Two Israeli fathers who registered their twin boys for a daycare center were told to declare which one of them was “the mother.” The call center of the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry told them on Thursday that they needed to know the information in order to determine how much of a discount they would receive for the daycare center in Tel Aviv.
The fathers live in Tel Aviv and have two-year-old twins. After registering them for daycare, they were asked – as are all parents – to submit to the ministry a request for a subsidy for the daycare, which includes personal and employment information. They wrote they were a couple, “parents who maintain a joint household.” After they sent the forms in on Thursday morning, an employee asked them to clarify which one was the mother. In a phone call, she told one of the fathers: “I’m not asking too much of you, all I am asking is a statement in writing by you which one of you is the mother. You can write that you are the mother or that your partner is in effect the mother.”
“I understand that you have a joint household and that you are together, but there is one who is more dominant, who is more the mother,” said the call center's employee. Even after the father responded repeatedly that he and his partner were two fathers, the employee insisted they make the declaration: “Write down the name of one of you as the mother... That’s how it works as far as the instructions are concerned and that’s what I need.”
The Labor and Social Services Ministry apologized for the incident and said this does not represent the ministry’s policy.
The father asked the employee: “Do you understand that we are two fathers?” and when she insisted that there is one spouse who is “more dominant, who is more the mother,” he tried to understand, “In what way?” She answered that it means one works more hours, that is the father and the mother works less: “Like a regular couple.”
“We aren’t going to investigate it. All we are checking in this way is your eligibility [for a subsidy]. That’s all,” she said. “We are subject to the instructions of the Ministry of Economy and in such a situation that is what we are asking for.”
The responsibility for daycare centers was transferred in recent years from the Economy and Industry Ministry to the Labor and Social Services Ministry.
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The Labor Ministry said they apologize for the regrettable mistake, and as a result of the incident, they have once again clarified the instructions for the call center employees – to prevent it from happening again.
“We would like to emphasize that the Labor and Social Services Ministry regulations explicitly address all types of families, and grant equal rights to everyone. The call center employee’s statements were her own and do not reflect the ministry’s policy.” The ministry said it would take action immediately if Haaretz provided details of the incident.
According to Labor and Social Services Ministry regulations, same-sex parents who maintain a joint household are entitled to financial support in paying for day care. To receive this support, one of the parents is usually required to meet the conditions required of the “mother,” and the other parent must meet the conditions applying to the “spouse.”
“The parents must choose which of them will be required to meet the conditions required in these criteria concerning the mother and which of them will be required to meet the conditions required in these criteria from the spouse, concerning these criteria as part of filling out the registration questionnaire,” state the regulations in gender neutral language.
The purpose of the subsidy is to encourage women to find jobs, state the regulations.
One of the fathers told Haaretz: “It’s very sad that this is the approach in a daycare center in Tel Aviv in the year 2019. It’s not right toward both women and gays, these definitions of who is more dominant and who is less, and who is the woman and who is the man. We expected there to be a different approach in 2019, certainly in Tel Aviv. It’s sad and worrying. We will not sign this form because neither of us is the mother, and we hope they will change the requirements.”
Oz Parvin, the chairman of the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers, called the content of the phone call “offensive and homophobic.” Parvin said that a representative of a government institution cannot speak to gay parents in such a way today, nothing that the Education Ministry’s website includes clear recommendations for preschools and schools on how to include gay families and their children on forms and in all educational activities. “We demand a public and clear apology, and expect the Labor Ministry to update its procedures for staff to prevent such similar and outrageous incidents in the future,” said Parvin.
This year, the Israeli army changed the forms it gives new recruits so the soldiers can fill in their parents’ names as “Parent 1” and “Parent 2,” instead of mother and father.
Research conducted by the Israel Gay Youth organization found that only 0.04 percent of the material studied in nonreligious state high schools mentioned the LGBT community. The study examined all 36 history books used in these high schools. At the same time, 89 percent of the textbooks directly mention the issue of gender, personal relationships, sexuality and family. The conclusion was that the representation of gender diversity, LGBT families, and the continued battle for equal rights is almost zero.