Monday, May 23, 2011

Immaculate Conception(s) in the Holy Lands

As I've mentioned before, I did about six months of fertility treatment in Israel. I've often wanted to write about that experience but recently found my inspiration from the conflicts regarding a two-state solution. What does peace in the Middle East have to do with baby making? More than you might think.

On other forms, I've written about my observations of the different religious groups in Haifa, living and working together in peace. Among the most vivid memories of our three years on the Mediterranean coastline were the weekends where Muslims, Jews, and Christians all BBQ on the same stretch of beach and swam in the same water.  However, I feel like inside the fertility clinic waiting room is another amazing window into the heart of Israel.

At a typical appointment, I arrived early in the morning and was assigned a number. I would wait for my blood to be drawn and wait again for an ultrasound and then wait for a third time for the nurse to tell me to proceed with injections or to schedule my IUI. As I waited, I was surrounded by other women and some men (husbands offering their support or their semen for analysis). Let me paint of picture of the demographics of those waiting rooms. To my right was a Russian speaking woman with bleached blonde hair and leopard print spandex, across from me was a Muslim woman cloaked from head-to-toe in a dark brown burka, to my left a Orthodox Jewish woman wearing a hat and skirt and beside her another woman in jeans and a sequin top. Then there was me, squeezed into the mix...naturally blonde, green eyes, t-shirt and running shorts.

Every woman in that clinic was Israeli except me. And every woman, no matter her ethnicity or religion was treated with dignity. Every Israeli is insured by the State to receive all the treatment she needs to conceive. Stop! Whoa! Halt! Yes, let that soak in for a minute. Back-to-back IVF cycles for years on end. Sure, no problem. Some Israeli women undergo as many as 20 procedures before conceiving, or giving up. Every woman is given the care she needs to maximize her chances at the miracle of carrying a baby and yes, that often means that a Jewish doctor is helping a Muslim woman conceive and give birth to a healthy child....and vice-versa. As a non-citizen, I paid for my treatment out of pocket, still a fraction of the cost in America (my injections cost less than $100/cycle in Israel vs. $6000/cycle in the US for the same drugs).

In contrast to the biased views in the media about the treatment of Arabs in Israel, the 2 million Arabs living in Israel are the ONLY Middle Eastern Arab population with FREE access to IVF. Israel values human life. Israel respects the rights of its citizens no matter their ethnicity. Israel left an unforgettable impression on my heart and I hope and pray that they continue living in freedom with the security they need to protect their borders and the precious lives growing within them.

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