Thursday, August 11, 2016

Happy Birthday

I had been waiting for you for a month when you arrived. I thought like your sister you would be early. And as every very hot day passed, I invited you to meet your dad and sister. I knew you would be a boy, and to be honest, I wanted a boy. I didn’t want to know your sex, but it was listed atop an early blood test. I was excited to meet you and impatient.  
8.5 months pregnant with your sister and cousin Talia
You weighed 6 pounds 1 ounce or 2.75 kg. 

So many prenatal tests. You were born in Israel, a country that must do more prenatal testing than any other. You even had an echocardiogram of your baby heart. After the doctor pressured me into an amniocentesis, I could see on a flat screen as the needle avoided your position in the womb. I felt bad for bothering you. The results came in and you would be, indeed, the perfect genetic specimen, at least the genes that they know about and can test for.

As I waited for you, I tried to figure out how I could breastfeed you because I was unable to do so  with your sister. I met with one if not the best breastfeeding experts in Israel. She and her staff were amazing. I credit them for the fact that I could breastfeed you, that I’m still breast feeding you. I wonder if I should put this in writing. Will you be grossed out? I hope that you will read this when someone is feeding your baby, and maybe it won’t bother you.

You were ready on your due date: August 13. At midnight, as I chatted online, I felt the pangs of back labor. I googled a contraction clock and timed them. At six minutes apart I woke your dad. Your Saba and Savta were staying over because I had planned to go into the hospital to try and get induced the next morning. My doctor wrote me a prescription to get induced, but it was really up to the hospital.

We decided to have the baby at the large hospital in Tel Aviv. There were closer alternatives, but I wanted to deliver at a place that did a lot of epidurals and would likely have English speaking midwives. Yes, in Israel, they use midwives, but you weren’t delivered by a midwife. More on that later.

We drove to the hospital happy that there was no traffic. I knew there would be a chance I wouldn’t be admitted. With your sister, my labor was slow. It took me forever to dilate. However, when we arrived at the hospital I was having horrible back labor. It was the worst pain I had ever experienced.

They admitted me and I shared a very small pre-labor room with another woman. We alternated moans. The nurse told me to sit on a ball or sit in the shower. Your father rubbed my back as I screamed. I’m not sure why, but after a couple of hours they allowed me to go to the birthing room. To my disappointment, the midwife did not speak English. We also did not gel. It was very difficult to do what she wanted, although your father translated well.

Finally the epidural came. It worked amazing for one hour. I sat with your father excited for your arrival. But after an hour the pain returned, and then returned more, and then returned fiercely. They upped my dose, but it didn’t work. The last hours of your labor and pushing you out were horribly painful. I know I’m not supposed to say that, but it was. Your father may have lost some of his hearing. When it was time to push, the midwife was very frustrated with me and called in the resident to help her with the delivery. I will never forget him, although I do not remember his name. He was soft spoken, calm, on the shorter side, with blue eyes. After one excruciating push and screaming he said to me calmly, “Screaming takes too much energy. Push without screaming and the baby will come out.” I listened to him and pushed you out.

You didn’t look very good. You were gray. I held you from a moment and then they whisked you off to the NICU. I wasn’t panicked though. The same thing had happened with your sister. I knew you would be okay.

They wanted me to stay in bed because of the after effects of the epidural. But I shot right up on my legs and jumped into the shower, despite the nurse yelling at me. I was ready to jog a 5K after your birth. I had never felt better.

But you weren’t doing as well as me. Your pulse oxygen was a little low and your heart rate was a little fast. The doctors weren’t sure what was wrong. I still knew you would be okay. They told me to go get some rest and I listened. I went back to the room I was now sharing with another new mom and her partner. Minutes into sleep I was awoken, shaken, by a nurse.

She said in Hebrew, “You need to get to the NICU now.”

She ran with me. A doctor took me aside and said in English, “We ran a blood test. Your son had too many red blood cells. His blood is too thick and could cause brain damage. You have five minutes to consent to a procedure which would replace some of his red blood cells with saline.”

“Where do I sign?” I said.

I signed the paper and called your dad. He had just gotten home, fell asleep, and then drove back to the hospital.

