J’Accuse! Manifesto

I am excited and proud to present this document to all of you.  This document outlines the principles that are the basis of my belief in the power of family and its right to self-continuity.  To this effect, I wish to sketch out the path for each and every family to achieve full recognition founded upon legal, economic, and social rights from the state.  This document, among other things, details the accomplishments of New Family, the organization I founded in 1998 to advance every person’s rights to start a family by themselves in their own manner and according to their own beliefs.

In the last two decades, the family unit has experienced its ups and downs that cannot be ignored–indeed they are impossible to ignore.  The classical family model with a man, a woman and children already does not exist in every Israeli household.  Many types of families have taken its place, each representing the reality of “the new family” in their family members’ configuration, character, and composition.

One family might be a father with two children.  Another two mothers with one child.  Or the type with a grandmother and grandfather, their daughter, and her three children.  Yet another family immediately garners attention because the father seems to be Israeli, but the mother, well, there’s no proof that she is.

While much of Israeli society has successfully recognized that the new social reality happening here and demonstrated acceptance and understanding towards these new families, the state has been dragging its feet as usual.  As of when these lines were written, the legislature continued to choose to ignore new families and thus continues to discriminate against them. 

Through this document, I seek to ground my claim that the only way to grant full equality to each and every family is through the state’s express acknowledgment of the existence of new families in law.  Only by changing perception and law can we understand the new nature of the concept of “family” and lead the state to respect an individual’s rights to freedom of choice and thereby advance the dignity of the state in its citizens’ eyes.

As a social organization for human rights, New Family affirms that every person has the right to create a family.  My goal is to influence public discourse on family issues, and, in this manner, to change the relationship between society and the state and turn these revolutionary families into valued parts of society.  New Family works in the legal field and in the judiciary for the practical implementation of these plans in accordance with Halacha (Jewish law).

Our organization presents legal solutions to every person in Israel according to the law from nuclear and extended families, to couples and parents, to financial and civil union agreements, to last wills and testaments–the whole life cycle.

This document is dedicated to my beloved family and to the memory of my mother, Batia Lemel, who left this world before Shavuot, and left a tremendous hole behind her.  My mother was the living spirit and the everlasting source upon which my activities have been built.  She will be treasured in my heart forever.



To the Prime Minister, Ministers of the Government, and Members of the Knesset,

I submit this document as the basis to create awareness in Israeli civil society.  This society, which has been trampled by the rule of the narrow-minded, the degenerate, the alienating, and the downright evil, still yearns to start families in order to continue on for the benefit of generations, demanding to exercise direct citizenship—life’s wish.

The sound of this complaint is a call to an accusation against the state of Israel, its leaders, and its laws, who do not allow every citizen and resident of Israel to raise a family by themselves with full and equal rights.  In Israel, only persons with a clear and defined religious identity are allowed to get married to one another (e.g. Jews to Jews, Muslims to Muslims, Druze to Druze, and Christians to Christians).  This situation prevents hundreds of thousands of human beings in Israel by law from marrying someone who is not of their religion, or to someone of their same gender, or anyone who would like a civil marriage (excepting a negligible number of couples who are both without religion and can establish their relationship under the law of civil unions).  Religious institutions in Israel—monopolizing the control over family life—are the decadent remnants of a bygone historical order, and critically damage everyone’s human right to family.  This right must be given to everyone regardless of race, creed, gender, nationality, and sexual orientation.

The time has come to warn an Israeli public demanding its freedom of choice in marriage and family life to say: “Don’t get used to it!  Don’t adapt!  Rebel against this reality!”

The Indictment

J’accuse!   You, Prime Minister, Ministers of the Government, and Members of the Knesset that your silence and lack of action have kept civil marriage from Israel.

J’accuse!  You, who harm the autonomy and decision-making of Israeli citizens who wish to marry a partner of a different religion, making the only available option for theman imposed conversion.

J’accuse!  You, who cooperate in the violation of the human rights of nearly 300,000 women and men for whom there is no way to marry in Israel, who did not think it was your duty to help them and did not find a suitable solution for them in civil society.

J’accuse!  You, who enact laws based on religious infrastructure that are inappropriate to the state of Israel as a democratic country: the Equal Rights of Women Act, the Adoption Act, the Surrogacy Act, and more.

J’accuse!  You, who gave an unproductive monopoly to the institution of the Rabbinate, which arranges marriages in Israel as it pleases and prevents reforms and liberal solutions for those that fall between the cracks.

J’accuse!  You, who in your failure to separate Religion and State have violated the ethical and moral status of the Jewish religion and the recognition of the rights of converts, others, and foreigners to start a family.  The values of liberty and family, according to religious institutions’ interpretations, have turned into a public denial of the right of freedom of choice to family within Israel.  The solution to this deprivation of liberty for those who do not meet religious standards or do not want to be in this religious system can be found only in the separation of Religion and State, by arranging for civil unions, and by granting common-law partners equal rights.

J’accuse!  You, who gave monopolies only to certain religious communities’ religious institutions without finding any solution for members of other religions.

J’accuse!  You, who cooperate in the violation of the rights of those who crossed the borders of Israel to get married out of necessity by registering them—upon their return—in the official population registry of the State of Israel that describes the personal status of married couples.

J’accuse!  You, who take a hand in the human rights violations of families which have one partner who is a citizen of Israel and one who is not by separating parents from children and partners from one another.  I blame you for not allowing them to live a fair life together in Israel.

J’accuse!  You, who have not provided an equal, legal status to same-sex couples.

And finally, j’accuse you, who in your failures here, damage the rights and freedoms of women in Israel.  This injury, to half of the country’s population, puts Israeli society’s chance at equality at risk.

 Irit Rosenblum, Attorney

“Religious institutions in Israel—monopolizing the control over family life—are the decadent remnants of a bygone historical order.”

“A person becomes a family at the moment when one becomes many.”


