Monday, January 26, 2009

Israel: Day Five--Part 1

Today we went to visit Bethlehem. To get there, you have to pass through a border and a huge security wall that is still being built by the Israeli government between the West Bank and the Israeli Jewish settlements. Bethlehem today is a large Arab city, mostly Muslim, but some Christian as well. We had to take a taxi over to the site, because it is not safe for Israeli’s to drive a car through the border. Our first stop was a Catholic Orphanage where they take care of babies that are abandoned or given up by their mothers. In Arab countries, there is no such thing as adoption. It is not accepted in their society. If a baby comes here, they are basically going to stay in an institution their whole life. He called it a life sentence. Not only that, but these children are not accepted into society, and they live with the stigma of being born out of wedlock their whole lives. We were visiting so that Bob and Sue could see what needs to be done for the orphanage and if the Jerusalem Center, or the church could offer help or assistance. One of the social workers showed us around the center, and introduced us to Sister Sophie, the director of the center for over 15 years. She has been working in orphanages for over 35 years here in the area. She told us that the mothers who bring their children here risk their lives to do so. Many times they are killed before they can give birth, but if they manage to keep it a secret, they protect them and assist them in giving birth at the hospital next to the orphanage, then take the babies right away. Unfortunately, many times the mothers are killed later. They told us they were expecting 2 or 3 newborns in the next few days. In the infant room of the center there were 10 babies already, ranging in age from 20 days to 6 months old. I held a baby that was born on Christmas Eve. He was so sweet and perfect, I thought about putting him under my jacket and running away—probably not the best idea, but I asked whether adoption was possible and the guy said no, but we always have hope that someday things will be different. Sue held a pair of twins that were 3 months old. A boy and a girl, perfect in every way. It was enough to break your heart.
We went into the toddler room where we met this sweet little girl who is handicapped. Her wheelchair came from the LDS humanitarian center, which donated several wheelchairs over the years to this facility. This is where your donations come in! Thank goodness for the humanitarian fund!
Then, he took us to the part of the school for the older children, and we had children grab onto us immediately. It was funny because you hear them call you ma ma, and you wonder if they even know what they are saying? They have never known a ma ma—yet, I think that they all long for one, it’s like it’s second nature. They loved my camera, I would take pictures of them, then show them, and they all wanted to see themselves. It was amazing to me, all of these sweet little children—all without a home. Heartbreaking. So this was the first day that I felt homesick for my sweet children. I missed my babies—and wanted to give them all a big hug and kiss! Certainly an eye-opening experience, and such a tragedy. The good side is that the orphanage was clean, well kept, and the children at least have some place to take them in and help them so they don’t just end up in the street, or even worse--end up dead. What an emotional start to the day! We came over here to learn more about the Baby Jesus who was born in a stable, but at least he was born with a father and a mother who loved him! And at least, even though there was no room in the inn, there was room in a mother's heart for the Savior. I can only hope that for these children, someday, maybe in another life, they will know a mother's love.


Kathy P said...

Wow, Tami... what a heartwrenching experience. Thank you for sharing it. I think that I live in such a bubble that I don't realize -- or at least think about -- these kinds of situations. That would have made me miss my babies too. Poor children.

Sister Sawyer said...

Tami, I just cried when I saw those beautiful faces and read your account of what these kids face all there life. And to think some of the mother's die. Oh what heart ache!

What a wonderful opportunity to explore where the Savior walked.

PS-This is Mary Ann from the Bridlegate Ward.

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