On Sunday, a little over half a year ago, in the Tehilla Hall in Kiryat Shmona, a long twenty-five year journey came to an end for Gabi and his wife Ada. In front of hundreds of local residents, rabbis, family, friends and the center of attention, Rachel Nenagen, Gabi and his Ada openly thanked their Creator for giving them a live, healthy baby.
Gabi and Ada were married twenty-five years, and like any young couple, imagined their life together in optimistic colors of pink. They dreamed of building a house where children would run between the walls and would spread the light that causes parents to feel that they have fulfilled one of the most important tasks in their life together — having children.
Imbued with faith and excited by the stories of friends and acquaintances, they waited for a child to emerge into the world and realize their dreams.
Time passed without bringing good news. They tore one day after another from the calendar and watched two years pass.
When did you understand that you had a problem to have a child?
Gabi: “In the beginning, it never occurred to us that the delay was because of some problem. We met couples who had children that didn’t come immediately. After two years of trying, we finally understood. Only then it occurred to us that there was something.”
Ada: “There was nothing that indicated a problem. We were imbued with the belief that it was only a matter of time, and the child will come.”
The conversation takes place in their home in Kiryat Shmona, that suddenly seemed fuller. Rachel Nenagen, who does not even know that we have come because of her, is sleeping in the lap of her mother Ada, close to her heart, wrapped in warmth and love, as only a mother after twenty-five years of waiting can give.
Gabi: “After those two years of trying, Rabbi Abergel referred us to a specialist in homeopathic treatment. The treatment was excellent, but it didn’t solve the problem for which we came. In all fairness, the specialist advised us to stop the treatment. “It’s a waste of your money,” he told us.
“From then on we began a journey that we did not know and didn’t imagine would last 25 full years. Unfortunately, as a result of the first wrong diagnosis, we wasted valuable time. Because of Ada’s young age, the professor whom we were referred to didn’t imagine there could be any problems, and he suggested the wrong treatment. We changed to a different doctor, who immediately discovered there was a problem and we would need to do a small operation. “Two or three days, and you’ll be home,” the doctors told her. Those two days turned into twenty days, and were crucial and significant a few years later.
They Meet Rabbi Burstein
One Chanukah, the wife of a rabbi from a town in Samaria got into a traffic accident and lost her fetus. She was hospitalized next to Ada.
Gabi: The two of us sat with our wives, lit candles and sang Chanukah songs. When the rabbi asked for the cause of Ada’s hospitalization, we told him, and he, without delay, pulled out a phone number and said, “Now you are calling Rabbi Menachem Burstein.” “What, now?” I asked. “Now it is midnight.” “Now you are calling. The rabbi starts his job only now,” he replied. I had no choice, I called Rabbi Burstein, the founder of the Puah Institute for fertility.
The meeting at the hospital was a turning point. After we became acquainted with Rabbi Burstein, he adopted us to his heart. Gabi and Ada's eyes sparkle when they mention the name of the rabbi.
Gabi: “I walked to his small and humble house. The rabbi greeted me warmly, and took out an index card to record our details, just as they do in a grocery store. “From now on, you do not do one single step without me,” he commanded. He referred us to a specialist, who did a complete check-up from top to bottom from the beginning. He also performed tests and treatments which were not always covered by the HMO fund due to internal considerations.”
Words cannot convey the feeling of deep pain, disappointment, and hope that the couple experienced. Days and nights pass in uncertainty and the unknown future.
Ada, due to her great modesty, rarely reveals what she went through, despite the fact that she is a hard-working principal and an exemplary educator in the “Kol Yehuda” school in Hazor, which has over three hundred and fifty children. Our interviewer burst a hidden valve deep in Ada’s soul, and today she allows herself to reveal a bit of what she underwent.
Ada, over the years your friends married and had children, and some are already grandmothers and have grandchildren. What did you feel when you saw a baby carriage?