Equality in Love and Freedom of Choice

For all the years of human history, the concept of “love” and all of its associated feelings have symbolized the constant yearning of every human being for belonging, for closeness, and for the security of living together.  Love is for us, for each and every one of us, and does not depend upon the approval of any authority apart from the two who share that love between themselves.

The right to choose our love is a fundamental right that cannot be tampered with.  The freedom of couples to family and to continuity overcomes any obligation and any social or legal approval.  Whether for couples or parents, a person becomes a family at the moment when one becomes many.  The love of a person for her or his family—for a partner or a child—is moral and ethical, completely separate from her or his obligations as a citizen to her or his country.

Despite this, in many countries around the world and in Israel in particular, the state and government institutions have taken away this power and determined the conditions according to which they will give a couple license and validity to start a family and to continue itself.


How was This Allowed to Happen?

Why did we give up and give over our private and intimate lives to the state?  How can it be that the state examines our decisions in partners and in family with its judging eye, validating and denying them as it pleases?  How can it be that we do not have full autonomy over our own private lives?   

In Israel, it is within the power of the state to prevent a person from marrying another.  In Israel, it is within the power of the state to prevent a person from starting a family.  In Israel, the state can intervene in the emotional decisions of an individual.  Individuals are not licensed to love.

The Classical Family versus the New Family

A universal revolution in family took place in Europe in the 18th Century; it was called “The Romantic Period” for good reason.  This trend in thinking talked of equality and freedom of choice, and developed the concept that an individual is sovereign over her or his life.  People began to avoid government intervention in choosing their partners, to the extent that they did not inform that state about their marital lives.  Cohabitating, or common-law, partnerships are the result of this conceptual development.  The assumption that families are made only through marriage has become irrelevant, as individuals and couples bring children into the world without getting married.  Only 58% of families in Israel meet the state criteria of a “family:” a Jewish man and woman, married according to Jewish law, through the institutions of the Israeli Rabbinate. The Classical Family enjoys the maximum benefits and rights from the state in terms of who is considered “family.”  What about the remaining 42%?  Those 800,000 families living in Israel without the state recognizing them as families?

The System does not Love New Families

These families, New Families, are a complex mixture of multifaceted features from large sections of the Israeli population: single-parent families, bi-national families, families of different religions, same-sex families, homeless families, dual-religion families, Muslim families, Christian families, Druze families, or families of other minority groups, families of migrant workers, and common-law families.  All that we recognize and believe in as the foundation of a family: cohabitation, kinship, love, and a desire to share our lives with our partners and offspring, the state is turning its back on all of these and turning away nearly a million women and men living outside of the consensus.  Life outside of the consensus for couples who do not marry but live under one roof, run a common household, and raise children together means being required to prove their relationship all their lives.  Same-sex couples receive no recognition under the law today.  Non-Jewish spouses will always be second-class citizens.

A Question to the State

The question is whether the situation of 800,000 families—who did not marry according to the state religion or the Laws of Moses and Israel and the state thus does not allow them to define themselves as desirable or appropriate families—is relevant.  In Israel, this is reality in 2013.  Now, the state needs to answer the following questions: should it grant its citizens these rights simply by virtue of being law-abiding citizens and taxpayers, or should it deny rights to those that do not fulfill archaic provisions that have lost their validity in the eyes of most of the population?  If the system does not love its people, the people must replace the system.

The Choice is Ours

Promote a new social order in Israel that will allow all of us to define our relationships for ourselves that we freely chose for ourselves and manage our partnerships according to our consciences.  Adopt a new social order that embraces all families and that accepts a family’s emotions as proof of its loving and supportive nature to the members who have elected to be a part of it.  We will report to the state about the choices we make for our marital and family life, but will not be told whom to love, with whom we can formalize our love, and with whom and how we can manage our family life.

 Autonomy in Relationships

The natural desire for a relationship is not based on one form of existence or another.  A relationship is a labor of love between two people, a private and intimate matter, with which no state should or could interfere.  No rabbinic authorities, or any other governmental authorities, can validate one person’s love for another.  Relationships draw their power and their validity from themselves, and do not seek recognition from the state.  Today in Israel, there is no Cohen that can marry a divorcee even if their love crosses borders, no Jew can marry a non-Jew even if he or she has converted but it is not deemed “proper,” and persons of the same sex who have chosen one another cannot affirm their love through the covenant of marriage.  Marriage is controlled by the state and by religious institutions.  This control precludes hundreds of thousands of people from fulfilling the covenant of love and thus negates their right to marriage.  Why does the state intervene?  After all, adults are responsible for their choices and carry the consequences of their actions.  Why is this a matter of religious institutions and the government?  Whether through religious or civil marriage, state enforcement on the institution of marriage upon its citizens is an effort to determine the limits of love and control our relationships through complex and tedious bureaucratic procedure.

Separating Couples from the Rabbinate

One might think that the Chief Rabbinate would be happy to change the personal status of citizen from single to married.  However, this institution chooses whom it is willing to accept and decides by itself the conditions for admitting someone, all supported and sponsored by the secular, civil, and democratic state.  And so it is upon the citizens of the state to pass a “Kosher Jewish marriage test,” a test that supports an entire industry trying to sustain itself at any cost, even at the price of discriminating amongst, humiliating, and commercializing our marriages.  The Chief Rabbinate is a political, not a religious, institution.  Although religious individuals are elected and serve within the Rabbinate and its office, this appointment does not authorize them to be religious leaders.  The Rabbinate’s staff and officials are the employees of a secular state, and as such, it is their duty to serve the state, not religion.

Oops, Sorry

The established relationship between Religion and State through the Chief Rabbinate is an unacceptable flaw in the structure of the government.  It is a structure that does not exist in any other democracy in the world.  This relationship has caused great and unnecessary suffering to many citizens.  The Haredi community actually did the right thing in this case and excluded itself from the Rabbinate.  They recognized neither the religious nor the governmental authority of the Chief Rabbinate, and have their own religious institutions.  Orthodox institutions exist outside of the law and outside of governmental arrangements, but the Orthodox community does not waver in maintaining itself.  They might wear traditional yarmulkes, but they manage their marital and family affairs from outside of the Rabbinate’s walls, and are only registered in its offices as a formality.  As such, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate really only imposes its authority upon the secular.  The state, for its part, cooperates in these activities and forces the secular public to become enslaved to the demands of the Rabbinate.  Limit the authority and the political and social power of the Chief Rabbinate and demand a civil alternative.

