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Israelis protest anti-gay surrogacy law

July 22, 2018

Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to protest a law that denies men access to surrogate mothers. Demonstrators were especially angry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had once promised his support.

Israeli protesters wave rainbow flags and block a road in Beersheba.
Image: Reuters/C. Kern

Israelis held a one-day strike Sunday and protested a law that denies gay couples access to surrogacy.

Demonstrators blocked a major highway for about 20 minutes in Tel Aviv's commercial district. Protesters also obstructed streets in central Jerusalem, where at least two people were arrested, according to police.

Israeli media showed dozens of protesters at various locations across the country, including some who were shouting "shame" and waving rainbow flags.

Rent-a-womb - Surrogate Mothers

A larger protest was expected Sunday evening in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square.

Limited bill passed

"It is a symbolic measure, but one that shows real support," said Julien Bahloul, spokesman for the Association of Gay Fathers in Israel.

Protesters were especially angry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had promised them his support but ultimately backed a bill that excluded men.

Hundreds protested near Netanyahu's Jerusalem residence.

Eyal Lurie Pardes, a protester draped in a rainbow flag, chanted: "We will not remain silent!"

"Look me in the eyes and tell me I don't deserve to be a father!" he said.

On Wednesday the Israeli parliament approved a surrogacy bill that was limited to single women or those who are unable to have children, but didn't extend that right to men, single or gay.

Previously, surrogacy was only available to heterosexual married couples.

Read more: Cambodia charges surrogate mothers with trafficking

Religious conservatives oppose gay rights

About 200 companies said they would allow their employees to skip work to join the demonstrations without counting it as a vacation day.

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Sunday is a semiofficial holiday — Tisha B'av — in Israel as Jews commemorate the destruction of two biblical-era temples.

Some companies have pledged to contribute up to $15,000 (€12,800) to help gay couples who are forced to travel abroad to seek a surrogate.

Bahloul said gay couples seeking a surrogate mother abroad are forced to pay more than $100,000, or more than twice the amount it would cost at home.

Israel has been a trailblazer on gay rights, but same-sex relationships remain a taboo among the country's religious conservatives — and they are the ones propping up Netanyahu's right-wing government.

Read more: Australian nurse jailed over surrogacy clinic

Netanyahu's government depends on the support of ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties such as the Shas and United Torah Judaism, both of which oppose same-sex parenting.

The protest has grown into a broader call for equality, following other recent legislation that appeared to target Israeli liberalism.

Read more: India bans surrogacy for foreigners

An Israeli protester in Beersheba is draped in a rainbow flag with a Star of David on it.
Israelis protested across the country, including in BeershebaImage: Reuters/C. Kern

bik/tj (AP, AFP)

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