Israeli society has always been very child-centered. From the Passover Seder, where children act out the exodus from Egypt or hunt for the hidden Afikoman, depending on whether the Seder is Mizrahi or Ashkenazi, to the Lag B’Omer festival, where children gather together around bonfires, to Purim, where children parade around in costumes, the Jewish religion revolves around children.

According to a study published by the University of Haifa titled The Family in Israel: between Tradition and Modernity, “nearly sixty percent of Israelis believe that childless people have an empty life and more than eighty percent believe that the greatest joy in life is to follow children’s growing up.” On average, statistics demonstrate that Israelis desire to have more children than people living in any other industrialized country. Yet, despite the fact that most Israelis yearn to start families, the Jerusalem Post reported that nearly one out of six couples struggle to make their dream of having children a reality.

Rachel Hain, a Jerusalem social worker who made Aliyah at the age of 13 with her family from Boston, was one of those statistics. As someone suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome, she struggled in the beginning of her marriage to get pregnant and in order to have children, sought out fertility treatment. Thanks to the fertility treatment, in the end, she managed to have eight children. However, when she was younger and struggling to get pregnant, she felt that she lacked the emotional support that she needed in order to go through the ordeal of receiving fertility treatment.

For this reason, she decided to establish an organization titled Mercaz Panim, which is the only group in Israel that provides emotional support to couples with fertility challenges. Taking hormones to ripen ova and undergo IVF, Hain said, “is not easy.” It is not only difficult physically, but also has “emotional effects. You go to a few dozen different people who must be informed about your most intimate details, not to mention other patients in the IVF clinic’s waiting room. It’s important to receive emotional support during this long, complicated and frustrating process – and a family member usually can’t provide it.”

Presently, the Mercaz Panim organization is thriving, as it has filled a much needed gap. According to Hain, “The most important need people with fertility challenges have is to feel good about themselves. […] This is very difficult to cope with. […] The divorce rate of people with fertility challenges is higher than in the general population. Often, such couples have trouble communicating and supporting each other. Many individuals define themselves by their fertility. They feel they are in the waiting room of life. Until they have a child, they feel they can’t accomplish other important things. Sometimes husbands and wives are so overcome with the emotional burden that they’re unable to ask each other the simple question, ‘How are you dealing with this?’ We help them.”

Hain claims that “We have about 20 psychologists, social workers, therapists who teach guided imagery, personal trainers, holistic massage therapists and yoga teachers. All of them know how to help women one-on-one not only with fertility challenges but also miscarriage, fetal loss, babies who die soon after their births and other tragedies.” Hain’s organization caters to all sectors of Israelis that struggle with fertility issues, who live in various areas of the country.

Reported by: Rachel Avraham for United With Israel

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