Here’s the Money

In many places, it is free to register a marriage.  In Israel, the Chief Rabbinate earns almost 30 million shekels a year from marriage registrations.  The Chief Rabbinate gets additional revenue from issuing marriage training certificates, proof of unmarried or married status certificates, mikveh approvals, notarizations if one or more parents were not born or married in Israel, and more.  Divorce proceedings, conducted in rabbinic courts in Israel, are yet another additional source of income for the Chief Rabbinate: each case opened (except alimony claims) have a fee and any request for immediate assistance is charged an additional fee.  Through this process, rabbinic courts maintain a mechanism to keep an extensive administrative staff of auxiliary clerks, court recorders, scribes, judges, rabbis, and chief rabbis.  The Chief Rabbinate makes 15 to 20 million shekels a year off of divorce.  One cannot minimize the economic weight of the wedding industry.   These cycles of income suggest that the Rabbinate is both moving away from its vision of preserving the spark of Judaism on the one hand and that it is being corrupted in order to maintain its power in getting revenue on the other.  It is impossible to ignore the growing rift between secular society in Israel and the religious institutions that govern it, tearing Israeli society apart with discrimination and trampling on freedom of choice.  This is evidenced by the fact that large numbers of secular Israelis today are choosing to formalize their relationships in frames that are not within the Chief Rabbinate.

Separation in the Courts

In a 2009 interview in BeMachsheva Tachilah magazine, Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron, the then-current Chief Rabbi of Israel, declared that marriage law had caused people to hate the Rabbinate, and that civil marriage should be made possible in Israel.  It is within the public’s interest not to leave a monopoly of power in the hands of those who act for both financial and religious, faith-based considerations. 

In recent decades, many countries around the world formally have separated the covenant of loving partnership from the control of religious establishments.  These actions have made room for laws allowing civil procedures for marriage and divorce. 

Civil procedure is designed to serve the liberal interests of all of us, but the actual process is not different from that of a religious marriage.  Here too, the institution works restrictive regulations upon the individual, conditioning her or his ability to obtain a license.

It’s Getting Absurd

Married couples are required to obtain a court’s approval for any economic arrangements between them, in accordance with the law of Financial Relations.  Couples who have chosen to construct their relationship outside of marriage, such as common-law partners or same-sex partners (who could not get married), do not have to get their arrangements approved by a court.  These artificial circumstances only sharpen the question: why does a court need to approve of an agreement between spouses? 

This reality is absurd, especially when one views the two situations in analogy to one another: people who choose to marry are not competent to arrange their own relationship and need guidance to approve or disapprove what they had decided upon, whereas people who choose to start a family without a strong stamp of approval for their marriage are deemed able to regulate their own affairs, without court intervention.

Enough Already

This phenomenon deserves to be put to rest, not because the court is unable to cope with approving one agreement or another, but rather because it does not need to.  When family courts were established, the question of whether the court would only be empowered to hear disagreements between family parties or also their agreements was brought up.  It was ultimately decided that the court would adjudicate conflicts and approve agreements within the family.  As such, the family became an impoverished legal entity; without the authorization of a judge on its agreements, it had no existence. 

The Jewish ketubah is a cornerstone of financial agreements between spouses, and it is the inspiration for partnership agreements in many cultures and countries in the world.  But the ketubah itself has not changed.  Shared by all modern marriage agreements is their basis upon an agreement between partners, which is nearly identical in all cultures, and include the notions of limiting personal power, distributing resources, and equal opportunity. 

The State of Israel, which draws its moral character from the laws of the Declaration of Independence, has come a tremendously long way in human dignity; however, the State will never truly be a free state until it recognizes its citizens as the source of its power and authority, not vice versa.

Privatize Marriage in Israel

It is upon the legislature to privatize marriage in Israel and put the reins in the hands of its citizens.  Those who want it can go to the Rabbinate.  Those who want to can marry in a civil ceremony.  Those who want to manage a household together can do so in a common-law marriage.  Only when the State allows its citizens to manage their relationship according to modern conceptions of life, only then can we maintain the dignity of the court, the dignity of religion, and our own dignity.

Our Solution: Domestic Union Cards

The assumption that family is only created through marriage is no longer relevant.  Couples have children without marrying.  Over the last two decades, new forms of relationships for couples and families have appeared in Israel that do not receive the respect and status they deserve, and are not receiving the services or social benefits to which they are entitled as a couple or as a family.  The abandonment of these new forms of relationships is no longer possible.

Domestic Union Cards are a unique solution started by New Family.  The documents are legally certified to make possible legal relationships in a civil manner according to the spirit of the times.  Partnership documents are for anyone who would like to declare their relationship status, but would not like to marry through the Rabbinate, or—course—for everyone that the Rabbinate refuses to marry.

Partnership documents indicate the civil relationship arrangement between two people regardless of religion, race, sex, nationality, or sexual orientation, and allows a couple to enjoy equal rights to couples who married through rabbinic law.

Family Autonomy

The family is the oldest social institution, older even than statehood.  The family is an invincible and everlasting entity, even as social orders change, regimes rise and fall, beliefs come and go, and religions spread their teachings.  The notion that the family unit is disintegrating is incorrect; the family is an immutable essence in its values and in its continued ability to survive.  As long as there are people on the earth, there will be family, although it might be in different forms and permutations than what we have seen until now.  We must learn to accept each family whose members have defined it as such, and adjust the system to the family, not the family to the system.

Israeli society has seen significant demographic changes, and gone through a process of growing, changing.  The state of yesterday is not the state of today.  Millions of new immigrants arrived in Israel; there was a natural increase in the population of both local populations, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers were invited to come, life expectancy and the birth rate both rose, secularism matured and consolidated, the gay community its place in society, and women brought children into the world alone.  Despite all of this, there has not been a legal change in the status of a family, nor in the recognition of the human right to a family.

