Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel, by Susan Martha Kahn

Article excerpt

Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2000. 227 pp. $17.95.

Israeli society is marked by a strong pronatalist orientation, expressed at the institutional, normative, and daily cultural levels. Sustaining high Jewish fertility is seen as a national priority due to the historic legacy of the Holocaust, ongoing demographic competition with the surrounding Arab nations, and high risks of losing young people as soldiers in combat or as victims of terror. The right to parenthood is seen by most Israelis as the most basic human entitlement, which policy-wise is reflected in the almost full public subsidy of costly infertility treatments. There are more fertility clinics per capita in Israel than in any other country in the world, and Israel has the highest per-capita rate of invitro fertilization (IVF), egg donation, surrogacy, and other modern reproductive technologies. These are available to every Israeli couple or woman, regardless of ethnicity or marital status.

In her ethnographic research Susan M. Kahn explores cultural meaning of modern reproductive technologies for all the parties involved in the process: Israeli women (and men), medical personnel, social workers, and other professionals. She also offers a detailed account of contemporary rabbinic responses to the multiple ethical and legal dilemmas involved in artificial insemination (especially for unmarried women), IVF, egg donation, and surrogacy. …