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Protecting Israel's Expectant Mothers During Wartime

Protected nursery at Barzilai Medical Center Babies in the protected nursery at Fellowship-supported Barzilai Medical Center (photo: Oren Nahshon)

Anat was delivering a baby in Barzilai Medical Center’s Maternity Ward, like she has done thousands of times before. But this was no ordinary birth. Israel was in the middle of the 2014 war with Hamas. As terrorist rockets threatened Israeli citizens, Israel’s army worked to destroy the massive subterranean tunnel infrastructure Hamas had constructed in order to attack Israeli towns.

“’Push!’ I screamed as the baby’s head was crowning,” Anat recalled as we sat in her office in Barzilai Medical Center, “and, suddenly, we heard the deafening wail of a siren.”

I stared at Anat in disbelief as she continued, saying, “I looked her straight in her eyes and said with certainty, ‘I am not leaving you!’” A few seconds later, as Anat helped guide a new life into the world, a loud explosion erupted. They felt the building shake.

A rocket had landed on hospital grounds, roughly 25 yards from where Anat was standing with a newborn baby boy wrapped in her arms. “We just started crying together. And as I held the baby, I began to sing, ‘Am Yisrael Chai – the Nation of Israeli Lives.’”

Anat knew she had just witnessed a miracle. But she also knows that God does not desire us to rely on miracles alone. As head midwife of the maternity department, she had the responsibility to ensure that her patients and staff would have proper, fortified shelter. Unfortunately, at that time, the maternity wing was not fortified, and the closest area that had protection was the adjacent building’s IVF Unit.

Professor Eyal Entebbe, who heads Barzilai Medical Center’s OBGYN Department, explained the constant threat they face at the hospital. “This region of the country is totally unpredictable. Rockets and missiles can rain down on this city at any time and with only a moment’s notice.”

Professor Entebbe has worked for the hospital during two wars with Gaza and experienced years of rocket fire in between these two major conflicts. “It’s a real problem for the maternity wing staff. Everyone is trained to run to a bomb shelter when they hear a siren, whereas our staff cannot.”

Hamas fired over 4,500 rockets and missiles on Israel during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Nearly every Israeli city was hit, but cities closer to Gaza had hundreds of rockets fired at them throughout the war, including Ashkelon, where Barzilai Medical Center is located.

“Our maternity wing had no fortification,” Anat recalled. “If a rocket were to strike our ward, God forbid, there would be nowhere for us to run or to protect the mothers and newborn babies.” The grave situation at Barzilai Hospital prompted The Fellowship to take action, and our ministry feels extremely blessed to have had the privilege of funding the construction of three fortified delivery rooms at Barzilai’s Maternity Ward.

Anat was very emotional when she spoke about the ongoing wars, the threat of renewed rocket fire, and The Fellowship’s outstanding support for the Jewish people and for Barzilai Medical Center in particular.

“Our staff of midwives are no strangers to war. Nearly everyone in our ward either had a son or husband on the front line. And while our loved ones served the country in battle, we too served our country in the maternity wing,” Anat said.

“Thanks to The Fellowship, our maternity wing is now secured and fortified, so we can do our job in a protected environment providing the best possible care for our patients,” Anat said. “God Bless The Fellowship for the generous support they provide for the Jewish people and for strengthening Israel as it faces severe threats and challenges.”

Learn how your year-end gift can make a lifesaving difference to expectant mothers and other vulnerable populations in Israel and around the world

Tags: Crisis and Need

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