Right to Liberty

The right to family, either as a partnership to as parenting, is a right from within the family of “human rights.”  “Human rights” are defined as rights every person possesses by virtue of being a human.  A person’s right to form a family is doubtlessly such a right.  It is within a person’s existential nature and expresses one’s desire for survival and continuity.  Thus, starting a family is more than a right, it is true freedom.  “Freedom,” as opposed to a “right,” is the absolute freedom of a person to realize him or herself, without needing anyone else’s permission nor is it able to be prevented by another.

This is the essential freedom to start a family.  The family belongs to the world of our natural rights, rights designed to ensure the liberty of an individual, and protect against the tyranny of government.

Religious Grounds for Discriminating Against Families

Religious grounds for discriminating against families exist in Israel.  The State does not permit persons of different religions to get married.  Moreover, many new immigrants who come to Israel under the Law of Return—as encouraged and financed by the State and its agents—are registered as “not Jewish” and are unable to marry.  Cohenim cannot marry divorcées.

Ethnic Grounds for Discriminating Against Families

Discrimination against families based on ethnic grounds exists in Israel.  Members of a particular religious community are not allowed to marry members of other communities.  A Jewish Ethiopian immigrant may not marry a Jewish Israel except by following a specific process, and an Israeli Karaite cannot marry an Israeli Jew.

Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination exists in Israel.  Women are discriminated against in their own marriages: they do not sign a ketuba; they are not allowed to break free from the shackles of a marriage without their husbands’ consent or absence; they cannot have children with a man as long as they are legally married to another or else their children will be considered mamzerim; they are subject to economic sanctions for their behavior that do not apply to men, and many more.  The gay community is also discriminated against from all sides.

Discrimination on the Grounds of Citizenship

Citizenship is a grounds for discrimination against families in Israel.  Some citizens, for political, social, or plain unclear reasons, cannot establish a home in Israel.  Israeli citizens who marry non-Jewish spouses abroad and want to live in Israel find it a nearly impossible endeavor.

Social Grounds for Discrimination Against Families

Discrimination against families based on social status exists in Israel.  It is within the power of the State to deny medical treatment or provide assisted-birth services.  Singles and divorcés/-es are denied access to surrogacy treatments.

That’s History, Don’t Go Back

Throughout history, Jewish religion defined the essence of the family, its shape and position in society, and how to manage the balance of power within it quite well.  As a result, there is a spiritual, emotional, and mental void left in the definition of the modern family made by secular intellectuals.  Since the establishment of the Jewish state for all types and shades of belief, various religious institutions have nevertheless been seen as an intuitive haven for the institutionalization of family and family life.

An additional void was left to define the nature of family in the legal realm.

The State has yet to define the family unit successfully in law.  Religious institutions’ defensive behavior has obscured the need for a legal definition, valid for the dynamic entity of the family.  This situation left the family helpless to protect the members inside it, revealing to the family the forceful, political takeover of all of its ownership to the registration and dissolution of marriage, and the family rights that derive therefrom.

 What’s the Good of a Family to You?

The public, most of whom need these services, is subject to control.  Control in stages establishes the family by uncompromising and fixed rules.  Our behavior in family life is controlled.  Burial arrangements are controlled.  The State took over the power to determine these arrangements for us, providing rights and obligations according to its degree of satisfaction with the “quality” of our family: a classic family or a New Family, religious or secular, citizens or residents, native or foreign, Jewish or not—all of these affect our ability to enjoy basic rights: economic rights like obtaining a mortgage; medical rights like rights to an HMO or social benefits and social security; property rights like the right to settle anywhere.

The array of rights viewed as necessary for life depends upon our family situations, or rather, the critical and arrogant opinion of the State about the families we choose.  As long as family remains undefined, we will continue to live in uncertainty.  Is my family good enough in the eyes of the State to receive my basic rights?

Our Solution: The Basic Law: Family

Complete control in establishing relationships and family would require us to break the ongoing stranglehold on family, and to allow each one of us to live her or his life according to her or his worldviews and personal beliefs.

In the absence of a constitution in Israel, Basic Laws make rights that are legally, normatively superior to other rights.  Family, which is one of those honored higher norms that enables every social setting, is worthy of a Basic Law that will consolidate its legal position.

 Proposal for The Basic Law: Family

1 Definition


A A married couple.

B A couple of legal age who are not married nor related by blood, who live together under one roof and run a common household and have a mutual commitment to a shared life.

C An adult and a minor who maintain a common household, as either the parent of the legal guardian of the minor.



An adult of legal age or a minor for the purposes of this law.


2 Right to Start a Family

Every person of legal age living in Israel has the fundamental right to have a family regardless of gender, religion, race, or nationality.


3 Right to Parenthood

The right to be a parent is a fundamental right for a person of legal age.

 4 Gender equality

No person is to be discriminated against on the basis of the gender of their family, either in providing rights or carrying out obligations.

5 Equality and Social Justice

A The Family is a foundational part of the community.  It is entitled to all public, municipal, and communal state services without condition.

B The Family and every person have the right to enjoy the education, cultural, spiritual, and recreational resources of the community, the municipality, and the state.

C All national, public, and community services must have information about the Family and the Individual for their areas of responsibility and must provide this information to a Family or Individual seeking information about themselves from the service.

D Impoverished Families, Families including a sick Individual or an Individual suffering from a congenital handicap are entitled to affirmative action.

 6 Right to Privacy

Every person within a Family has the right to privacy.

7 Prevention of Violence

It is the right of every member of a Family to live in dignity and security and to be free of exploitation and physical, psychological, or economic harm.

 This bill was sent to the Ministry of Justice in 1998.  So far, it has the support of 25 Members of the Knesset.


