The rule of thumb in Internet videos is “keep it short.” Swamped with time-absorbing communications – online videos reputedly account for more than half of web traffic every day – we’re reluctant to click for more than a minute or two.
However, a certain 10-minute video in Hebrew has gone viral with more than 2.5 million views. An engrossing story will hold our attention, particularly when it expands our hearts. This one does.
Rivky and Yossi Bar, a very religious couple from Nahariya, have been married for some 15 years. After a decade of interminable medical ordeals and spiritual exertions, they realized they would not have biological children.
He’s an educator and she works in the public health system. They applied to social services to adopt. Rivky told the social worker who interviewed them that she wanted a child that no one else wanted, a special needs child.
After the usual battery of psychological tests, they were accepted as potential adoptive parents. They shared their happy plans with their own parents.
Yossi’s parents were reluctant, but understood their quandary. Do as you wish, they told him, but don’t expect us to be grandpa and grandma to such a child.
Rivky’s father actually used the term Holocaust regarding the special needs child and forbade them to continue.
Going against the patriarchal authority in Rivky’s family would mean that they would be excluded from all family events. Nevertheless, she and Yossi were determined to face those consequences in order to become parents.
They were promised a baby boy with Down syndrome whose parents simply didn’t want him. Rivky was ecstatic.
They ordered a carriage and diapers. She was going to be a mother!
At the last moment, however, the child’s parents rejected them. Yossi and Rivky weren’t religious enough.
And then, someone who had heard from someone else told them about a baby in Jerusalem, Tamar. The tiny girl, also born with Down Syndrome, needed heart surgery. Her biological parents felt they couldn’t handle her.
Yossi and Rivky somehow managed to get her medical records. They consulted a specialist in Haifa, who warned them that Tamar would probably live only three months.
“Then I will give her an earthly paradise before she goes to the heavenly one,” Rivky insisted.
They called social services and received a reprimand. It wasn’t their place to find babies and suggest themselves as parents. They should wait patiently for the social services to find them a baby.
But Rivky wasn’t patient. She believed that baby was to be her daughter. The day of the surgery, she woke Yossi in the middle of the night. “I’m going to Tamar,” she said. “If you like, come with me.”
Tamar was in the pediatric intensive care unit, which one can’t enter without permission. Rivky and Yossi rang the bell. The nurse in charge asked who they were.
“We are Tamar’s new parents,” they said. With the approval of the biological parents, they were allowed in.
Tamar then weighed less than two kilos. She was pale as whitewash, attached to machines with multiple wires. Rivky lifted the tiny child in her arms. “Don’t be afraid,” she cooed. “Mommy is here and I will never leave you.”
The complex heart surgery was a success. Rivky and Yossi rented an apartment in Jerusalem to be with Tamar throughout her recovery. With the help of Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, the paperwork was sped up.
When they got home, Yossi’s parents to came to visit. They decided they would be grandparents to Tamar after all.
Then Rivky’s father came. He asked their forgiveness for his harsh words. He, too, wanted to be a grandfather to Tamar.
That was three years ago. Despite her dire prognosis, Tamar is thriving – running and singing and charming everyone. Rivky’s father proudly displays a screen shot of himself pushing the stroller when they go for a spin around town. Rivky says that, of his 150 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Tamar is her father’s favorite.
“People praise us, but they don’t understand how much bringing up Tamar has contributed to our lives as a couple,” Yossi tells me.
Paradoxically, Yossi and Rivky have gone public with their story to convince new parents to cherish their special-needs children, although that diminishes their chances of adopting a sister or brother for Tamar. A year ago, he and Rivky had already bought the outfit for the circumcision of their soon-to-be son, when the birth mother decided not to give him to them.
“We believe staying with your biological family is best, unless the family cannot handle this and will make the child feel rejected and resented,” Yossi said. “These decisions are so personal and difficult.”
I am reminded of the story of the childless hassid who went for a holiday blessing from his rebbe. He is accompanied by the childless keeper of the inn where he spends the night.
On their return, the innkeeper buys a pram, to the consternation of the hassid. On his next year’s journey to the rebbe, the hassid stops at the inn and sees a baby in the pram, while his own prayers haven’t been answered. The rebbe explains, “He bought the carriage.”
Watch the video, even if you don’t know Hebrew.
Shana tova! The writer is the Israel director of public relations at Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.