Mass rally in Tel Aviv to protest against new surrogacy law

Single men and homosexual couples excluded from state-supported surrogacy

LGBT community members in Tel Aviv protest against an amendment to Israel’s surrogacy laws. Photograph: AP /Oded Balilty

Tens of thousands of people from the Israeli LGBT community observed a one-day strike on Sunday to protest at the exclusion of single men from an amendment to Israel’s surrogacy law.

Activists waving rainbow flags held protest gatherings in Israel’s largest cities and blocked traffic at major junctions ahead of a mass rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin square.

Sunday’s strike, at the beginning of the Israeli work week, was the country’s biggest social protest since 2011, when thousands of Israelis took to the streets to demonstrate against the high cost of living.

In an unprecedented show of solidarity, hundreds of companies backed their gay employees, saying they wouldn’t dock pay over the strike action.


Israeli and multinational companies who backed the strike included Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Israel's main airline companies, top law firms, pharma giant Teva, municipalities, hospitals, clothing shops and supermarket chains. The Histadrut trade union federation issued instructions calling on all unions to support LGBT workers who chose to strike.

Microsoft was among a handful of firms to go one step further and announce they would help fund employees’ hefty surrogacy fees.

"From now on, every employee who decides to start a family by surrogacy will receive the equivalent of €14,000 regardless of gender, sector, sexual orientation, age or marital status," Microsoft's research and development hub in Israel wrote on Facebook.

Sunday’s strike came in response to a recent law passed in the Knesset parliament which made single women eligible for state-supported surrogacy, but denied it to single men and homosexual couples. Previously, only heterosexual couples were allowed state-supported surrogacy. Currently, same-sex couples must look overseas for surrogate mothers through Israeli agents, incurring huge fees.

‘Historic day’

"This is a historic day that indicates what is to come. For the first time, the LGBT community in Israel is saying 'no'. No to discrimination, no to the oppression and violence that is directed at the trans community, no to legislation that ignores us and no to our rights being ignored. Our cry of so many years has started to echo in the past few days like it never has," said Chen Arieli, head of the Aguda, Israel's LGBT Task Force.

“This discrimination doesn’t only hurt LGBT people. It hurts everyone. We are the public. We are the public’s sons and daughters. The sisters and brothers, the friends, the colleagues, the neighbours, the platoon comrades. When the public shows up all at once, it makes noise, and that noise will echo,” Mr Arieli said.

The gay community was angered after prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised to pass legislation supporting surrogacy for gay fathers. He then voted against it last week, after his ultra-Orthodox Jewish coalition partners threatened to bring down the government.

Israel prides itself as the only gay-friendly state in the Middle East, but same-sex relationships remain taboo among religious coalition partners in Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing government.

Mr Netanyahu’s coalition includes two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, both of which oppose families with same-sex parents.