Thu Aug 23, 2012 - 1:33 pm EST
A tale of two mangers: how I was adopted after being abandoned on the streets of Bethlehem
Editor’s note: Susan lives in Kansas City and is the editor of the pro-life blog at Bound4Life.com. In addition to her pro-life work, she works with the International House of Prayer with intercessory research for its justice initiatives. Her heart is to see the church become a greater picture family of God through adoption, both natural and spiritual.
August 23, 2012 (Bound4Life.com) - Five hundred yards from where Jesus was born in Bethlehem sits the Holy Family Hospital. It was known as a rescuer of orphans who, by all accounts, should have been killed if their parents had listened to their culture.
This was where my life began.
Many are fascinated by the fact I was born in Bethlehem. They ask, predictably, “was it in a manger?” A couple years ago, I found out the answer was yes. They called the area where the babies were kept “the crèche,” or manger. Today, it’s a full maternity hospital, but when I was born, the crèche was a place for abandoned children.
Initially, I had some brief email correspondence with Sister Sophie, the nun in charge who told me I was “placed in the crèche.” Otherwise, I was met with stunning replies from government offices in Jordan, where my adoption was processed. One wrote an official letter, saying if my birth were discovered, even now, “great harm” would come to my mother. The tone was so matter of fact, that I believed it. Until last year that’s all I really knew.
Then my curiosity hit a peak and I wrote to the orphanage again. One of the workers in the orphanage wrote:
[W]e still cannot help in any way. Of course, it is not because we don’t want to do so, but because we have nothing to share with you. Unfortunately, the only fact about your background is that you been collected from the street on [my alleged birth date] and in such cases there will be no way to know anything after these years. We know for sure that this is a very hard thing to deal with since this is our daily life whether for people facing the same situation that you are facing, and also for new tiny babies who have been collected from here and there from all the cities of the West Bank and most likely they don’t have the chance to be adopted like what happened with you since years ago for adoption is not allowed any more according to the Palestinian Authority laws.
I got this email at 7:57, crying in shock before teaching an 8 a.m. class. That was the first time I had ever known I might not have been given up for adoption but left in the street. Her second email said:
Between the years 1948 and 1967 Bethlehem area and the whole West Bank was administrated by Jordan, 1967 after the war of June Israeli occupied the whole area till the year 1993, afterward the Oslo agreement and the P.A (Palestinian Authority) take over.
What I am trying to say here is; even if you, we or any one tried to find a social file or history of a person who had benefited by the social services back then… nothing can be found especially when it comes to a very sensitive issue like having a baby out of marriage, if this was the case, the woman must by killed by a member of her family to revenge for the honor of the family.
Realizing I probably came from a family line that didn’t have much honor - except maybe that someone thought enough to put me in the street, whether literally or figuratively - I went to the head of the court system there, Father Emil, who didn’t offer me much more. In fact, he even dispelled the words in my adoption papers that said my birth mother gave me up “freely.” It seemed that was likely a lie. He said:
As for the information in the Decree, we usually say that a document was signed by the mother, because, the foreign embassies would not allow adoptions, emigration papers unless we add that, in order to avoid responsibilities
Fortunately for me, whether someone forged papers or found me in the street, I was adopted at six months by a 53-year-old single American woman who worked for the U.S. Foreign Service, possibly the CIA for some of her career. My adoption papers declare my mother (the woman who adopted me is my mother, by the way), to be 10 years younger than she was. The Catholic Church had to issue her, a Protestant, a dispensation to adopt a baby born in Israel through a Catholic court in Jordan. The only mention of a father said, “the name and whereabouts… are completely unknown.”
My mom and I stayed in Jerusalem until I was five. My earliest memory was her pushing me down in front of our window because of gunfire on the streets of the Old City. I rode camels and went to Catholic school. I learned French, Arabic, and English at age 4, in Kindergarten (I flunked Arabic, with a 65). Perhaps my 95 in English was prophetic of the two college degrees in English I would get, along with a 10-year career as a teacher of a language that was never supposed to be my own, had I been raised in “my culture.”
I came here with a “green card” because my mom didn’t understand the process to make me a citizen. Thus, I grew up a Palestinian girl, from Israel, in the United States.
After my mom died in 1995, I was on my own, and I wanted a passport. The U.S. couldn’t give me one because I was never naturalized. Israel said I did not have an Israeli identification number. Jordan said I was born in Israel so they couldn’t help. The U.S. issued me a Travel Document, declaring me “stateless.”
After 9/11, being a Palestinian made me an object of a whole lot of prejudice. I grew afraid to let anyone know that my Americanized name and accent were not my culture. In 2003, I became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Then last year I learned the new chapter, some of the details of which I may never know, which changes my framework of history: but it doesn’t change the reality that I know Jesus and was given that opportunity probably because I was collected from a street in war torn Palestine.
When I hear terms like “rescuing orphans,” that’s more than a pro-life theory. I try to imagine what might have been had I lived there. But I’d have been dead. That’s clear based on the law and culture. Had I lived and stayed there, it is certainly doubtful I would have been raised Christian.
I was served justice because even without a family, even if I never know the full story, I have Jesus.
You ask me why adoption matters? You ask me why a woman shouldn’t be allowed to kill a baby? My mother was supposed to be killed for being pregnant. I’m sure grateful she didn’t opt for a secret abortion.
The day I was conceived He knew me. He knew me in the womb before my birth mother knew she had a crisis. He saved my life and picked me from a crèche of abandoned babies in an orphanage to bring me to the States and call me to Him. He gave my mom courage to risk her life (I think I got my warrior gene from that woman). And he gave a band of nuns and priests the money, prayers, and ability to operate a home for orphans in a war-torn culture without its own home. In the heart of Bethlehem that manger existed for other babies that would have been killed, just as Herod went after Jesus.
Abortion. Adoption. Orphans. Nations. It’s not a textbook; it’s personal. It’s how God shaped my life. And every prayer, every dollar, every work of justice in the name of Jesus, matters. True justice for me was not being raised in my culture. It wasn’t having two parents and a dog. True justice was being brought to Jesus. Anything I missed that our culture says I “should” have is nothing compared to “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
For me, a manger was my path to justice twice.
Reprinted with permission from Bound4Life.com