One Can’t Help Bringing Change

Until a change occurs in the civil rights of the family in Israel, people will continue to look at the government in disbelief and skepticism, possibly leading to social disorder.  The State is a framework designed to meet the needs of the individual, and thus its most basic need for a family.  The gap between our fundamental rights as human beings to choose our love and the state control over our right and ability to start a family is due to the absence of legislation defining the institution of the family and due to the lack of obvious separation between Religion and State.

Autonomy in Continuity

A person brings children into the world in order to create a legacy in the expectation that those children will bring their own children into the world and so on for generations.  Human continuity is a wonderful expression and precise distillation of life itself.  Thanks to technological improvements in recent years, we are able to expand significantly our chances of creating this continuity, sometimes against all odds.  In the past, if a man or a woman was not able to create life naturally, he or she was cut off, his or her continuity doomed.  But not today.  We live in an era in which thousands or children are born every year, not naturally, but in a way that provides unparalleled happiness to their families and continues their genetic lines.

The Egg and the Catch

The fertility policy of the State of Israel, as stated, is that that which nature does not do will be financed and encouraged by the state.

Israel is the only country in the world that subsidizes fertility treatments for up to two children.  Within Israel, one can donate sperm and ova, and sperm and ova can be obtained.  Within Israel, there are assisted fertility services, and one can be a surrogate mother.  Within Israeli society, family fertility is the norm.

Ostensibly, Israel has realized the dream of nurturing and encouraging the creation of genetically-related families.  However, there is a wide gap between the dream and the reality on the ground: Israel indeed subsidizes and encourages family growth, but it also seeks to control the results.

The state has established a framework of rules and regulations that deny fertility services to entire populations.  State control of medical, fertility technologies carry a heavy price and cause immense social damage, not to mention the enormous frustration of those populations who are knowingly discriminated against by the state. 

According to bureaucrats, childless couples do not meet the threshold conditions for fertility services for not matching in age, possessing different religions or citizenships, or due to sexual orientation.  Single individuals—single women and men, divorced men and women—and same-sex couples are not entitled to any and all surrogacy services.

Get Pregnant and Be Quiet!

Although it might go against the notion of family continuity, the termination of a pregnancy is the most basic right of every woman on her body.  Just as the decision to become pregnant is in the hands of a woman, so the personal and painful decision to terminate a pregnancy must also be within her hands. 

However, the State has forced an absolute intervention upon women on precisely this vulnerable subject through abortion committees.  During the difficult days when a woman comes to the intimate decision to terminate a pregnancy, the State requires her to obtain medical certificates, to appear before a committee, and to answer questions that violate her right to privacy.

Within the articles of the abortion committees, following a list of six “kosher” reasons why a pregnancy can be terminated as defined by the legislature, the following sentence appears: “An abortion is not approved when a request is incompatible with one of the articles mentioned.”  Could it be that the State would force a citizen to continue her pregnancy in stark contrast to her will?  Does the country really pretend to have a magic formula for a happy family- life?

The reason(s) why a woman came to the decision to terminate a pregnancy is private and personal, and it is not the State’s place to intervene within personal choices, even should they relate to the state, of individuals.  It is time to give women back the full autonomy over their bodies.

The State must let go of its control on fertility, and allow its citizens a public procedure that accompanies the private deliberations that provides both parents with the freedom to decide on their family’s future.

The New Grandparents

Within the recent past, grandparents were observers of the events in the lives of their children and grandchildren, respecting the autonomy and parental authority of their children over their grandchildren.  Today, thanks to longer life-spans, the social and economic resources available to the adult population, and a social awareness to strengthen the ties between three generations, the presence of grandparents in our lives has grown and has a significant impact upon the family.  Emotional connection between the three generations is stronger than ever, and grandparents participate much more in raising their grandchildren.

However, according to various estimates, within the State of Israel there are about 300,000 people living in families where the grandparents are cut off from their grandchildren.  This detachment can be caused by a variety of motives of the parents of the grandchildren: divorce disputes, the death of one parent creating a disconnect between the grandparents on the deceased’s side with the grandchildren, or if both parents undergo a change in lifestyle or belief (e.g. becoming more observant or secular, or joining a religious sect) that affects the way of life for their children.

Grandparent Time

In 2012, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Legal Capacity and Guardianship bill.  The change in legislation now allows grandparents to demand visitation rights with their grandchildren in cases where parents prevent a relationship between grandparents and grandchildren from existing.

The bill, dubbed “Grandparent Time,” was an initiative of New Family.

The new amendment has lead to a social and conceptual change regarding the status and rights of grandparents in new families.  Israel’s changing stance on the so-called familiar family structure has given way to wider styles of upbringing and family structure beyond those of the classical family.

Now, grandparents can demonstrate their engagement during their time with their grandchildren, and they can take a significant role in raising them and instilling modern family values within the younger generation.

But we are a long way from the sweeping legitimization of grandparents’ roles as integral parts to the new family, allowing them to be a driving force in planning the future of a family, including within the tragic cases where their children have died prematurely, before they could produce the next generation.

Life After Death

One issue that requires complex, legislative intervention in order to give all individuals the right to plan their family’s future is the issue of continuing a family after death.  Our luck has improved and with the technological means at our disposal,  we are now able to have children even after we have left this world though the freezing of semen, ova, and embryos.

This subject has obviously aroused widespread public debate, and as such has presented the State and the public with the following hypothesis as a way to deal with the challenges of the legal, moral, philosophical, and psychological issues to which is gives rise:

It is the right of every individual according to his or her own conscience, to decide upon the legitimacy of producing offspring after death, and it is the right of the others to exercise his or her judgment and, if desired, to plan to continue a family’s genetic production even in the event of death. A society that has these qualified, technological measures must allow individuals to use these technologies by free choice.

Freedom for a Family’s Future

We must allow any individual who is interested in saving his or her genetic material to be used in the event of premature death to do so.  We must enable the family of the deceased to continue his or her legacy and to exercise their right for a family’s future and continuity. 