Meanwhile, the doctors set up a theater right in the NICU and rushed me to a separate waiting room.

While he was driving, I called my dear friend Dr. Jennifer Miller. I told her about his condition. She was with her father, a long time pediatrician, and his response was, “Tell her Mazel Tov.” I knew from that response that he wasn’t worried, so neither was I. I would later find out that you had gotten a partial exchange for polycythemia. It is still unclear why you had this. The treatment that they did was controversial. But it seemed to work.

You began to perk up with bottle feedings. It took me almost three months to breast feed without severe pain. Maybe I have a low pain tolerance. The lactation consultant said that it was the way that you were feeding and that I should take you to an Osteopathic Doctor for cranial treatment. But, I didn’t.  I didn’t want someone touching your head. I guess that was a bit provincial of me.

When you were two days old you met your sister. She fell in love with you at first site. I can honestly say she has only been jealous of you one or two times. She sometimes hugs you and says, “Benchuk, I love you so much.”

Five days after you were born your Zadie came to meet you.  He was the Sandek at your brit milah (ritual circumcision). So many people came: your dad’s whole family, my cousins,  and friends. I ordered way too much food. I mean way too much food. It was a really nice event. You slept through most of it.

We stayed home together for 14 weeks while I worked a little bit on a web site. You were a mostly quiet infant. You only cried when you were hungry or needed to poop. You were great on our trip to the US when you were nine weeks old. You met your aunts, uncles, cousins and Bubbie. Everyone loved you immediately. You were already smiling your big smiles that you are known for.  

After we returned from the US, and started day care you suffered with a lot of respiratory illnesses. You needed a nebulizer and at one point you were on five different medications. But once summer arrived, you were fine, and I hope that you will continue to be.

To be honest, I have struggled having two kids. You and your sister are great, but no one tells you how hard working and parenting are while maintaining a household, marriage, relationships, and staying emotionally and physically healthy. I will try to do better.

At almost 12 months old you have met all of your milestones early or on time. You’re still not walking quite yet, but I expect it will happen any day.

You love everything except sleeping in your own crib. I’m not sure you will ever sleep there. Right now you sleep for a few hours in a portable crib. That will have to do.

I know I’m making a lot of mistakes with your sleeping. You fall asleep breastfeeding. I don’t let you cry. But I don’t want to. I just don’t. I worry that I messing up. I worry about it all the time. But you look happy and you have quadrupled your birth weight.

You have so many people who love you and the women who you are named after, Grandma Birdy and Aunt Sharon are looking out from above. They would have loved you.

So Benjamin Shia Chacham, this is the story of the first year of your life.  One of the women at day care calls you (in Hebrew) “the prince.”  It’s a cute nickname, but you can grow up to be whatever and whomever you want.

Just know that your Mommy and Abba will always love you.

Happy Birthday.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Since My Last Haircut

Since my last real haircut
The one where everyone oos and ahs
that cost over a hundred dollars.
Since my last real haircut
I was engaged and married,
Filled with the humidity of love.
Birthed a child and then another.
Heard her say 'I love you so much, mommy.'
Since my last real haircut
I moved to another country and started a new job in an old career.
My gifts exploited by others while filled with self-doubt.
Lost friendships to distance replaced with Likes and Shares
Since my last real haircut
A good friend and an aunt have died
Leaving patches of emptiness that one is supposed to just move beyond.
Since my last real haircut
I heard warning sirens and saw rockets repelled in the sky
Minutes later returning to building a sand castle.
Since my last real haircut
The world has declined
Paris is Columbine
Hope is Trumped
Since my last real haircut
I’ve struggled being a mom of two.
The sleep deprivation that one is supposed to just move beyond.
My last real haircut was for me.
This one was for a child with cancer.
Everything is so heavy, but I feel lighter.

Since my haircut.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Rabin: The Mourning After ... Twenty Years Later

Much has been written recently about the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin as yesterday was the 20th anniversary of his murder.  Analysis has understandably focused on the effect of Rabin's policies given the current tensions between Arab and Israelis and how politics have changed in Israel since his death. 

In this article I spoke to several Israeli friends who were teenagers when Rabin was murdered. What were the days after Rabin's death like for them? How did his murder impact their lives? Do they still believe in his vision of peace or are they resigned to the conflict? Here are their answers. 

