The basic notion that every woman has the right to make decisions about her own body, without outside interference, is not obvious to the Israel of 2012.
- Let our Jewish wombs go
- Israel's chief rabbis back anti-abortion group: 'Killing fetuses is murder'
- More abortions, fewer Jews
- Britain is recommending home births – why isn't Israel?
The clearest example of this is the presence of the Efrat organization, which works to persuade women, at their most difficult moments, not to have an abortion. The group does so through the use of pressure and unacceptable propaganda, cynically taking advantage of the distress women in this situation are in. It is not the best interests of these women that guide Efrat, but rather its desire to increase the birth rate of the Jewish population.
The family of Raz Atias, the 18-year-old who was shot to death late last week by police volunteers near Beit Shemesh, and the family of his underage girlfriend, say that while she was hospitalized in Nahariya's Western Galilee Hospital for tests, Efrat volunteers tried to persuade her not to have an abortion.
This "brainwashing," as relatives described it, only increased the young couple's emotional turmoil - until eventually it led them to the tragic decision to commit suicide.
Efrat denies that it had any communication with the girl, but noted that someone may have spoken to her unofficially. The Health Ministry would do well to renew and enforce regulations prohibiting outside groups from carrying on their activities in the hospital.
The problem is not just the missionary activities of Efrat, but the widespread support the group has received from key people in the Orthodox and the ultra-Orthodox world. Efrat's website lists a number of rabbis who praise the organization's work and call on people to support it financially.
Among Efrat's supporters are Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef; former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi and current Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Israel Meir Lau; and the rabbi of Migdal Haemek, Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman. These individuals are also widely admired among the secular public, but the support they give Efrat deepens the chasm between the religious and non-religious worlds.
Efrat blends together racism, nationalism and chauvinism. The result is that a woman's womb is expropriated from her and she becomes a tool in the demographic war over the future of the Jewish people and against the demon that is the Arab demographic. People who fear for the image of the State of Israel - not only the democratic state, but the Jewish one - should condemn Efrat's activities.