A woman whose husband is killed on duty is entitled to conceive using sperm frozen beforehand.  A husband whose wife dies of cancer may fertilize the ova his wife left behind and have a child through the services of a surrogate mother.  Parents whose child died after coming of age without leaving children are entitled to have a grandson or granddaughter and to continue their family’s legacy. 

Today, fertility interventions after death are only possible through the court.  Israeli law does not provide a solution to the question of a family’s future after a death.

 The Biological Will™

A Biological Will™ is a document written by a man or a woman that, in the case of their passing, leaves the parents, their relatives, or their spouse the right to create life using their genetic materials just in case.  In a Biological Will™, one bequeaths to loved ones the future of their family.

A Biological Will™ is a project of life, literally and figuratively, that gives hope and new life to parents and spouses whose loved ones passed prematurely.  The will takes into account all possible options that could lead to its realization.  A Biological Will™ is a legal document for all purposes. 

The legislature must turn its attention to this complex issue and adopt a new policy that recognizes the right of a family’s future and continuity.   More than a decade passes before a Biological Will™ can be realized as it goes through the courts, creating exhausting struggles on both sides.  To date, New Family has won petitioners of all arrangements the realization of their biological wills presented to the court.  It is time that the State saves its citizens from the legal, bumpy road to receive the right it knows they deserve through necessary legislation.

Parents, Children, and Grandchildren

Attorney’s arguments for prohibiting grandparents from applying to use genetic material of loved ones who have died to continue their families are based in two arguments: first, if the child was still alive, the parents could not interfere in his or her decisions; and second, grandparents have no legal status in relation to their grandchildren.  New Family refuted both of these false assumptions in support of grandparents who had petitioned the court for the realization of biological wills.  New Family presented these arguments before the court:

The parents of a person have a unique status in relation to his or her children or grandchildren, a status more valid than that of an attorney.  They know the will of their child better than anyone, and they must be his or her representatives in the implementation of the will on each point that he or she demanded. 

The lack of a legal status for grandparents to grandchildren does not remove the fact that they are the closest survivor of the deceased, and—as such—knew him or her and understand his or her desires. 

A person brings children in the world in order to create a legacy for himself, and expects his or her children to continue to bring children into the world and so forth.  In an era where there are means to continue one’s family legacy after death, it is to be expected that these means will be used precisely for this purpose of a family’s future in a lovely expression of human dignity.

Autonomy in Gender

The Woman in the Family

Among a large proportion of the families in Israel, a woman, even if she unaware it is happening, is confined to depressing  lifecycles that create difficulties and impede her way to expressing her full talents.

The lifecycle begins when a female is born, and continues according to religious laws and practices.  She passes into maturity without fanfare, whereas a male receives a lavish bar mitzvah to mark his transition to adulthood.   During her marriage ceremony, she is led to her husband who receives her under the chuppah, as he and only he assumes the responsibility for their livelihood and for the provision of their children after signing the ketubah alone, not even in her presence!  During the course of her life, a woman again will experience her inferiority as she earns significantly lower wages than her husband, and later, as she is discriminated against and left for the worse if, God forbid, their relationship should be on the rocks and the conflict ends in divorce.

For divorced women, the inherent, explosive potential of the expected “punishments” are concealed.  If her behavior is deemed “rebellious” or “wild,” heavy punishments might jeopardize her ability to break free from the shackles of her marriage, cause her to lose part of all of her assets, and prevent her from becoming a mother due to her status as an agunah(bound woman).

All these phenomena listed above only harm women, not men.  This simply reflects that in the eyes of the State the very core of a woman is inferior to a man within the family.

Name of the Father

The State has unequivocally expressed in its support and steadfast, ancient, patriarchal approach that the family—including women—is the property of the man of the house through the bureaucratic procedure and official forms of the State of Israel.  Women immediately receive the name of their husband unless they request otherwise.  At the time of birth, children immediately receive their father’s surname automatically.  Any official forms of state institutions and public institutions usually specify the father’s, but not the mother’s, name and the husband’s, but not the wife’s maiden, name.  This is a clear sign indicating the entitlement of the father to be the “head of the family,” without an equal or rival.

Although in recent decades the status of women in society has advanced, we must continue until the status of a woman in the family is equal to that of a man.  A total change in bureaucratic procedure is required, including making egalitarian forms the official forms of the State of Israel, replacing those that reflect the gender gap.

Gender equality is an obligatory foundation of democracy.

 A Woman’s Way

If the State wishes to rely upon religious authority to draw upon for its rationale in denying equal treatment to women, let us recall the words of Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a modern philosopher as well as a God-fearing, observant Jew:

“…Today, even our religious society belongs to the world in which all matters of the state and the public are held in common by men and women, and it is a woman’s way today to be a partner with them.  Therefore, in order for religious Jewish society to remain, it cannot continue to deprive women the rights due to them under this existential framework for pseudo-religious reasons.  This is the point we are at; we—who intend to observe the Torah—cannot receive the halachic rulings of our ancestors, which refer to a social reality that is not ours.”


The Gay Family

The Israeli legislature tends to not recognize certain populations, in total disregard for the law, and despite that their existence in reality is not in doubt.  As evidence to their existence, the Court has not ignored them and has, time and time again, compensated them because of the permanence of the law. 

One of the clear communities before the law is the community of same-sex families: the gay family, a family that has been developing and slowly obtaining a legitimate place in family life in Israeli society.  Until the last decade, same-sex couples were not recognized as a couple, as a family, and certainly did not receive family rights from the State.  However, the gay community’s protracted struggle for equal rights in family recognition against courts, state institutions, and the legislature was effective and has contributed to a widespread public acceptance of these families in society.  New Family is proud to have been and to continue to be a partner in the legal achievements won by the gay community for procreation and adoption rights, economic and social rights, and the rights of marriage.

Still, in Israel, about 20,000 same-sex families live who do not enjoy full equal rights.

 Everyone’s a Family

Despite the social acceptance and the legal results that have been won by single-sex families in courts, until the status of same-sex families is set up in legislation, the work is not over.  Not amending and adjusting the law is a sin for future generations to continue the country’s immoral interference in the individual’s right to freedom of family. 

