Name: Rachel Mayberrie
Birthplace: Smyrna, Delaware
Aliya date: July 2004
Family Status: Single mother of twins
As the then 14-month-old twins Eitan David and Vered Rivka crawl around on the floor, letting out an occasional scream to test their lung capacity, rattling plastic toys and pulling themselves up by the bars of a crib in the center of the room, Rachel Mayberrie, their mother, smiles and says "they are truly made in Israel."
All she knows about the twins' father, an anonymous sperm donor, is that he is half Libyan and half Yemenite. "I think he must have been very handsome," she says as she picks up Eitan, who has been laughing and blowing kisses to mommy while Vered was busy banging a toy against the window frame. "And I'm sure he is very smart too," she adds, adjusting Vered's small white sweater.
The doctors gave Mayberrie an 8 percent chance of getting pregnant, and it took seven IVF treatment cycles for her to conceive. But that wasn't the only seven surrounding their miraculous birth. "I had seven eggs and all seven were fertilized," Mayberrie explains. "They were born on May 7 in the seventh month of my pregnancy, and it would have been my dad's 70th birthday if he were still alive. They were in ICU for seven weeks."
The eldest of five children, Mayberrie has a brother in Florida and three sisters in Delaware. Her father, who worked as a car salesman, died in 1999 and her mother has remarried. Her paternal family is Scottish and her maternal grandmother was Italian. She named Eitan David after her paternal grandmother, Emma, and after a good friend's father. Vered is named for her maternal grandmother, Rose, and a friend whose grandmother Rivka was killed in Auschwitz and never had anyone in the family named after her.
Born in Pennsylvania, Mayberrie grew up in Delaware and completed her BS in nursing in 1985. For many years, she moved around and got nursing jobs in various states. After her first marriage ended, she kept coming back to Judaism. "I was dating a Reform Jew who had a Hanukka bush and was eating ham. I asked him why and he didn't know, so I decided to find out."
She came for her first visit to Israel in 1991 and stayed on a nonreligious kibbutz in the Negev. After initially converting Conservative in 1992 in Florida, she decided to do an Orthodox conversion in Brooklyn in 2000. In 2002, she returned to Israel as a volunteer nurse for six months and knew then that she eventually wanted to come and live here. "I saw a full-page ad in The Jerusalem Post about Nefesh B'Nefesh when I was here, but it took another two years to get really ready to make the move."
In July 2004, Mayberrie officially made aliya. Like many new immigrants, she enrolled in ulpan, and got her professional nursing certification from Sheba Hospital. "They only do it once a year and my Hebrew wasn't very good, but I managed to get my license a few weeks before the twins were born."
When she volunteered in 2002, she met a soldier on the army base whose family adopted her, so the first city she lived in was Tel Aviv, in the Yad Eliahu neighborhood, where they reside.
"I was the only American there, but they took such good care of me. I never turned on the stove when I first got here. People were feeding me all the time."
Still single and getting older, Mayberrie knew she wanted children of her own and decided to go through IVF treatments at Ichilov Hospital. Before the twins were born, she moved to her own apartment in Givatayim.
A registered nurse, Mayberrie lived all over the US before making aliya. "It suits me to be a wandering Jew. I worked as a traveling nurse in Virginia, Florida, New Orleans and New York." She passed her certification at Sheba Hospital eight months ago, but has not been able to return to work yet because of the twins.
"There are not enough jobs with shifts here, so it would be impossible to find a regular babysitter, and they get sick if they even ride the bus because they were born premature, so I haven't been able to put them in day care, but I hope to find something in nursing soon."
Mayberrie says that her small, two-room, ground-floor apartment is spacious enough but ridiculously priced for its old interior and meager amenities. "I like it here because it's only a 10-minute walk to my adopted family in Yad Eliahu, and I know a few families here so I have some support." Being on the ground floor also makes it much easier with the twins.
Because they were premature, Mayberrie says it seems like they have follow-up visits every single week. "It's like a race from the time I get up in the morning until the time I go to bed at night." She spends her days taking care of the twins, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, buying the groceries and preparing the food. On Fridays, she attends synagogue. "I'm used to being alone so it's not too bad," she says. "I wanted a traditional Jewish family, but this is what God gave me."
"I don't have time to do anything but work with them on their development and keep up with their exercises and learning." She is proud that despite being premature, the twins are not behind developmentally.
One of Mayberrie's close friends is an American lawyer who made aliya a few years ago, and she spends a lot of time with her adopted family in Yad Eliahu. "I don't know what I would do without them. They have been so supportive, and although they have four children of their own, the twins are their first grandchildren."
Mayberrie speaks to the twins in English unless they're doing something naughty, at which time she switches to Hebrew. "I studied Hebrew for eight months in ulpan and I can speak, write and read, but I never even have time to read in English, so I don't read much Hebrew."
Raised in a staunch Catholic family, Mayberrie stopped attending church as an adolescent. "I never believed in the Virgin Mary and original sin," she says. "I keep Shabbat and kosher... I've been to the hospital for infusions and had to turn the lights on to look for the other half of the pacifier Vered bit in half. But it's only in emergencies." She attends a Sephardi synagogue in Givatayim.
"It still hasn't hit me that I'm Israeli. I'm American, but they are sabras." Mayberrie says that she feels like Israel is just another state in the United States because there are so many Americans here. "I'm Jewish, so I feel at home here."
"I'm a good mom, and if I meet somebody decent, I'd like to have more kids, but we'll see. I don't have any expectations."
She would like to get a job with the Health Ministry and work with premature babies. "I have my own ideas about the health care here, and I'd like to help improve it."
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