Five Things to Think About When You Send Your Child to Israel and the Woman Who’d Like to Make it Easier

She gets it. Nurse Practioner, Dr. Eliana Aaron, gets it. Actually, someone has to because diaspora-based parents are concerned about their children in Israel. Who wouldn’t be? Many of us, have received anxious phone calls from friend’s overseas thinking about yanking their child away from their gap year in Israel. ”Do you think things will settle down politically?”  “Moshe’s stomach is a wreck and the gastroenterologist he was referred to hasn’t been helpful.” “Miriam’s anxious, she could use a counseling session or two. Can you recommend someone good?” “My child has been hospitalized in Jerusalem with pneumonia, no heating in her dorm!! We’re getting on the next plane but can you be there for him until we arrive?”

The above scenarios are all too familiar. We all know people in your position. You’ve sent your eighteen-year-old to seminary, yeshiva, university studies, or to a volunteer program. You’re thousands of miles away but you raised him to be idealistic, to grow in his Torah, to become his own person, to embrace Zionism, even to pack his own suitcase.  You’ve done your homework, supplied Moshe with lists of friends and relatives six times removed in some backwater of Bnei Barak and filled out more emergency forms than refugees pouring into Europe. You’ve shopped until you wish your own child had dropped and you’ve stuffed enough American protein bars into that zippered compartment for Israeli Custom officials to raise eyebrows. The last items on your check list:  Investing in a decent phone plan and figuring out how to work skype in case you panic that you can’t remember what your precious Moshe or Chaya looks like after a mere month away from home. What’s there not to relax about? Your child is spending the year in the Holy Land.

Yet, worries naturally abound, especially as the media are filled with images of rock throwing, stabbings and shootings. Your child, in turn, reports back about sirens and stomach pains and lockdowns; where he’s expected to remain on campus until further notice. (This is your cue to send favorite American goodies.) Back at the diaspora ranch, you’ve bitten your nails to the extent that no manicure can resurrect them for another three months. Your husband shrugs and says: “It’ll be fine, what’s for lunch?” You give your husband ‘the look’ and he wisely grabs the phone to call Israel, to speak to your child.

As parents, you put up a unified front, exert true leadership by utilizing calm and reassuring voices as you remind your child of all the safety measures and health precautions he promised to adhere to before he left home. During your conversation, you repeat that you don’t care if all his mates are allowed to ride the buses, if he chooses to do so, he’ll be cut out of the will for good. Better yet, he won’t come on the next family ski trip. Yeah, that will do it.

As if political worries aren’t enough, what if your child, prone to mild allergies back at home, has suddenly bought out all the American Kleenex supply at the local makolet? Who do you turn to? What about gastric disorders – is this a stomach ache, an appendicitis attack or Montezuma’s revenge? (Or would that be Moses’s revenge in this part of the world?) What about a child with diabetic concerns, kidney issues, asthma and the propensity to hyperventilate under stress (such as reporting back to parents every hour regarding the ‘matzav’.) How do you find a balance between enabling your child to experience the freedom to explore his new habitat, ensuring he receives sound medical advice, while maintaining your own ability to exhale every once in a while?

Let’s face it.  Your child is not the only one feeling stress.  Last Monday, after the most recent spate of stabbings, you found a few too many hairs in your shower and those were the ones you didn’t deliberately pull out. After all, Moshe called yesterday complaining of a terrible earache and it may or may not be related to the pain in his right molar he complained about the day before that.  Whatcha gonna do?

This is where Dr. Elianna Aaron’s, a nurse practitioner, with a vision that is borne of being both a professional and a mother, knowing how to judge what is in the best interest of your child, can help both of you navigate medical challenges in Israel. Dr. Eliana Aaron, the director of EMA Care, with a Doctor of Nursing Practice from Yale University, has 20 years of experience in nursing, health advocacy and health education. In light of recent events, numerous parents living abroad consult with her over the phone for guidance. Dr. Aaron, realizing she can play an important role as your child’s health liason, has developed through her company, EMA Care, service packages to suit your family’s needs. EMA Care is not a health insurance substitute but rather a peace-of-mind assurance program for parents abroad, seeking a good night’s sleep.

Here are Dr. Aaron’s top tips for protecting your zzz’s while your child learns in Israel:

  1. Don’t project your fear on to your child: You don’t need to tell your child to check his smart phone every few minutes. After all, you’re doing it for him.
  2. Don’t become obsessed with the news: Stay informed without being overwhelmed.
  3. Stop calling your kids all the time: Once every couple of days is fine. Let them enjoy their gap year. Don’t hover, you probably had your gap year, let your child enjoy his.
  4. Take care of yourself, your family, and encourage your overseas child: To eat properly, sleep well and to have fun. Return to normalcy when circumstances permit.
  5. Monitor your child (and yourself) for signs of overwhelming stress: These include moodiness, obsessive thought patterns, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, difficulty sleeping, teeth grinding and driving your spouse crazy.

Parents, if you see these symptoms or feel your child needs help, EMA Care assists in providing assessments on the ground and (if needed) referrals to outstanding English speaking professionals who specialize in stress. Dr. Aaron’s also liasons with top medical professionals to accommodate your child’s health needs. She will interface with health practitioners, hold your child’s hand, engage with the treating physician and even make the call to perhaps choose another doctor. She will also translate and recap for you what the doctors are saying.

What about my child’s health coverage through the insurance company that I paid for?  True, while these companies help pay for services, they seldom provide advocacy, education, translation nor parental communications. EMA care, steps in, circumventing much of the stress and anxiety, allowing parents to maintain relative peace of mind while living abroad. EMA Care addresses what insurance providers cannot:

  • When should a student seek medical attention?
  • What are the best medications/doctors for my child?
  • How can a student with weak Hebrew ensure they are receiving the finest medical care?
  • How can parents overseas be satisfied that their child is being properly taken care of?
  • Who can educate the student to prevent complications/ recurrence?
  • Who can reassure parents, students, and administration that the student is being properly cared for?

EMA CARE is led by Dr. Eliana Aaron, an American nurse practitioner and an Israeli registered nurse with years of experience helping expats, students, and foreign visitors navigate the Israeli medical care system. EMA Care employs top quality English-speaking health advocates and professionals to ensure the best care for your child and affording you peace of mind in the Diaspora. In times of crisis, it’s good to know you there’s a service here to help the diaspora folk. EMA Care is exactly what the doctor ordered. Now aren’t you glad such a concept exists?

If you’d like to get in touch with EMA Care:

About the Author
Tzippi Sha-ked grew up in California and moved with her husband and children to Israel in 2004. Tzippi has a background in television and is one of the authors of The Jews of South Africa: What Future? She has an MA in Leadership and Administration and is currently completing two more in Creative Writing and Marriage and Family Counseling. When she's not working on a new project, Tzippi is busy building bridges between Jews of all backgrounds and people of other faiths.
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