Equal rights to all of the public will allow us to live in a country based on individual freedom.  A country driven by a strong, just, and equitable society in all walks of life around a new definition of family in Israel.

Economic Autonomy

A couple meets, falls in love, and decides to exercise the right to love and institutionalize their relationship.  From that moment on, together they face civil rights and obligations, current expenses, and the rising cost of living.  They deal with the triangle upon which is the Israeli government is founded: family, living, and country.

Family happens when two people are connected to fulfill a specific purpose, a loving relationship or parenting, that neither side can perform alone.  Family members, through their decision to share their lives, create a partnership.  They divide their roles, and work together to achieve the goals upon which they established their partnership.  With the birth of a child, the family grows, the power relations are updated, and the system becomes a more complex relationship.

The conduct of this small group, the family we ourselves created, is a reflection of the conduct of business, not in the sense of a family whose main purpose is to generate profits, but of the humane, emotional, businesslike, and wonderful dynamics that drive the family to its future.  If the legislature recognizes the family on the basis of individual equality within family relationships, then every family unit can receive equal economic status and rights.

In Israel, families built “without standards”—new families—are discriminated against through their loss of economic rights due to the legislature’s refusal to take on the responsibility of determining a family norm.  As long as the family is not constitutionally recognized and its status accepted, it will not receive the economic equality it is due.

 The Organization of the Family

New families find themselves in an intolerable situation today in the face of government institutions and hard hits to its economic status, rights to equality, and progression in society.   Officially unmarried or same-sex couples suffer from a lack of socio-economic rights: survivor’s pensions, disability, military discharge grants for marriage, medical rights, and more.  Family units wherein one member of the couple is unrecognized in the country suffer from the inability to work and support their families.  Couples who have married abroad for religious reasons suffer from a lack of economic rights due to their personal situation, and more.

The modern era in which we live, as seen in our liberal and democratic lifestyle and our celebration of individual freedoms and human rights, has given birth to new family units.  The democratic approach allows for relationships based on cooperation and equality, and it is upon the state immediately to get in line with the social norms that have long abandoned outdated family patterns by engaging in a dynamic reevaluation of the nature of family.

A family union is one in which both spouses live together, or one parent and an adult child.  The family union is one in which there is a relationship between one or more individuals as sources of income.  The State requires from its citizens and residents the registration of these two unions, either as a family through the obligation of registering one’s personal status, or as parents in the population registry.  Even though a union requires registry, the family lacks any definition of economic rights that other economic unions receive, such as companies, partnerships, NGOs, and so forth.

Unlike any other registered union, expenses from a family union are not deductible from a family’s income revenue.  Expenses like help and medical assistance, mortgages and medical expenses are all actually “costs for the production of income” in the family corporation.  Again, the production of income is not the main purpose in unifying the income of a family, but it ensures the survival of a family and, as such, the State has a vested interest to respect, encourage, and enable its equality before the law.

Economic discrimination against the family has no place in modern society today; the State must and can change it.  The State’s role is to enhance the economic strength of each family unit in Israel and to equally award equal economic status and rights before the law.

The New Family’s Economic Power

The lack of an apparent economic policy by the state in regards to the family unit does not only hurt families’ economic power, but also the economic power of the state itself.   110,000 single-parent families—widowed, divorced, separated, and unattached—are perceived as one category, and do not receive the necessary distinctions between one part and the other. A state of inequality remains between individuals (e.g. widows and divorcees) who enjoy additional income (e.g. pensions or food) when compared to a lone single mother or father, who has no additional revenue sources beyond that which it itself produces.

The State Loses Too

20,000 single-sex families, earning on average 10% more than classical families, suffer severe economic discrimination by the state on tax arrangements, housing expenses, mortgages, and more.   On the other hand, due to their “non-documented families,” they sometimes receive rights for single-parent families when, in fact, they are not.  They are not prevented from employing one another, and they are able to run separate tax cases.

80,000 men and women are unable to support their families due to the regulation of their legal stay in the country for political or religious reasons, and the state pushes them out of into the black job market, and loses tax revenue income.

These data clearly indicate that the economic power of the new family is an engine driving growth.  It is upon the State to learn and to use this engine and not continue to ignore the constitutional rights of new families.  If it does so, everyone will enjoy the economic, social, and humane fruits.

Closing Words

The State does all it can to regulate the lives of individuals and the public.  Sometimes it makes mistakes. This happens.  But the measure of a state’s greatness should be in its ability to recognize mistakes and correct them.  Laws are man-made, and—as such—it is within a person’s power to change them.

How Far We’ve Come: Success Stories

Milton Friedman, a Jewish-American economist and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976, once said, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither.  A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” 

I have found that it is possible to encapsulate these principles in three stories, which have set record-breaking precedents in recognizing the moral and legal equality of all family units in Israel.  These stories not only led to a groundbreaking change in our thinking, but also faithfully represent my activities at New Family.

 A Wedding in Shoham: Autonomy for Couples

Both members of this charming, young couple immigrated to Israel as children, attended high school in Israel, served in the military in Israel, and received academic degrees from universities in Israel.  All they had wanted was to demonstrate their love publicly by marrying each other, a task that proved impossible for them here in Israel.  Due to religious coercion, they would have needed to either convert or marry abroad to get their marriage recognized.  The Rabbinate defines them as psulei chitun, “unfit for marriage.”  The bride-to-be summarized their feelings in one sentence: “We want to marry in Israel.”

Those days, in addition to my duties as CEO of New Family, I also served as the acting deputy mayor of Shoham.  A merging of my roles led me to the decision to act and to marry the couple in a civil marriage in the heart of the state of Israel.  It was 2002.  Never before (and never again since) in Israel has a local official been authorized to conduct a civil marriage, even though we hold that the equivalent official in the neighboring country of Cyprus is certainly qualified to do so and even register and recognize such a marriage back in Israel.  Despite loud protests and threats from officials in the establishment such as the Attorney General, Minister of the Interior, and other public figures, I decided to conduct a civil marriage without conditions. 

