand-new world, the baby opened his lips and took his first breath. Tired from his long voyage, he sighed and nestled into his mother’s neck. She too was exhausted, yet filled with bliss, she became energized by this miracle she was now holding in her arms.

‘Mazal tov!’ When we spoke these words aloud, the gates of eternity gently closed, shutting out the majesty of that present moment we had all experienced, returning us to our dusty world of future hopes and physical wants.

In a flash, this tiny, vulnerable baby changed our reality, transforming Aviva and Shaarya into an Ima and Abba, and making us grandparents. This baby’s arrival marks the completion of a ‘bridge’ we started to build as we set down roots when we moved to Israel; he is the first Israeli-born member of our family since we made aliyah.

When we hold him, we return to that stillness and become absorbed in the miracle of a new life, his total dependence, his need for comfort and our desire to give him abundant love.  

He had his brit mila on Tuesday. Carrying him on a pillow, his Abba and Ima sang to him as they walked towards the sandek, his saba. And there he was welcomed into our age-old covenant and received his name. Neta Shalom.

Neta Shalom. Planting Peace. His name came to his parents at the start of the pregnancy and it never left. He was named two days after the 17th of Tammuz during the Three Weeks when the Jewish people mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples as well as other calamities that befell our nation.

It is said that we lost the two Temples and faced exile because of corruption, disunity and hatred. Acceptance and love will enable us to plant peace. 

And as we gaze at this next generation cuddled in our arms, we wonder who he will be and what his life will hold. We are sobered by the thought that when he is an adult, we will be gone, yet are comforted by knowledge that he will be there, continuing on our path, just on the other side of the bridge we helped to build.