After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995  young people stood day and night at the site of which is now called Rabin Square to mourn the prime minister. They stood vigil with candles and were called “The Candle Children.” The photographs at the time depicted young people seemingly lost in darkness with a small flicker of light shining on their mournful faces.

However, not everyone who was young during Rabin’s assassination considered themselves part of the “Candle Children.” They or their families didn’t support his politics. Nevertheless, the assassination was the most impactful national event of their lives and the reverberations of the gunshot that ended Israel’s innocence can still be felt today.

Shahar, a tour guide from Pardes Chana took part in the rally and heard the shots. He went home after the rally and found out that Rabin had died. He returned the next day.

“The day after the assassination I arrived at the square and there were a lot of people who sang, lit candles, and wrote messages on the walls of City Hall,” Shahar said.

Children and teenagers who weren’t at the rally also remember where they were when they heard the news.

“I was at home watching the Peace Rally,”  said Tomer, the director of nonprofit outside Jerusalem. “After he was shot, there were reports on the news all of the time, but no one believed he would die. When it was announced that he died, we were so shocked.”

Lior, a graduate student, woke his parents up to tell them the news that Rabin had been shot.

“I remember my parents crying,” Lior said.

Lior visited the site of the assassination a few days later to light a candle.

“Children and teenagers from the youth movements filled the square,” Lior said. “The ones from Tel Aviv and the youth movements were there all of the time.”  

Efrat, a photographer from Eilat, didn’t go to Tel Aviv, but  did visit Rabin’s grave a few days after his death.

“I remember the days after the assassination were extremely sad days in Israel,” Efrat said. "Many people had faith in him wanting him to finally bring peace to our region. They didn’t think anyone else could fit in his shoes.”

The aftermath of the assassination was devastating for Israel and the peace process.

“Before he was murdered there was hope for peace,”  Tomer said. “After, the hope was replaced by a pessimism about the future of our nation and the possibility to conduct a real dialogue among people with different points of view.

Eran, an IT director from Ramat Gan did not support Rabin’s politics and in fact blames him for some of Israel’s problems today.

“I was right wing then, I am right wing today,” Eran said. “However, I was against his murder then and I am against his murder today.”

For Shahar, it propelled him to understand how important it is to be an active member of society.

“If you let other people get involved for you, that’s when disaster happens,” Shahar said.

So what exactly is Rabin’s legacy for the “Candle Children?”  

“He believed in giving everything of yourself for the sake of the state,” Tomer said. “ He believed that you have to fight to the end to protect the state, but also strive to change and reach out for peace.”

Lior agreed.

“He was a soldier and a general and towards the end of his life he realized that this particular conflict cannot be solved with military force,” Lior said.

Yariv, a banker in Tel Aviv,  lit a candle at the Square after Rabin’s murder. He said the lesson to Israel from the devastating event was “the importance of unity over being right.”

Shahar echoed Yariv’s sentiment. “Rabin always did what he thought was right for the country. He was always brave.”

Is the hope for peace gone? Perhaps for some it has dimmed, but for Efrat, she still envisions a better future and that one day  “there will be a genuine peace agreement that will open this amazing Middle East to the world where there are no real borders and anyone could come and visit and cross between countries like they cross between states in the US.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Musings about living in Israel October 2015

This latest terrorist wave is coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. He was murdered on November 4, 1995 by a Jewish extremist. Rabin will certainly be memorialized next month, but he will also be cursed by some who blame him for the situation Israel is in now. 

Those who curse him are simply wrong. 

The Oslo Accords were a failure. No doubt. But they weren't Rabin's failure. Their methodology was flawed to begin with. International Relations experts have said that the implementation was too protracted which gave too much time for the entrenchment of naysayers. In addition, the Oslo Accords required too much Palestinian-Israeli interdependence, when was they needed was total separation. This separation would have been difficult, but necessary for two successful states. 

But he had the courage to try and probably would have made it right. Who knows? 


So here we are 20 years later with rocket attacks last summer and knife attacks this fall. When I went to the mall today, the security guard didn't just ask me if I was carrying a gun,  he added another element to his script. 