You can see on her that she is living a dream come true. While saying her answer, she stops the flow of speech, takes a deep breath again and again, and her eyes are shining, this time from the memories of the past. It is obvious that this meeting is hard on her. “Along with the endless treatments, we tried to maintain normal lives. We were aware of what was going on around us, and naturally I met with mothers. The pitying looks of some of them hurt me not infrequently. I do not blame anyone, G-d forbid, but sometimes there were inappropriate words. Sometimes, after I said, 'What a sweet child', the response was 'Yes, but yesterday he was sick…’”
These words cut into her flesh, and intensified her identification with her twenty-five years of suffering.
Did you have moments when you were totally broken and willing to give in?
Ada: “I did. It was very hard. My faith was strong and I knew I was going through a trial, but until when? How long? Sometimes I'd look around and ask — why? Why do I not deserve a child? Why do I have to suffer so long? I continued one treatment and another one. I did not allow myself to fall apart.”
Gabi: “The truth is that I wasn’t broken. I told Ada, look, we have children — I have my school, the Rambam school, and you have your school Kol Yehuda. We can suffice with that. Apparently, that’s what G-d wants. Look at how much you’re suffering. Maybe it wasn’t hard for me to say that because the one who was suffering was Ada. I could not see her suffering; it hurt me very, very much. Despite our desire to have a child, I was ready to give up, but Ada was not ready. This strengthened my determination to support her regardless of her decision.”
The prayer at Rachel's grave
Ada is full of praise for the way Gabi encouraged her. “I do not know if I could have held on without Gabi's support. He was with me all the way, he came with me to all the tests, and he was present at all the surgeries and hospitalizations. His support and guidance infused me with strength.”
Anyone who knows Gabi, knows that laughter and optimism in part of his nature and soul. When he tells what they went through, it's hard to believe that he is one of the two main actors of the drama.
Gabi: “Two years ago we received a phone call from one of the professors who treated Ada in the past, just to hear what was doing with us. Apparently they had invented a new and amazing method of treatment. He suggested that I try the method. Ada had picked up on the call, and said she was ready, but had to consult me. I told her that as far as I was concerned, I want to put a stop. I do not have the nerves to look for another parking spot at Hadassah Medical Center … (laughs). But if you want, then we will continue — but not now, only during the summer vacation.”
Ada, despite all her suffering, did not give up. “Gabi, there are no coincidences. If the doctor called now — it’s a sign that it’s a time of heavenly favor. Let’s set up an appointment as the doctor suggested.” Gabi agreed.
Ada is a religious woman who believes that a person is not allotted suffering beyond their ability. “Last year, I prayed more intensely and I went four times to our Matriarch Rachel's shrine,” she says, as if this was her last hope and her last chance to pray and plead in the right place. Why by the Matriarch Rachel? Most probably because she was the most likely to understand childlessness…
“After G-d answered our prayers, we had no doubt about what name to call our girl — after Rachel's name and after the name of Gabi’s mother,” she says. “I turned to the Almighty, and I told Him 'Please, I cannot wait anymore! We went through enough suffering in the past twenty-four years!” she says and looks down.
Hearing the good news
Last May, during the break between one class and another, Ada’a mobile phone rang. On the other end was the nurse responsible for her treatment: “Hello, Ada, the answer is positive,” she said cheerfully without any introduction. She stopped her speech and was sure she would hear a roar, a scream, something … but Ada, totally shocked, just replied: “The bell rang and recess is over. Call me later…”
She was barely able to absorb what she had just been told. After she recovered a little, she immediately called Gabi to tell him the news that they had been waiting for — for a quarter century.
Gabi: “Ada called and, without any preliminaries, simply told me what the nurse had said … I got up and started pacing around the room, back and forth. I did not know what to do with myself. I was speechless and just going in circles.”
The following days and weeks passed without them sharing the news with anyone. “We were scared, we were afraid after so many disappointments and failures, that something would go wrong, and they would again be disappointed. We did not want to cause pain to our loved ones,” both of them say.
