Seventy family members, friends, and supporters of same-sex couples
stuck in Thailand because of an horrific surrogacy affair demonstrated Tuesday in front of the home of Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar.
The protesters demanded the minister immediately issue passports to 15 babies born with the help of a surrogate mother in Thailand and to the 50 expected babies who will not be allowed into Israel.
Protesters carried signs reading "Gideon, your baby is at home but ours is not" and even one sign citing a famous Israeli love song: "Gidi, you're ignoring me. When will it end?"
Woman holding up picture of surrogate baby Leah (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
According to the demonstrators, the couples went though the legal surrogacy process in Thailand, but the Israeli government isn't allowing them to return home even though it was Israel
which encouraged same-sex couples to seek surrogacy
abroad due to the taboo against the practice in Israel.
Robbie Israel Helbreich, whose partner is in Thailand with twins born to a surrogate mother, returned to Israel to pressure the Interior Ministry to issue passports to his children. "My partner is waiting for over 60 days and the answers we are getting from the Interior and Foreign Ministries are contradictory and inconsistent," said Helbreich.
Naama and Liad, whose brother Itamar is stuck in Thailand, participated in the demonstration. They said: "Our brother has been in a committed relationship with his partner for 17 years. Everyone knows that surrogacy is not even a possibility in Israel,
so they went to Thailand and now they have a beautiful baby named Leah."
They added: "The process was organized and legal, but they've been stuck in Thailand for two months."
Empty stroller representing the missing children (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Singer Amir Frisher Gutman, who in the past went though the surrogacy process in India – before the gates closed for same-sex couples – came to the demonstration to express his support. "We want to go to Thailand because we want our son Roi to have brothers. I have many friends with a similar problem," said Gutman.
He believes that "the abuse by the Israeli government comes from political considerations; they want to avoid angering the religious crowd. I don't understand how the interior minister, who recently became a father, acts with such a lack of compassion."
According to Thai law a child belongs to the mother that birthed him – whether or not she shares any genetic material – unless she waives her rights. Israeli officials are concerned that even if the Thai authorities allow the 65 babies to leave, the linkage between the surrogate and the baby will not be severed, and the mother may one day return to claim the child.
That is the reason the Israeli authorities decided that surrogate babies from Thailand will not receive approval to enter Israel – unless the relevant Thai authorities grants approval saying the mother waiver her rights permanently.
Parents' protest in front of minister's home (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
The Foreign and Justice Ministries, as well as the Population and Immigration Authority of the Interior Ministry responded: "The Israeli embassy in Thailand is in contact with the authorities in the country. The diplomatic attempts are necessary because according to Thai law babies born in the country are Thai citizens through and through."
They also said that "the position of the Thai authorities, as sent to Israel in an official letter, is that the Thai mothers who birthed the babies have full parental rights in regards to those children and the custody rights."
According to the response from the ministries, "Until now, there were two applications submitted to the embassy in Bangkok, though the embassy never received a signed waiver from the surrogate mothers, and thus the process was not completed which allows the embassy to issue a passport."
The ministries said "that should the required documents arrive, the child will be issued a passport, if his mother has submitted a waiver."
The statement clarified that "in accordance with the travel advisory posted by the Foreign Ministry, the State of Israel will not be able to continue providing assistance to parents whose surrogate children will be born in Thailand after November 30, 2014."
Omri Efraim contributed to this report