Monday, March 5, 2012

Here, have some free birth control

Rehberg IV, coming this August to a theater near you
Just to clarify, I am a religious Jew who is very family-oriented.  I have three amazing children that I love with every speck my existence and am joyfully awaiting the arrival of the next.  And I am in support of birth control being included in public health care plans.

The fight over this issue has been nasty and politics have gotten way too far into it.  Does using birth control make you a liberal?...a democrat?  Does avoiding it make you G-d fearing?  I had to laugh when my cousin shared a picture of this lady holding a sign that said "If I wanted the government in my womb, I'd [hmhm] a senator."

Judaism has also had some birth control debates.  You know what we did?  We found balance.  There is a beautiful mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply.  It was the first command ever given by the Creator, who also instilled desires in us to make sure that we would follow the instruction.  I think it's important to point out that there are two parts here: being fruitful, and multiplying.

Before my third wedding anniversary, I had already been blessed with two children.  This was a big leap, but I felt ready for each one.  Adjusting to life with two kids in diapers, I wasn't sure I needed more than two...ever.  Only a few years into the whole Torah-observant scene, I also wasn't sure what my options were.  My husband was very supportive and explained that we had fulfilled the mitzvah, and if that was enough for me than it was enough.  There are some Jews who hold slightly stricter or more lenient opinions on this matter, but the woman's needs are respected.  Of course he really did want more, and nearly four years later so did I, but G-d has given us the wisdom and tools to decide what we can handle and then act on it.  It's my choice, it's your choice, it's her choice--not to be challenged by any employer or elected official.

Multiplying is pretty easy.  Just about any girl and guy can multiply all they want.  But what about the fruitful part?  I think that's telling us that there is more to reproducing than having someone around to do it with.

What would you say a fruitful person is?  I could think of a few words: healthy, emotionally balanced, spiritually grounded, caring, sensitive.  Creating a life is the truest way of representing that "image of G-d" that we were created in.  If a person feels the need to work on being fruitful a little longer, then maybe that's what they should do before running ahead to multiply.

Oh, you can say "well don't have sex then" 'til you're blue in the face, but I know a woman who was recovering from a third miscarriage and needed time to heal before conceiving again.  She's married.  Is she really supposed to just wait a year before acting like it?

Now I'm not a fan of any of the millions of little colorful pills that people take, but I can see how some people feel that they help those seeking treatment to lead a longer or better quality life.  Each person has to make their own choices about these things.  If a healthcare package is going to include pills to make your blood change consistency, your hot flashes subside, your sneezing go away, and so on--then it might as well include these ones too.  To allow religious conviction or sexual bias to dictate public health care rulings would be so very un-American.

Maybe a woman who has ovarian cysts, which can permanently damage her future ability to procreate, should be able to use the pill to get herself through this horribly painful condition and back on schedule.  Maybe there are people in the government who think that fewer orphanages, abortions, or WIC funds will be a good thing for a sexually active teen who should really finish high school.  Maybe a woman who was raped needs emotional healing more than forced motherhood.  Maybe a devoted wife who is a mother to several little ones deserves some time to let her body and spirit find peace.  Who are we to judge?

So calm down, everybody.  The "moral fabric of society" isn't ripping apart.  Women's health care needs are simply being assessed, and everyone is realizing that they are different from men's.  It's no surprise that they are only now receiving that recognition.  After all, it took until 1978 for US Congress to pass the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.  We live in an era with so much freedom and progression in certain countries, we can easily forget that some of the ugly parts of our collective past are not so far behind us and that they still run wild in many other corners of the world.  Life moves slowly, but we are still moving forward.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


A beautiful bouquet of almond blossoms sits on my kitchen table.  I just love the delicate white and pink flowers that herald the beginning of spring in Israel.  They are in full bloom now, even though we had a bit of snow in Tzfat today.  But sometimes when I see the almond blossoms, a less pleasant memory is sparked...

When Teneya was in preschool, I attended her class Tu B'Shevat party.  The table was charmingly decorated with almond blossoms and booklets, colored by each of our children, with songs and stories inside.  But at the table I shared with four other parents, someone else had joined the party.  It was a louse.

"It's one of the seven species of Israel," joked the teacher, blushing.  Lice are a problem in Israel, where a no-nit policy hasn't yet been adopted by the schools.  Though the lice problem is not unique to Israel, and in the US alone there are 6 to 12 million cases every year.  The best the teacher here can do is send notes home to the parents of children with long-standing infestations.  It doesn't end after preschool either.  In elementary school, with girls especially, your child is bound to get them at least once a year but it gets worse as they get older and share scrunchies, cuddle together in group hugs and lay side-by-side on the grass to watch the clouds go by.

Lice are such a part of Israeli culture that they have been featured in an art exhibit.  I don't need to pay to see that, because I get my own show every winter on Teneya's head.  Although now that I am prepared and know what to keep an eye out for, it's a very brief exhibit.  Here are a few things I've learned over the years...

By Hanukah the lice reach their peak season; check your child's head for lice often from the beginning of December because they multiply quickly.  If you can catch them early on, it's a lot less work to get rid of them.  The kids are cooped up inside of school six days a week and when one gets it badly, the whole class does.  The frequency of bathing drops slightly at this time of year because it's just so cold and that also aids in the spread of these nasty little pests.  Israelis don't seem to understand that houses need insulation, not just missile protection, so the walls are made of concrete...and more concrete.  If it's hard to heat your house, and if your bathrooms have windows that won't close all the way, then it's very difficult to convince your kids to get wet more often.

No amount of chemicals will help you.  This will kill the already-hatched lice but you'll still have to comb out the eggs for a week or two.  Then your child brings it home from school again.  Do you really want to poison your kid's head every couple of weeks?

There is a comb called (I'm not joking) Assy2000.  It has a rounded grip area and long, spiraled teeth.  It's the best lice comb ever.  Spend the 50 shekels each year to buy a new one; the teeth get stretched out after that long and it looses effectiveness.  Comb once a week when you don't have lice and after every bath when you do.  You heard me: comb your child's hair once a week...for the rest of the school year.  Welcome to Israel.

I was told that essential oils in your conditioner can help ward off lice.  Apparently they are especially annoyed by peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree oils.  If you have essential oils at home, just add a few drops to your children's conditioner bottle.  No need to buy a special brand, and it does seem to help.

Do you have any great tips for getting rid of lice or keeping them away?  Please share below in the comment box.  Thanks!