The ones who were in on the secret of Ada’s pregnancy were Rabbi Burstein and her physician. Another day and another week and another month passed. Ada continued her routine work in the school, and made an effort to hide her swelling belly to the staff members, but she knew that in the end … they would find out about the pregnancy.
On Rosh Hashana eve a year ago, Ada decided that the time has come. They shared the sweet secret with family and close friends. “We called the family and said, ‘Happy New Year, Ada is expecting a child…’” they said with a smile.
Ada, despite her overwhelming joy every time she looks at little Rachel-Nenagen, responds with restraint and leaves the role of ambassador to her husband.
* * * *
During the thanksgiving party in which they celebrated Rachel Nenagen’s birth, Rabbi Menachem Burstein related, from the other side of the fence, what Gabi and Ada had endured.
“I had 25 cards of patients. The list became shorter and shorter until there were just two – a couple from Eilat and Gabi and Ada. They entered my heart from the first moment. I cannot explain why, but it's the truth. Then finally the couple from Eilat had a child, and the only couple remaining on the list was Gabi and Ada,” says Rabbi Burstein, his voice choking.
“I cried, I prayed, I came to Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who accompanied us. I begged him to promise me that Gabi and Ada would have a child. The rabbi modestly replied that he was not a prophet, and he cannot promise. But after much pleading and supplications, he said: ‘They will have children.’ I was happy and I believed him. The days went by and the rabbi passed away, and still they had no child. I went to the grave of my father, who had passed away in the interim, and who was buried in Chadera. I cried and begged that he should bring up the merits of this wonderful couple. Then I went again to the tomb of Rabbi Eliyahu, and while I was crying, I reminded him of his promise. ‘You have to keep your promise,’ I said to him,” Rabbi Burstein related, while the astounded listeners sat with watery eyes.
“Tonight we are here to give thanks for the miracle that happened. I do not know how to explain it, but today we completed a cycle that began a quarter of a century ago. Gabi and Ada are parents to a lovely baby,” Rabbi Menachem Burstein, founder and CEO of Puah, concluded.
The chief rabbi of Kiryat Shmona, Rabbi Zephaniah Drori, in his words of blessing, said that the special parents had sanctified G-d’s Name throughout all the difficult years of their trial with faith and confidence in G-d. “You are special people in a special town,” he said.
Don’t forget the others
What would you tell couples who are in your situation?
Ada and Gabi answer together, “Go through the process together. It is extremely important to do everything together and don’t let the woman go for treatments alone. In addition, believe that it will happen. Believe that in the end the baby girl or boy will come. And no less important — life goes on. Work while continuing the treatments.”
Ada adds: “I want to emphasize that the treatments are important and certainly necessary, but what brought our salvation is none other than the Almighty.”
Gabi can’t conclude our conversation without injecting his optimistic spirit and the pink glasses through which he looks at the world. “Show me someone else who served as a sandak [the honor to hold a baby boy during the circumcision] 15 times,” he says. “You know what a privilege it was, to be a sandak so many times? Would someone have given me the chance to be a sandak if I would have had children? …” He says, his rolling laughter infecting me, Ada and little Rachel Nenagen – the reason for the party everyone was waiting for, for twenty-five years.
* * * *
Rachel brought a change in the status of Gabi and Ada. From now on they are not a couple but a family: father, mother and baby.
During the past few weeks, when we talked about publicizing their personal story, Gabi and Ada were not enthusiastic to say the least. “Forget it, Ada is not interested in exposing herself,” Gabi would explain why they were against it.
Then this week, after consultations, they agreed to my offer. “Two things are important to us: first, to thank the Almighty for His kindness and the great good He bestowed on us, and also to thank all our family and friends who accompanied us for so many years, chief among them Rabbi Menachem Burstein, the CEO of Puah. Secondly, we want our story to encourage and give strength to all those couples that are waiting for a child. Hopefully hearing our story will give them strength and hope. Promise us that the story will be about this.”
I promised, and hope I fulfilled it.
With the assistance of “Galilee News.”
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