Gay Couples in Israel Celebrate Supreme Court Surrogacy Ruling, but Remain Skeptical

'This is good news, but it’s no more than a headline,' says Yaniv Levy, 32, who's convinced the 'state will pile up bureaucratic difficulties'

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Oshri Buzaglo and Georgy Suhashvili
Oshri Buzaglo and Georgy SuhashviliCredit: Tomer Appelbaum
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

“My heart is bursting with excitement,” said Oshri Buzaglo on Sunday, only minutes after the High Court of Justice ordered the state to allow male couples and single men to have children through surrogacy. For Buzaglo, 32, of Tel Aviv, and his partner for the past eight years, Georgy Suhashvili, the ruling was another step toward starting a family.

“It’s still a dream, but today we’ve gotten a little closer to it,” said Buzaglo. Immediately after the ruling was released, he said, he got to work. “It’s clear that there will be waiting lists, but I’ve already called all kinds of agencies in Israel,” he said. “I told them that if they’re starting to take names, put us first.”

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The couple formalized their relationship as common-law spouses two years ago. Since then, like many other gay couples, they have been following the hearings on the challenges to the Surrogacy Law. “We were active in the struggle for a long time, and we went to demonstrations,” said Buzaglo. “When we started to inquire about surrogacy, we looked first in Georgia, where my partner is from. We were sure it would be simple and easy, but when we went there, we realized it wouldn’t be possible. Then I began to realize that we’ll need to choose between a child [born to a surrogate in] America or a home of our own.”

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz told a news conference that his ministry will prepare to implement the ruling soon, but he didn’t provide any details on what the process, which is meant to be in place in six months, is going to look like.

Avihai YaakovianCredit: Avishag Sha’ar-Yishuv

“It’s clear that everyone is happy, it sounds like a significant step,” said Yaniv Levy, 32. “But honestly? I’m convinced that the state will pile up bureaucratic difficulties, and will make us have conversations with social workers and psychologists just to get a license to be parents.”

Levy heard the news in Portugal, where he had gone to get a European passport which would ostensibly help him expedite a surrogacy process in the United States. He and his partner had already tried to set up a surrogacy arrangement in South Africa, but they were defrauded and lost 100,000 shekels (around $30,000). “We’re skeptical,” Levy admitted. “The real test will be when they establish the stages of the process. Meanwhile, this is good news, but it’s no more than a headline.” He and his partner plan to carry on with the process they’ve begun in the United States. “We will continue until we understand what’s happening in Israel, what the costs will be, and how long we’d have to wait,” he said.

Avihai Yaakovian and his partner have also begun a surrogacy process abroad. Now they are debating whether to move forward with it, or wait. “On the one hand there’s a celebratory atmosphere; on the other hand, it all sounds like a lot of talk,” he said. “The justices’ ruling is excellent, but where will we get the egg donation from? There is almost nothing like that in Israel and you cannot bring egg donations from abroad.”

Elad Miller and Or KarabakiCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

But it isn’t just the details that are bothering him. “I prefer broad recognition, from the Knesset. I want to hear the legislators saying that I have a right to be a parent just like everybody else,” he said. “There’s excitement, but it’s not the recognition that we sought, and I don’t know if we’ll get it within half a year.”

For Or Karabaki and his partner Elad Miller, the justices’ ruling was perfectly timed. They are getting married at the end of the month and are treating this as an early gift. “Surrogacy is the next step after the wedding,” says Karabaki. “It’s not clear yet how they will implement it, but I’m counting on Horowitz to move it forward. If we see that it’s taking a long time we’ll give up and start the process abroad."

“I don’t know how inexpensive it will be, but it will surely be more comfortable [to do it in Israel],” he said. “Our parents are nearby, the tests are familiar, you can play a greater role in the pregnancy, you can be a partner.”

Itai Tishtash, a 33-year-old social worker from Tel Aviv, wasn’t sure that he and his partner would be able to afford surrogacy even in Israel. “I have a lot of thoughts on the issue from a feminist angle,” he said. “I have objections to such use of a woman’s body and I agree with statements like ‘a woman is not an oven.’” For him, too, the joy in the court’s ruling was only partial: “For many years the state saw our sexual orientation as a defect and did not allow us to be parents. In the end, it is the Supreme Court that had to wake the state up.”

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