One of the projects I’ve been working on since I arrived was designing a new study with my host, Anat. We have finally reached the pilot data collection stage and I have been testing babies for a few weeks. For the most part, this means visiting families in their homes, although I did go to one gan as well. The unique thing about this study is that it involves a pre- and post-nap test, so there is some down time where, I explain to the parent of the participant, I will wait in a cafe or sit quietly in the corner and work on my laptop, until the baby wakes up.

Here’s the thing: something amazing happens here that just does not happen in the US which, I assume, is a function of being in a culture in which hospitality is so important. Parents of the infants participating in the study have welcomed me into their homes above and beyond anything I have ever experienced in previous home-based research. My first home visit was in Ramat Yishai, about 20 mins. outside of Haifa, at the home of a graduate student at the University who is mom to twin girls.  While the girls napped, she served me and my research assistant lunch of couscous and stew that her mother-in-law had just made. I figured this was because we were acquaintances and I knew her slightly from the University.

At the beginning of this week, I went to Modi’in, about 1.5 hrs. by train from Haifa to test 2 babies in a gan, which a faculty member in my dept. here had arranged. One baby was her son & she had also recruited another baby for us, so it would be worth the big trip. While we were there, Maya whipped up a multi-course lunch for us to eat while the babies were sleeping. We stood in her kitchen talking while she made chicken in preserved lemon & olives, soup with meatballs, and more. Of course she would not let me help. Her husband was working at home that day and he came out and we chatted for over an hour. They both interrupted their work day on my behalf.

Yesterday, we tested 2 more babies in the Kababir neighborhood of Haifa. These families had been referred to my RA from a friend of hers who lives in the neighborhood. While we were waiting for one of the babies to wake up, we “stopped by” to say hi to the friend. She served us tea, Turkish coffee & cake that she made, and a huge Israeli breakfast, including home made za’atar and olives. Then she gave us a tour of her garden, where she grows her own fruit (including the olives) and shared kumquats fresh from her tree. She entertained us the entire 2.5 hrs. we were waiting for the baby to wake up and wasn’t even participating in the study! Even at a home where we went last week, where the mom was virtually a stranger, she still served us tea & cookies.

In the US, it is customary for parents to ask immediately after hearing about the study, what’s in it for them if they participate.