I recently heard from Orna Donath, an Israeli scholar and author I interviewed awhile back on the childfree in Israel. She has two new published articles about motherhood and regret in Israel based on her Ph.D. work. Check them out and my interview with her here:
Orna’s research on motherhood and regret in Israel can be found Here
Part I of my interview with Orna is here, and Part II is below:
In your research, what did you find regarding the stereotypes about Israelis who don’t want children?
The research brings to light how many stereotypes are pinned onto the childfree in Israel, and how similar they are to those in the U.S., namely, that childfree people are self-centered, child-haters, and freaks, who must have experienced trauma as children.
One widely accepted stereotype that my research challenged was the notion that women who don’t want children are inevitably career women. I found that most women participants do not see themselves as career women, but see their jobs chiefly as a source of income. They value their free time above their jobs, whether it be to spend their time on personal studies, hobbies, volunteer work or community activity.
What do you see as the unique challenges of being childfree in Israel compared to other countries?
The reasons for being childfree in Israel are similar to those in other Western countries, the main difference being the cultural backdrop against which this decision takes place.
Israel is in first place worldwide when it comes to utilizing fertility technologies and in the accessibility of these technologies to the public. There is significant national funding for these procedures in our country. Israel also has higher birth rates than are common in other developed countries.
Israeli society is heavily permeated by the religious discourse of “be fruitful and multiply” which perceived as one of the tenants of being Jewish. The memory of the Holocaust is a strong motivating factor (not necessarily conscious of course) for procreation as well. The State of Israel has also been subject to existential concerns brought on by the constant state of struggle and wars over its existence, and by the Jewish-Palestinian conflict, a situation that many people feel requires maintaining a Jewish majority as part of the ‘demographic balance’ discourse.
All these factors cause the pronatalist ideology to be particularly predominant and omnipresent in everyday life in Israel. Children are cherished and even perceived as sacred by Israeli society, and their shoulders are burdened with many expectations, on the national as well as the personal level. The pressure to procreate and the message that not having children means both shirking one’s civil duty and denying happiness from oneself – are being directed at individuals from every possible direction. These messages are everywhere – in commercials, in the media, in personal therapy sessions, in the workplace, on the street and at family dinner tables.
All of these factors point to the fact that in Israel, 2011, it is difficult to be childfree. Even if certain Israelis feel that the childfree decision is a non-issue for themselves and their social circle, for the majority, it is indeed still very much an issue, and one that has its own prices.
There is a lack of information about the childfree choice in Hebrew. The publishing of this book is an activist act that aims to expand the bounds of free choice for all people in general, and for women in particular.
Orna’s research areas include gender studies, motherhood, women’s studies, feminist theory, and of course – the childfree by choice in Israel.
Post update from July 2011