Aliyah diary: A sabra is born
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Aliyah diary: A sabra is born

On the same day that Barack Hussein Obama was ushered into office as president of the United States in Washington, D.C., our first grandchild was ushered into the Covenant of Abraham in Jerusalem.

You can probably guess which event seemed more significant to me. But you might not as easily guess why.

While Jews all over the world are speculating as to the effect Obama’s presidency will have on the future of Israel, little Yehuda Mordechai Leichman is guaranteed to have a positive impact.

Why? Because every Jew born here is a slap in the face to those who plot our destruction. As my husband says, “They try to surround us with a culture of death, but we insist on surrounding them with a culture of life, and it drives them crazy.”

The more living, breathing Jews we have in this baby-sized country, the more successful we will be in assuring Jewish sovereignty and security in our own land.

I have noticed that Israelis of all stripes recognize this. You don’t have to wear a kippah or keep kosher to celebrate the arrival of every immigrant – and every infant – as a valued member of the extended mishpacha.

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Abigail Leichman holds her new grandson, Yehuda Mordechai Leichman.

It didn’t take long for Steve and me to realize that being a savta and saba (grandmother and grandfather) was going to be different in Israel than it would have been in New Jersey. Just hours after the baby was born, the young driver on the #19 bus exclaimed “Mazal tov!” after we told him our destination was the Mother and Child Pavilion of Hadassah-Ein Karem Medical Center.

The newly renamed Savti (me) and Mister Savti (Steve, who has an odd sense of humor and a latent wish to drive a frozen dessert truck that plays an annoying jingle) passed through the hospital’s metal detector and jogged right past the Chagall windows in search of the labor-and-delivery floor. Really, how could that creation compare to the sight of the infant awaiting us?

Every hospital here has two things in common: Donor plaques are plastered everywhere, and the rules end right at the door. Nobody cares what time you visit, how old you are, how many are in your party, or what you’re bringing – as long as it’s not a weapon. Nobody pins a visitor’s badge on you or monitors how long you stay. It’s as if you’ve stepped into a good friend’s home where regulations would just be silly.

And while cell-phone use is prohibited inside American hospitals, there is no such notion here. Everyone from patients to nurses is gabbing non-stop.

But our son wasn’t answering his phone, so we started tentatively poking our noses in each room as we walked down the hall. Finally, Mister Savti spotted a familiar guitar case peeking out from a doorway and softly called our son’s name. Out walked a man holding a wee blue bundle. It took a moment for me to grasp that this man was my firstborn son holding his firstborn son.

The new mother was exhausted but also famished, so I pulled out the cheesecake, plates, and plastic forks and knife I’d grabbed on our way out of the house. We supplemented that super-nutritious feast with two packages of her favorite chocolates from a candy store in the shopping mall next door to the hospital.

You just cannot have a Jewish celebration without food.

The following week at Yehuda’s brit milah – catered by Holy Bagel, like most such events sponsored by “Anglos” – we were fortunate to have quite a few friends from the “old country” in attendance. Some were visiting and others had made aliyah, like us. Having them there along with the Israeli guests was especially meaningful.

I will admit that grandparents in North Jersey do have one major advantage: babyGap. My daughter-in-law’s mother and I scoured stores throughout the capital and found very little to fit a 6-pound newborn. She did manage to locate the perfect teensy outfit for Yehuda’s public debut – a soft white ensemble that ended up with a few wine stains on it.

I know that in 18 years or so, this same child may be wearing an olive-green uniform. He was, after all, born in the middle of a war. Like every Israeli parent and grandparent, I pray that our little ones will not have to become soldiers. I pray that Yehuda will have no need to defend himself from anything other than Savti and Mister Savti’s hugs and kisses.

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