Circumcision More Bitter Than Sweet for Motherless Twins

Mother of boys died during their birth last week; Brit Milah held at end of 7-day Jewish mourning period.

A brit milah is usually a joyous occasion, but at Wednesday's circumcision ceremony for the twin boys of a woman who died in the obstetrics ward last week, the joy was mixed with tears.

"We don't know whether to be happy or to cry," said Ram Sa'ada, the twins' uncle. His sister, Galit Sa'ada-Ophir, 37, died of massive abdominal bleeding caused by the Caesarean - a death that resulted from serious failures and negligence at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, according to a top medical official at the hospital.

"On the one hand, my nephews, who we had so looked forward to, are having their brit, and on the other hand, we're so sad," he said.

Rabbi Pinhas Hacohen, the chief rabbi of Netivot and the mohel (ritual circumciser) who presided over the brit milah, is used to hearing traditional whooping sounds of joy at the ceremonies in which he participates. But this time, he said, he heard only the sound of crying.

When the twins' father, Moshe Ophir, made the blessing over the wine during the ceremony, tears rolled down his face.

"Galit was simply part of me," Ophir said in a choked voice after the brit. "From the moment we met we weren't apart for a second."

Ophir was taking care of their oldest child, 20-month-old Zohar, while his wife was in the hospital. "Of course I feel guilty feelings, that I could have taken the ward apart to get them to do something with Galit."

Sa'ada-Ophir had complained numerous times of pain, which was not relieved by the multiple drug treatments she received.

The brit of Almog and Ohad, who were named at the circumcision at Sa'ada-Ophir's parents' house in the afternoon, was followed by an evening memorial ceremony marking the end of the seven-day mourning period for their mother.

Sa'ada-Ophir chose the name Ohad before the birth, and Ophir chose the name Almog from a list of names she had read aloud that begin with aleph, so both boys could have names beginning with the same Hebrew letter.

Dina Sa'ada, Sa'ada-Ophir's mother, said through her tears that she was struggling to adapt to her role as a surrogate mother.

"I'm trying to be strong, for the family," she said. "I decided to hold the twins and be with them, like any grandmother, but I'm also a substitute for the mother they don't have."

She called for jail time for the doctors responsible for her daughter's health while in the hospital.

"It's medical negligence of the first degree," she said. "They killed my daughter. They need to go to jail."

Ophir, however, said he was not planning to get involved in the investigation of his wife's death, leaving that to his lawyer. Instead, he said, he wants to focus on raising his three motherless boys.

His oldest son may not have turned 2 yet, but he knows enough to miss his mother, Ophir said.