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Mar 11, 2024

Israeli Midwives Providing Invaluable Support in the Wake of the 10/7 Attacks

Imagine being pregnant and your partner is called to serve in Gaza, or worse, they are wounded or fall in battle. This is the heartbreaking reality for many Israeli women living through the Israel-Hamas War. Through the By Your Side program, funded in part by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Israel Emergency Fund, these pregnant women are receiving care and guidance free of charge from midwives throughout the country. “The whole country felt like they needed to do something, and so did I," said Ela Weiss, an independent midwife who helped build the volunteer system.

Founded by the Israeli Midwives Association (IMA) immediately following October 7, By Your Side opened a call center and created a Facebook page called A Word From the Midwife, which has already grown to include more than 10,000 members. As the war intensified, “we saw its amazing power: it really does save lives,” said IMA Chairwoman Yifat Hadar Rubanenko, referring to their social media presence. “When there are missiles outside, you don’t know if you should go to the hospital,” should an issue arise. “This way, you have a midwife to consult with in the group who you can ask anonymously.” While the services don’t replace those of the women’s own doctors, they can provide some answers and a sense of calm, which can reduce unnecessary trips to the emergency room.

In addition to collaborating with a diaper company, which helped launch an ad campaign and facilitate 1,000 phone calls and 250 home visits, By Your Side joined forces with Israel’s Defense Ministry and the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization to provide two midwives who are available around the clock to pregnant women widowed during the war and the pregnant partners of wounded soldiers. They meet frequently, accompany the women through their delivery and offer postpartum visits. Beyond missing their partners, many of the pregnant women from the north and south of Israel have been evacuated and have thus lost their homes, extended communities, regular hospitals and doctors' offices and entire routine. “We want to roll out the red carpet for these women,” said Rubanenko. “We want to make it so that when they are in the delivery room, they won’t have another traumatic experience. Either way, these women are experiencing trauma, grief, loss — and it all blends together.”

Like the women in their care, the midwives are coping with Israel’s wartime reality. Their own reactions, plus the emotional tax of providing care and holding space for so many, can be challenging. Through the program, the midwives are able to attend weekly support meetings, along with lectures about trauma and loss from other midwives who specialize in that area. Despite the gravity their work has taken on, it acts as a balm in a time of chaos. “The delivery room has been a haven of sanity during the war,” said Sari Nahir Biderman, a midwife and the delivery room supervisor at Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya. “It’s been saving us. It helps us to help others.”

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