I had my three children because my parents wanted grandchildren.
The hints, which developed into a massive pseudo-covert pressure campaign, continued until I had children that met their requirements. Today, 60 years later, knowing what my parents went through before I was born, I tend to accept it with understanding and even forgiveness.
One way or the other, I gave them what they wanted.
When I met Jania, she was in the midst of a divorce and already had two children, aged 2 and 7. When we got married, I naively thought I’d fulfilled my parents’ demands and expectations — after all, I had brought them two grandchildren ready-made! At this stage, I realized that the matter was a bit more complicated and complex than that: my parents, I discovered, wanted grandchildren who were their own flesh and blood.
In other words: from my seed.
So Jania had her IUD removed, and I knew her in the biblical sense and got her with child, so that soon we had a daughter together, and then a set of twins, a son and daughter, and I felt I had fulfilled my obligation to my parents and society as a whole.
Ever since, Jania and I have had sex only for pleasure.
Or to make up after a quarrel.
Back then, I saw no problem in the fact that I had begotten children to please my parents. It was obvious to me even then, as it is today, that children are merely a means to fill the unmet needs and voids of those who beget them, and that therefore the only question that never gets answered, and must be answered, is: What voids and needs do those children come to fill?
That and nothing more.
It goes without saying that the needs of the children themselves don’t matter, nor do they figure in the considerations.
Because that’s how it is when you don’t count.
I recently heard about a young man in his 20s who took his parents to court for having brought him into the world without asking his opinion on the matter, simply because they wished to do it, and without giving any thought to the significant implications that their decision would have for him — as everyone does, after all.
The first thought that went through my mind when I read this news item was: “He’s absolutely right.” Still, the fact that his claim is correct has no significance, legal or otherwise. I suppose it’s just as obvious to the plaintiff as it is to me that the sole purpose of bringing such a lawsuit is to make a statement. Incidentally, this is an entirely civil suit, since bringing children into the world is not yet considered a criminal act.
But maybe it should be.
In the 1990s, the well-known phenomenon of DINKS — “double income, no kids” — surfaced in the United States, a country well known as a source of global trends. These are couples who decided that they have no desire or need to have children, and are content with what life has to offer without forcing their parenting on children — or, alternatively, forcing those children’s presence upon the parents.
That sounds just fine to me.
Because if Jania and I were a young couple today, with my awareness of the state of the world and where it is heading, I would not have children. I look with heartbreak and sorrow at the world where my grandchildren are growing up, and I grieve for them. I am happy that their parents were privileged to grow up in a different world — one that was simpler.
I see children growing up in a world mad with an excess of information, most of which is completely superfluous despite the impression that we cannot do without it, a world of tough competition in which a child is put under pressure to excel in their studies and in five after-school activities. And if he is not signed up for five after-school activities because his parents cannot afford them, it seems that his chances of success in the world are diminished, and I see children whose childhoods have been stolen, not out of evil or malice, but because of what their parents understand to be what is good for the children, even if they sometimes confuse that with what is good for them, and I think: Jesus, am I ever lucky that I don’t have to have children now.
But I have already produced three, and I bear the responsibility.
On September 9, 2001, two days before the Twin Towers came down, my daughter Nina, then a soldier in basic training, was in a terrible car accident as she was going on leave. She suffered a head injury and her life became hell on earth. I won’t describe what our life has been like since then. Eleven years later, during a time of severe crisis in the midst of all this hell, she lashed out at me, saying: “All the suffering I’m going through is your fault! You and Eema! It’s all because of you that I was born!”
I thought of telling her that it was because of her grandparents. After all, they were the ones who had wanted grandchildren, and that was where the whole mess began. But somehow that didn’t sound convincing to me, so I kept quiet.
When you are facing the pain of someone whom you brought into the world and cannot help — it is only then that you understand the full responsibility that you took upon yourself in bringing that person into the world. Forget about your own pain as one who stands helpless before him — after all, we were egotistical enough when we had him, no? Think about his pain. Like it or not, you are responsible for it.
So, in brief: Some people want children in order to give their lives meaning. Some people have children because their parents want grandchildren. Some people want to keep the Jewish nation alive for eternity. Others think it is appropriate, and their job, to provide cannon fodder for the army, and so the sperm and egg find themselves meeting and fertilizing one another, and then turning into a living creature that, one day, is torn arbitrarily from its safe, warm paradise in the womb and thrown into the big wide world, as if to say: You’re on your own!
And my wife, Jania, says: “What do you want? It’s the way of the world! That’s what happens with all living things!”
She only forgets that the other living creatures do not have a developed prefrontal cortex, as we humans do — a prefrontal cortex that directs a good deal of what we do, for better or worse. This prefrontal cortex is also subject to various kinds of manipulation and influence, such as the following: Go have children! It’s good for them, and it’s good for you!
Because the world is built like a giant Ponzi scheme — the kind where the ones at the top rely on the new participants at the bottom to bring in money for the National Insurance Institute and the pension funds and the construction industries and everything that is termed “growth,” and if, Heaven forbid, you stop having children, everything will come crashing down on your heads, and you will find that you were sitting on a Madoff-style fund, and Madoff, in this case, is your children.
When I was born, there were two and a half billion people on the planet, of whom two million lived here in Israel. Today there are more than seven and a half billion people on the planet, of whom eight million live in Israel. The population growth over the past hundred years is not linear, but exponential. Forget about environmentally-friendly fuel, cows that belch methane, recycling packaging and whatnot. Human population growth is going to destroy the planet. It is just a question of time.
And since I am talking about birth, here is the story of my own birth, as I heard it from my parents, and its continuation, as it is etched in my memory:
My parents married either at the start of World War II or just before. When the Germans invaded Romania, my mother was pregnant and decided to terminate the pregnancy, saying that she would not bring a child into such a world. By the end of the war, she’d had five more abortions because my father was a horny guy. Even though he spent part of the war in a labor camp in Romania, he held an important position as an engineer and got to go on leave from time to time.
It goes without saying that birth control was not available then.
Time passed slowly and the war ended. But my mother’s health, which had never been especially good, worsened at the same time. When she wanted to become pregnant, various physicians told her that she must not give birth because her body would not be able to withstand it.
My mother and father immigrated to Israel in 1949 after fleeing Romania clandestinely. Here in Israel, my mother met a medical professor, the director of a department, who took her under his wing and told her that she would indeed give birth, no matter what.
My mother recalls him telling her: “You will become pregnant. I will watch over you during the pregnancy and you will give birth at an auspicious time, and everything will be alright.”
And so it was. My mother became pregnant, the professor watched over her during the pregnancy, and in the end, she had me.
When I was about five years of age, the age when I began to understand that I had all kinds of future obligations to my parents, my father began to take me, on the Jewish New Year and the Passover festival, the holidays when it is customary in Israel to give gifts, to a certain address in Tel Aviv. Each time, he would give me a box containing two bottles of wine for the holiday and say: “Go up to such-and-such a floor, knock on the door, and hand the professor who opens it the carton, and tell him that it’s from the Ben-Amars.”
And so I did.
The man who opened the door to me always took the box that I held out to him, and I saw in his eyes that he had no idea who I was or why I was handing him a box containing bottles of wine, but my father was happy, so we kept on doing it until, years later, the professor of medicine went the way of all flesh.
Many years have gone by since then. The professor is long dead, as I said, and I do not remember his name. But I have a small dream in my heart — that I find his name, and then I find his grave, and twice a year, on the Jewish New Year and on Passover, I visit his grave and spit on his tombstone.
Why the hell did he have to stick his nose where it didn’t belong?