"Do you have a knife, Mrs?" 

I wanted to ask him if I should carry one, but I smiled, nodded no, and parked. 

After yesterday's attack in Jerusalem, I bought fruit from a vendor outside the doctor's office. He was arranging the bananas when a frequent customer told him about the killings. He said in Hebrew, "Us or Them?" The wording was so casual. It's like when I was living near Wrigley Field and I heard cheering from the stadium. Who hit a home run, "Us or Them?" When he received the answer he moaned and went on to decry the state of the country. I had to get his attention as he delved into the media pouring from his phone and asked, "Can I pay for my bananas?" He gave me a 25 cent discount. 


When a terrorist is shot, the Israeli media is using the tern "neutralized." I hate the coldness of the word. It lacks humility. It sounds like something out of a movie script or a line from Homeland. And although we live our lives on media and can watch these attacks on Facebook, "neutralize" somehow diminishes these events removing any semblance of humanity.


The other day an Israeli policewoman helped to subdue a terrorist, never dropping her Magnum ice cream bar. 

They are that good. The ice cream. 


Am I scared? I don't think something will actually happen to me. However, today I drove to the mall which is across the street, rather than walked like I usually do to try to lose some of the baby weight. Had I been by myself, I would have walked. But with my baby, no way. It's funny how different you are when you have children. When I was single and visiting, I rode the bus during the Second Intifada. Now, I won't walk across the street. Even getting the fruit yesterday I felt was a calculated risk. It's because it's not just about me anymore. 

Do I think the violence will end? Yes, absolutely. But it will also return again. It's not a matter of if it's a matter of when.

One of the reasons is the martyrdom mentality of the extremist Muslims. Alaa Abu Jamal yesterday killed and wounded two men before being shot. Ironically, he had been interviewed by an Israeli news site a year ago after a relative had perpetrated an ax attack murdering five as they prayed in a synagogue. He celebrated the deaths of the men as well as the martyrdom of his family members. How can you reason with someone who thinks their God wants them to be shot by police, and that is the best work that they can do in the name of their religion? 

But something he said during the interview was very telling. The interviewer asked him if he thought other Palestinians would commit acts similar his cousin's. He answered, "Only God knows. No one knows. Everyone is responsible for his own actions."

I never thought I would agree with a terrorist, but he's right. Everyone is responsible for his own actions. There's no historical, religious, or political justification for committing acts of terror. These are acts by bad men and women, not acts of God. 


When a Muslim commits a terrorist attack, he or she reportedly says Allahu Akbar, loosely translated to God is the greatest. I was thinking moderate Muslims could do a Public Service announcement, like the ones in the US with the rainbow that reads, "The More You Know" with the following, "God is Great. So are all of the people he creates. Don't be a martyr! Be a hero!" 

Leo Burnett has a branch in Jordan. Maybe I'll set up a meeting.

"I don't think the police should kill the attackers," I told a friend yesterday. "Being a prisoner is less prestigious than a martyr. If they survive it will be a deterrent."

"I think they should," he said. "Why should they be treated by our hospitals?

I wonder if there is insurance for terrorists for failed martyrdom. What is the deductible?


When I went to the mall this morning, I asked the pharmacist, who is Arab, if he'd be willing to take a faxed prescription because I had lost mine. He was really apologetic and said no, it was against the law. He told me the name of a Jewish pharmacist (he didn't say Jewish, I just knew by the name) who was old and "didn't give a f-ck" who would fill it. I told him I would just go back to the doctor, but I didn't really feel like being out and about right now because of the situation. 

He said looking downtrodden, "You're right. The traffic to Herzliya is brutal at this hour." 


I was angry at my Israeli husband for not calling me all day yesterday.

"I know you are cavalier about these things, but it upset me that you didn't call."

And I know what he was thinking, even though he hates when I say I know what he is thinking. What does calling you have anything to do with terrorist attacks?

"Okay," he said. "I'll call you more tomorrow."


When I lived here almost 20 years ago, I read a lot of Yehuda Amichai poems. 

"Mr. Amichai, would you change your famous poem the Diameter of a Bomb to the Range of a Rocket or a the Length of a Blade? Or would you consider adding more verses."

