Seventeen children were born at Ichilov Hospital on the night my son came into this world. When the nurse working the morning shift arrived to gather the previous night?s harvest, she only picked up the three that were born overnight: two boys and one girl. At seven in the morning, in the long hallway leading away from the delivery rooms, she led a procession of three proud fathers, each pushing a transparent baby carriage.
When hospital workers beginning their daily shifts walked past the procession, a luminous smile beamed across their faces. Congratulations and best of luck, one of them said. Only happy tidings, only happy tidings, another said. The eyes of a third worker sparkled.
It had happened two hours earlier. As a soft, milky-white light began percolating above the horizon outside the window, the delivering nurse, Ilana, placed my hand atop the head that was entering this world.
"Push harder," she told Timna. One last push. And she placed into my quivering arms a nape, arms, a back, a rear end, two feet. A life. Three and three-hundredths kilograms of endless life.
Some 10,700 children were born this year in the 13 delivery rooms at Ichilov. In the last four years, the number of births has risen by 20 percent. On the surface, the birth rate in Israel is supposed to be among the lowest in the world. Wars, mortgages, the gruff disposition, the constant carping. But the reality is to the contrary. Israel is a child-bearing superpower. We Israelis have babies and cherish our children more than any other Western society. Europeans, whose lives are immeasurably more comfortable, safe and pampered than ours, long ago ceased to bring children into the world. The same applies to the Japanese and to Jews in the United States.
Israel, on the other hand, has been and remains a fertile society. A society that loves children, a society that is driven insane by children.
A society of fertility and multiplicity, a society that requires that its labor and delivery nurses at Ichilov be among the best in the world. A society that floods its maternity wards with more and more children on a nightly basis.
Israel is a tough place. A hard place with a difficult narrative in a difficult Middle East. But when the caravan of transparent cradles reached the bustling nursery, an orange ray of hope radiated through the windows and caressed the faces of the nurses. The births encompass all sexes and skin colors: chubby babies and skinny babies, dark-skinned and light-skinned, quiet babies and shrieking babies. Yet they are all laid side by side hours after their births in the most optimistic room in Tel Aviv. A room in which the bright, early morning is life. After everything, faced with everything, is life. Not death, but life.
My son is quiet and precise. And when I hovered over the cradle and peered through the transparent covering, I thought, like every father, of the long road that he has traversed. Like some sort of lion cub. I thought, like all fathers, of the long road ahead of him.
But I also thought of the commandment my son is imposing on me with his birth: The commandment to believe in a world his mother and I brought him into. To believe in the place his mother and I brought him to. To see that despite everything and because of everything, his place of birth is wonderful. A difficult place, in which hope is still not lost.
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