Update on the Work of Israeli Scholar and Author, Orna Donath

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.

Orna is currently doing Post-Doc work at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. She is the author of Making a Choice: Being Childfree in Israel was published by Miskal – Yedioth Ahronot Books and Migdarim/Hakibutz Hameohad (in Hebrew). She has also published the article: “Pro-Natalism and its ‘Cracks’: Narratives of Reproduction and Childfree Lifestyles in Israel”, Israeli Sociology, 2009/2010, Vol. 11, Issue 2, Pp. 417-439 (in Hebrew).


Post update from July 2011


6 thoughts on “Update on the Work of Israeli Scholar and Author, Orna Donath

  1. I’m all for being childfree, but militant people like Laura make the childless sound bitter about not being able to have kids or something. It’s called “live and let live,” people. Being so judgemental against people who have kids just make the childfree appear bitter and washed up. This isn’t the right way to go about your cause.

    1. The last thing I want to do is be militant about those without children by choice to sound bitter! Please tell me where this shows up–I try very hard to be a sight where childfree issues can be discussed with respect.

  2. Yeah please give some examples, this is hardly a “militant” childfree blog. And we are hardly washed up. More likely the opposite!

    We are awaiting your response Liz….

  3. My word – what is with the ‘hit-and run’ trolling lately? I just spotted two of them in the comments section in another post and now I see this “Liz” person making completely unfounded accusations -and no attempts made to back up her “point”, of course (hence the “hit-and-run” expression).

    Getting back to the actual topic, it’s great to hear from someone who’s engaging the topic of childfreedom from a different cultural context. It seems that so much of the childfree internet is from Anglophone, (more or less) Christian, individualistic countries that I think that sometimes there is the tendency to become very insular in terms of shared experiences and what it means to fight for acceptance in the larger culture.

    1. Hi mtuni, Yes, I am going to post on the trolling…ranters doin the rant again…and here of all places. On the Israel topic, excellent point! I have one more post to do on Israel so stay tuned…

  4. Apparently a person is “militant” when she has an opinion that she sustains over a long time, advocates for change, and invites others to contribute opinions of their own. Thank goodness such “militancy” exists in the world.

    Another way to put it: if you think this blog is militant, you are either using the word incorrectly or have not spent much time on the web….

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