In contrast to many other countries, abortion is not a hotly debated subject in Israel. Perhaps because it is so very prevalent, it has just become quietly accepted. Although 40% of the Israelis questioned believed abortion to be wrong,1 there are up to a staggering 40,000 abortions every year in a population of only 9 million people.2 That’s close to two million babies who have been killed in their mother’s wombs since the nation’s formation in 1948. Religious Jewish and Muslim leaders may occasionally make statements against abortion, but do not campaign against it with the energy reserved for other issues, such as refusal to serve in the army. Abortion may be outwardly seen as undesirable, but the reality is that huge numbers of abortions happen in both religious and secular circles, in Jewish and Arab communities. It seems no one wants to rock the boat, given that it is almost universally accepted, and other issues are seen as far more important. But are they?
“One hundred times more Israelis have been killed by abortion than by all the wars and terrorism attacks in Israel’s modern history combined,” said Ariel Hyde, of Tree of Life Ministries. “Many pray for Israel’s protection from war or attack, but abortion is a huge issue affecting millions of Israelis in some way”.
ONE FOR ISRAEL’s humanitarian aid ministry provides practical help and support for needy families who choose to keep their baby. We provide food, baby supplies, and relational support to families who have chosen to keep their babies despite financial hardship and societal acceptance of abortion. However, as much as this post-natal support is a necessary part of helping those Israelis who do choose life, the battle begins in tackling public perception of what abortion actually is. Too many do not realise that abortion is taking innocent life, and that what is in the womb is actually a baby; a person in their own right. We need to put the subject on the national agenda for debate, and seek to win over hearts and minds about why abortion needs to be stopped in the first place.
Helping Israelis Choose Life
Three of the Messianic ministries raising the abortion issue in the public arena are A Future and a Hope, Tree of Life Ministries and Be’ad Chaim. In a huge billboard and bus advertising campaign, Be’ad Chaim have been challenging assumptions about the value of the foetus in the womb. One billboard showed an ultrasound picture of a baby, saying the Hebrew equivalent of, “It’s not a foetus. It’s Fiona”. In this way Be’ad Chaim is encouraging the Israeli public to reconsider the infinite worth of the unborn, reminding us that they are people too.
Tree of Life Ministries are also passionate about changing the hearts and minds of the Israeli public through media and also by talking to people on the streets. They have a hotline available for women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant, and work closely with Be’ad Chaim, who then offer the women counselling and support, providing everything the mothers need to care for their new baby on a practical level. They have some wonderful testimonies of women who changed their minds and decided to choose life:
“A woman we’ll call Anat contacted us for an abortion, thinking that we’re an abortion facility! She had already paid for university studies, then suddenly found herself pregnant. She said, “I can’t possibly have a baby and study.” Our counselor answered, “You can always do your studies later. But if you give up on your child, you can never get him back. It’s irreversible.” Anat ultimately decided to keep her baby. And actually, while we were preparing this update, she called excitedly with the results of her recent test: Surprise! She has twins! If she had had an abortion, two babies would have died. But now both will live.”
“Another lady we’ll call Rachel saw our video and burst into tears. She’s just 19 years old, pregnant, and in a desperate situation: “I can barely stay above water. How can I raise this baby? ”Our counselor comforted her and offered her practical and financial help through our partners. She connected her with a pro-life counselor in her area and Rachel decided to be a young mother to this baby.”
Tree of Life rolled out a powerful video eight months ago explaining what abortion is. Amazingly, it has already been watched five million times! This is a particularly large number of views, given that it is only in the Hebrew language. So far, 78 babies have been saved that they know of as a result of people responding to that video and calling their hotline, and there may potentially be many others.
A Future and a Hope is another ministry established 30 years ago working to prevent abortions by providing pregnancy tests, counseling, and realistic options to abortion. The team seeks to minister to the woman as a whole and the entirety of her needs and issues, and not just the area of her womb. They also go into schools to address education around this important issue, sharing within the community in public schools and universities about godly principles for sexual behavior and birth control. They report, “Many of our attendees, after learning what is really involved in an abortion, have chosen life, and become active in telling others why abortion is simply not an option.” It’s quite amazing how God has opened the door of opportunity for them to be able to start even in the classroom with this message of life and godly family planning, and they have seen much fruit from their ministry over the years.
Political developments on abortion in Israel
Together these ministries commissioned a survey among the Israeli public and found, somewhat surprisingly, that 49% of women who got abortions were married. We often assume that the majority are younger, single women, but there are many reasons people opt for abortions in Israel. And it is easy to access within the state funded system too. During army service for example, women are automatically entitled to up to three free abortions. After the army, even though there is a system of committees to check whether an abortion is really the best solution, 99.3% of women who want to end their pregnancy are permitted to do so, with the procedure funded by the state.
