The miracle of Israel and its power to change lives

The miracle of Israel and its power to change lives

My adopted daughter Keren is now ‘8 and lives in the small city of Afula, slightly south of Tiberias and close to Nazareth. It is definitely not a prime location for newcomers to Israel. But that is where she came from, the place where her biological parents once lived and where they gave her and four other children away for adoption — five children altogether, unwanted by their parents.

From left are Keren, Matan, Ami, and Sandra Steuer Cohen. One-year-old Or is not pictured.

My husband and I adopted two of them.

The "search for her roots" took her back to Israel seven years ago. This was not something that I wished for, knowing what kind of people her biological mother and father were. But no adopted child believes things like this and hence they go forward in this "search" hoping to find out "who they are." It is a very painful time for those that have loved and raised children as their own flesh and blood to endure.

She found out this truth soon enough and realized, finally, that she had been most fortunate to have been raised by others. At that time,coincidentally, she met a boy, the son of a friend of her biological mother. They fell in love and married. I felt helpless, defeated, and angry, realizing that she had actually decided to recreate her life and re-invent herself by returning to her origins. Keren had seemingly rejected all that she had been raised with here and taken on this identity of a wife with a child on the way in a very depressed city inhabited by those who had no where else to go. She chose a lifestyle so very different from what she had grown up with.

For years, our relationship suffered. I was probably to blame for not accepting her choices, but to me it was a rejection of who I was, her mother, and an insult to her adoptive family here. Our only connection was the rare telephone call and occasional letter. I felt she was lost to me. After the first few years I began again to visit, saw how she was living and felt still sadder at all that she had given up to do this. She lives poorly and simply. Her husband is an uncomplicated man with a job that does not entirely support them. He communicates very little. Maybe one day his work will reap rewards, but it saddens me to see them struggle. Still, he is a good man who loves her and the children, and she returns this love. It was not material possessions that I had wanted for her, but simply for her to have a life without struggle and living hand to mouth, a life with books and exposure to many kinds of people and ideas. She does not have that in Afula.

The years have passed with many ups and downs. She has matured and explained to me how unhappy her life had been trying to fit in here, in our affluent, competitive suburb. It took me a longer time to see that my own aliyah, so many years before hers, was very much the same kind of thing — trying to find an identity in a place where I felt accepted and fit in. It did not matter that I had not been adopted; what mattered was the connection I felt to Israel and my sense of belonging there, one that I never felt earlier or have had since leaving there. "Belonging" is a very powerful reason to be somewhere. Israel is an "accepting" place.

History does repeat itself and, as the old saying goes, the apple does not fall far from the tree. Our geographical locations are now reversed and she is happy. We have a new understanding after many years of painful alienation. Ours is a relationship that was difficult to forge and we work hard, both of us, to maintain it.

Israel has had the power to change us for whatever reason we choose it — or it chooses us. I have always believed that and always will.

To me, that in itself is a miracle.

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