The Jewish Agency is to become the first public institution in Israel to help employees finance surrogacy services abroad so that they can become parents.
The main beneficiaries of this perk will be gay male couples, who are prohibited by Israeli law from using surrogacy services in Israel, and Jewish Agency envoys stationed abroad.
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Isaac Herzog, the chairman of the organization, said on Sunday that employees hiring surrogates would be eligible for a 40,000 shekel ($11,000) loan. In providing this benefit, he said, the Jewish Agency was “recognizing the right of every man or woman to actualize his or her wish to be parents and to raise a family, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
“The Jewish Agency is one big family,” he added, “and all its member are equal.”
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Several high-tech companies in Israel already extend this benefit to their employees.
The 40,000 shekel loan will only cover a small share of the costs, however, since surrogacy services abroad typically cost anywhere between 500,000 and 600,000 shekels.
The Jewish Agency has a staff of 1,250 employees, 450 of them stationed in Jewish communities abroad.
Until recently, only heterosexual couples were eligible for surrogacy services in Israel. A law passed last summer extended eligibility to single women and lesbian couples but excluded single men and gay male couples, sparking huge protests around the country. A petition challenging the exclusion of men is pending a decision by the Supreme Court.
Even Israelis who are eligible for surrogacy services in the country sometimes prefer to go abroad to save time.