Criticism came without delay from religious minority groups, in particular, who were allegedly defending “freedom of religion;” however, in fact, we were dealing with the denial of personal liberty for secular people in the State.  The day after the wedding, both a flood of complaints, sympathy, and support, making it clear that the act had caused the public to think about and express its opinions on the matter.  The case of this wonderful couple, and the tens of thousands like them, expresses the fundamental need for comprehensive regulation on their rights of every couple united in marriage in Israel, whether by religious or civil procedures.  One of New Family’s objectives is to lobby the Knesset to enact the Basic Law: the Family in order to recognize all forms of couples and single-parent families.

Kevin Cohen: Autonomy for the Future

Kevin Cohen was killed in action in the Gaza Strip in 2002 at the age of 20.  After his death, his mother, Rachel Cohen, decided to take sperm cells from his body, in the hopes of creating a new life with the help of a woman who had agreed to become pregnant with Mrs. Cohen’s grandson or granddaughter using her son’s sperm. 

Mrs. Cohen’s dream could only take shape thanks to the combination of evolving, medical, fertility technologies and the socio-legal idea I had formulated regarding the “biological will,” an idea that allowed for a person to continue his genetic lineage at his request after his death.  Mrs. Cohen had heard about another idea that I had raised a year earlier, in 2001, when I had offered to set up a sperm bank for soldiers to ensure their genetic continuity even if their fertility system was injured during their military service.  I had added that it was important to back up their wishes with a written document, some kind of will.

During that same, terrible night during which her son was killed, Mrs. Cohen turned to me.  A year after that awful disaster of losing a son had visited the Cohen family, Mrs. Cohen remembered my initiative, which was, at the time, only an idea.  Mrs. Cohen knew well that it was the dream of her son, Kevin, to have a family and to have children, but she did not know how to achieve it.  On that same tragic night, she had turned to me asking for my help, and so, at the end of 2002, we struggled together to continue Kevin’s legacy. 

Our struggle did not have legal or public support, and there was no precedent either in Israel or in the world.  Desire and ideology were our only forms of ammunition.  We started to negotiate with the Attorney General, who did not object to the very idea as, whatever is not banned explicitly under Israeli law, is permitted. 

However, a year later in 2003,in the blink of an eye, general guidelines explicitly stating whether and when it is possible to obtain sperm from the dead were issues from under the Attorney General.  In the same document, it was decreed that the parents of a deceased person are not allowed to petition for biological continuity.  We rushed back to the Attorney General’s desk, and demanded that the guidelines not apply to Kevin’s parents. 

Following three years of effort, we came to an agreement: If we could find a woman who would agree to become pregnant using Kevin’s sperm and to raise the newborn child as a mother in every sense, the Attorney General would approve the action.  In 2007, we found the right woman, and the court ruled that it accepted the agreement between Kevin’s parents and would approve of the action. 

This is the first time in Israel that a non-anonymous sperm donation has taken place, allowing the child to enjoy its full biological family—grandparents, uncles, aunts, et cetera—on both sides.  It was a great human triumph, demonstrating the need and desire of every human for his or her own biological continuity.  This matter raised the issue of the human freedom to establish a family, the freedom around which human society is built.  Moreover, it challenged the legal system, and blazed a path for many others to exercise their rights to continuity.  But more than anything, this case has demonstrated that the right to parenthood transcends the boundaries of time.

The Twins from India: Autonomy of the Family

Itai and Liron are twins born to Dan Goldberg and Arnon Angel with the help of a surrogate mother in India.  The partners’ strong desire for children brought them outside of the states’ borders, which prevents same-sex couples from enjoying surrogacy services here in Israel.  Even today, as of the time this document was written, the State of Israel continues to prevent single persons and same-sex couples from the services of a surrogate.  This is despite the 2002 High Court order, following a petition submitted by New Family on the behalf of a single woman, which states that: “It is upon the legislature to revisit the thorny issue of surrogacy in its current arrangement, as women without spouses and same-sex couples are excluded from the law.”

Since then, the legislature has agreed not to amend the law and allow spouses like Dan and Arnon, or the female petitioner, assistance from surrogacy services.  Hundreds of people each year are forced to fulfill their dreams of parenthood abroad through surrogate services outside of Israel.  While Dan Goldberg asked the State to realize his basic right to have his parent status recognized, he was forced to travel across borders, not only geographically, but also bureaucratic ones.

When he arrived in India for the birth of the twins, he discovered that a seemingly small detail could prevent him from bringing the twins to Israel.  This small detail was a provision instituted by the Ministry of the Interior stating that entry into Israel for children born via a surrogate mother is contingent upon a DNA test that verifies that they are indeed the children of the Israeli parent.  Genetic tests of this type can be done only by a judge’s special order.  Unfortunately, the family court make a judgment on that little detail, and decided to prevent the genetic test, indirectly also preventing the twins from entering Israel.

Whether this decision reflecting the judge’s worldview or whether it was a decision from a legal perspective, the result was disastrous: impossibly enough, the new father and his young children were stranded helpless in India.   I tried to enlist the State Attorney’s office, in an attempt to convince the Ministry of the Interior to permit the father and his twins to enter Israel, even if only in this particular case, but to no avail.  There was no alternative but to appeal to the District Court to determine once and for all that the bureaucracy was overpowering human needs.  Indeed, a person has the right to live with his children in his country! 

Justice must not only be done, but also seen; we won the appeal.  Dan Goldberg performed the tissue tests and is the father of his children.  He brought them safely to Israel. 

The affair of the twins and the sequence of events it started had damaged the freedom of a man who had wanted to be a parent without being compelled to live with a woman.  This damage can only be fixed by making equal rights to parenthood and equal rights to seek the services of a surrogate mother within Israel by law.  New Family shared in all of the hardships on the path to victory with Dan Goldberg and Arnon Angel, and, together with them, brought significant breakthroughs to Israel for each and every person to exercise their legitimate and fundamental freedom to be a parent.