"No," he said. "The poem is fine as it is." 

"What Israeli poets should I be reading today?" I asked. 

"There are no Israeli poets today," he said. "They've all died or moved to Silicon Valley."


Twenty years on as Rabin is remembered, reviled, or ignored, any analysis of him is incomplete without acknowledging that at least he tried to make peace with the Palestinians. He was courageous. The current leadership has no desire for peace, no ideas, just pockets full of bandages of bullets, bombs, and Iron Domes.

My daughter jumped off a trampoline and sprained her ankle. Yes, she was bandaged and recovered. But she doesn't jump off trampolines anymore, although she probably could, get another bandage and be fine. Is the Zionist dream now simply to stop the bleeding rather than achieve peace? 

Don't be mad, but I'm going to quote President Obama from his 2013 speech in Jerusalem. 

First, peace is necessary.   I believe that.  I believe that peace is the only path to true security.   You have the opportunity to be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future.  Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.   That is true.
There are other factors involved.  Given the frustration in the international community about this conflict, Israel needs to reverse an undertow of isolation.  And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people over the long term is through the absence of war.  Because no wall is high enough and no Iron Dome is strong enough or perfect enough to stop every enemy that is intent on doing so from inflicting harm.
You know he's right. Even if you don't like him, just admit it. It's okay. It will be between you and and me.
So who is going to have the courage to bring Israel out of war and into a new age? 

Who and where is she? 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What etiquette you should follow when applying for a job through Facebook

Several months ago I posted a job opening on Facebook. Using this mechanism was very fruitful, but also extremely disheartening. Many of the people who were interested had no concept of how to appropriately respond to the opportunity. While often Millennials are criticized and belittled for their disregard of convention and formality, I found that they were absolutely not the biggest offenders. My peers in their late 30s, 40s and 50s had no sense that they way they responded to the post would reflect on how the employer (me) would view them.

Therefore I thought it would be helpful to provide tips for how to apply for a job posted on social media.

  1. Read the post carefully.
This tells the employer whether or not your pay attention to detail and can, well, read.  Examples of mistakes caused by not reading closely:
  • Don’t comment with questions that are answered in the post. If you do so accidently, delete the comment immediately.
  • What mechanism does the employer want you to use to contact her? Don’t respond in a comment or a chat if the employer writes, “Please send your resume to”

2. Respond appropriately
This tells the employer if you are a good communicator and will represent the organization well.
Example of mistakes caused by not reading closely:
  • Don’t chat with a potential employer like you are chatting with a friend.
    After I posted the position on Facebook, I started receiving Facebook chats, even though I requested that the messages should be sent via email. I understood that when a job is posted on Facebook, someone might want to respond using the social media tool. However, the way people chatted was unacceptable. “Hey, what’s up. heard ur looking for some1 for your trip. id like to learn more.”  There are so many problems with this sentence. Besides the informal nature and the grammar, the person doesn’t actually ask any kind of decent question. “I’d like to learn more” isn’t actually an inquiry. It’s telling me how you feel. A better statement would be “I see that you are looking for a person with education experience. I have been teaching for three years. When would be a good time to speak more about the position?”
  • Don’t use emoticons or acronyms. Please. :) ! ;)  LOL
  • Write the chat or email as if you were writing a formal inquiry. Don't write, "Hey," write, "Dear Jennifer." Use conventional grammar, capitalization, and spelling. Typically when you chat you don't use an apostrophe or capitalize letters. I understand. But when applying for a position, you need to.
  • If the position asks for certain qualifications, and you don’t have them, you shouldn’t apply. Especially if the qualification includes certification or degrees. Just because the job is posted on Facebook doesn’t make the process of hiring or working less serious.
  • Consider your profile picture (and other pictures) before you apply. If your picture is of you doing shots or voicing a radical political message, your judgment will come into question.
  • Don’t friend me. I’m not looking for a friend, I’m looking for an applicant. You can add me on LinkedIn.
  • If I ask you for a resume or other questions, respond immediately. The beauty of Facebook is that the hiring process can go very quickly. You don’t want to be left behind.

I know some of this probably came across as quite harsh. However, I do hope I’m doing a public service. These things do matter and are easy to fix in the future. Best of luck!