The leading coalition in Israel’s government is more left-leaning than the previous administration, and the new Health Minister is determined to make abortion more accessible than ever. Nitzan Horowitz has described the policies of the previous administration as “ridiculously outdated”, suggesting it was outrageous that women could not always get abortions as easily and quickly as they might like. The Times of Israel explains:
“Under current laws, the right to an abortion is only granted by three-member pregnancy termination committees held in the country’s hospitals. Horowitz plans to end a decades-old policy according to which the committees are told to attempt to persuade applicants not to have an abortion.” (Times of Israel)
For those who love life this is bad news. It’s true that the committees rarely refused access to abortion, but the very fact of having to take that step has been serving as something of a deterrent. However, in a nation that does not often discuss abortion, it is at least raising the issue in public consciousness. There is a general lack of awareness of the issues involved, but this spurs us on to present the truth.
Many who talked with the Tree of Life team have been surprised to learn these two facts:
1) the baby has a heartbeat just 21 days after conception
2) from the very moment of conception they have their own, individual DNA.
One Israeli man was shocked to hear this information, saying, “Don’t say that to my wife, she’ll commit suicide… wait a minute… so I’ve killed two people?”
Ariel says that speaking truth in love to people in this way helps them see their need for the Gospel. This very same man saw his need for atonement as a result of this new understanding, and at the end of their conversation decided to receive Yeshua as his Messiah. Ariel sees the pro-life message as going hand in hand with the Gospel. Reflecting on the terrible truths of abortion often raises a great felt need for grace and forgiveness. He shared that one lady who had an abortion in the past had gone into deep depression and for ten years. She was unable to look at people in the eyes because of the guilt and shame that she bore, but when she became pregnant again, Be’ad Chaim helped her as she chose life for her baby. She ultimately came to faith in Jesus and now works with them to help other women. The message of grace, forgiveness, and restoration in Jesus is so important as part of this vital work.
The battle for life
There is certainly a cost to tackling the spectre of abortion. The spiritual stakes are high and the battle is fierce. Similar to the child sacrifice forbidden in the Bible, many babies are killed for simply being conceived at an inconvenient time, and are sacrificed for the sake of career, financial stability, or social pressure.
They worshipped their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. (Psalm 106:36-37)
It is a very serious spiritual matter. God warns about the consequences of killing our own children, and many see the clear parallels between abortion today and sacrificing children to Molech as the Israelites have done in the past:
“Do not permit any of your children to be offered as a sacrifice to Molech, for you must not bring shame on the name of your God. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 18:21)
But when believers determine to pray in earnest against this practice, miracles can happen. Clinics have closed and practitioners turned around to become pro-life campaigners thanks to answered prayer. The US is watching the real possibility of seeing the Roe vs Wade decision reversed in our days. We long to see changes like this in Israel, and to see more believers mobilised to rise up, act and pray.
Ariel recalls some important words from the founder of Be’ad Chaim, Tony Sperandeo, which have continued to inspire him to this day. He pointed out that if we were all in a big meeting and somebody cried out from outside, “Help, Save me!” we’d all stop and go and try to help them because that’s how valuable life is – no matter what was happening in that meeting, a life in danger trumps everything. If you don’t have life you don’t have anything. Indeed, there is a principle in Judaism that saving a life trumps following the commandments – it is permitted to break a commandment in order to save a life. It is the highest priority. In the light of the value of life, we must understand that this issue of terminating babies in the womb is extremely serious in God’s eyes. Ariel suggested that believers can be wary about getting too involved in these matters which have become so politicized, and may fear the inevitable backlash and spiritual heaviness associated with taking a stand. “But isn’t it the most foundational thing God would have us do? Like in the story of the Good Samaritan – the Levite and the priest were going about their religious duties but they failed to save a life, and what Yeshua wants us to do is to save lives”.
Find out more and take action:
- Tree of Life and Be’ad Chaim together commissioned a comprehensive national survey about abortion which was the first of its kind in Israel. The survey was carried out under Dr. Edo Lieberman of the Miskar Survey Institute. Ariel Hyde says, “The compelling findings about Israelis’ opinions about abortion, the reasons they have them, and updated statistics on abortion are already immensely useful. They’re helping us formulate the strategies and messages in each stage that will speak to Israelis’ hearts and minds.”
- There are about 20,000 reported abortions a year but that does not include illegal abortions which can take the figure up to 40,000 a year according to pro life organizations.