Sally Abrams
Here's How I See It

“Start-Up Nation” Brings “Start-Up Families” to Life

Israel has earned the nickname “Start-Up Nation” because of its astonishing skill at turning innovations into businesses. Here’s another way they have earned that title: As leaders in reproductive technology, Israel provides the “start-up” that many couples need in order to bring children into the world.

In Israel, children are prized and family life is central to the culture. Those values are actualized in national health coverage that  provides Israeli citizens free, in-vitro (IVF) fertilization procedures for up to two children, until a woman reaches the age of forty-five. For that reason, Israel’s fertility clinics are among the busiest in the world. The clinics are a cross-section of  society– Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, all of whom share the universal human longing for children.

I got a personal view into this aspect of Israeli life, thanks to my friend Chana (pseudonym) who recently underwent IVF treatment at an Israeli clinic. A dual American-Israeli citizen, she gave birth to her first child a couple of years ago, thanks to Israeli IVF treatment. Chana, her husband, and toddler spent weeks in Israel this summer in their quest for baby #2.

From such personal, individual stories larger lessons can be drawn.

Below are excerpts from an interview I conducted with Chana via email:

Why did you choose to undergo IVF treatment in Israel?

Israel is basically an IVF empire. They’ve not only got amazing and advanced technology, but also the most incredible spirit and drive behind what they do– for all citizens of israel, regardless of their ethnic or religious status. IVF medical professionals in Israel bring a warmth, humanity, fervor for life, and love for family, as well as commitment to their patient’s own deeply emotional needs in this regard to their work like no one else I’ve known – and we did try in the States.

What have you observed about the care given and how people are treated?

If ever one needed utterly compelling evidence of how greatly Israelis cherish and respect ALL human life, include Arabs as equals in their society, and are the most human people I know, THIS is it. The Arab-Israeli couples who come through that same door that my husband and I have are treated with identical warmth, support, fervor for life, love for family, and superlative reproductive medical care by each and every one with whom they come into contact… from the sweet and funny front-desk ladies, to the warm and strong nurses, and the amazing and utterly kind doctors

Have you met a staff person/medical professional with an unusual or interesting story?

My reproductive endocrinologist is lesbian, and she utilized her own program and colleagues to help her conceive her child. She was also an older mom, but has a healthy, happy, beautiful and successful child.

Suppose a person who knows little or nothing about Israel followed you around the IVF clinic for a few days. What would he or she learn about Israel from this experience?.

They would learn how profoundly and beautifully human, genuine, truly loving Israelis are. There are a lot of incredibly good-hearted people in Israel, despite the craziness and hyper-reality that they face every single day. We toast “l’chaim” – to LIFE! – for a very good reason: our existence has been threatened for far too long, and we face it more than ever in our homeland, especially now. The work that these people do, and how they do it, says everything about how full of vitality Israelis are; how much they treasure and respect life; and how much they cherish and will fight to safeguard children, families– the true fabric and best of what is human society. I thank God this is my nation and these are my people.

Chana concluded our email exchange with this message:

“I hope that by sharing my story those who are faced with reproductive and fertility issues understand that there is no shame in it – you are not alone, and there is hope. On that note, there are those who come from overseas to receive care for IVF. It’s often much less expensive than in their respective countries of origin/residence, and anecdotally, I’ve heard that they had success in Israel, like us, whereas they hadn’t elsewhere.”

Successful? Yes! Chana is expecting a baby in the spring.



About the Author
Sally Abrams co-directs the Speakers Bureau of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. Sally has spoken about Israel and/or Judaism in hundreds of churches, classrooms, and civic groups. Building bridges between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities is central to her work. She believes deeply in the power of words to educate, illuminate, and inspire. Sally speaks fluent Hebrew, is wild about the recipes of Yotam Ottolenghi, the music of Idan Raichel, and is always planning her next trip to Israel.
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