Is Abortion in Israel Holding Back Moshiach?

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(This is an expanded version of an article published in The Jewish Press on December 25, 2020.)

“You go to international conferences and say that we abort fetuses with Down syndrome, and people think you’re insane.” So remarked Israeli geneticist and gynecologist Dr. Adi Reches last year.

In an article from 2019 titled “I Found the Outer Limits of My Pro-choice Beliefs,” Dr. Chavi Karkowsky wrote that “here in Israel, abortion is widely available and can be offered until delivery. A subtle abnormality, such as the one I saw in that ultrasound room outside Tel Aviv, can prompt a discussion of pregnancy termination. Even at 35 weeks.” Political scientist Rebecca Steinfeld noted in a 2015 study:

“The Israeli obsession with pre-natal testing…has generated toleration if not outright encouragement of post-diagnostic abortion for fetal abnormality. Having a late-term abortion due to fetal abnormality is easy in Israel, and Israel has one of the highest late-term abortion rates globally.”

Citing more recent statistics, journalist Shany Littman wrote last year:

“The number of abortions performed in Israel at an advanced stage of pregnancy is on the rise. According to Health Ministry data, the number of terminations after week 23 due to birth defects rose from 175 in 2000 to 302 in 2017…In other words, the proportion of late-term abortions out of the total number of abortions rose from 1.1 percent, in 2000, to 1.8 percent in 2017. In England, by comparison, only 0.1 percent of the abortions in 2017 were performed after week 24.”

And Rabbi Zamir Cohen has referred to:

“…the strange law in Israel that states that abortions can be performed even in the sixth month…I’m talking about a case that was presented to me this week, a woman who was informed that one leg is slightly shorter than the other, received an approval to get an abortion…There aren’t too many countries that allow abortions, or in this case I can even use the word murder, of such a creature.”

The origin of eugenic abortion in Eretz Yisrael precedes hakamat ha’medina. In her study Birthrate Politics in Zion: Judaism, Nationalism, and Modernity under the British Mandate, Professor Lilach Rosenberg-Friedman writes about Clalit medical director Dr. Joseph Mayer:

“He maintained that children should be born to the nation the Yishuv was building only if it was certain that they would be healthy in body and mind. He thus advocated abortion for eugenic purposes — to prevent the transmission of genetic diseases.”

She continues concerning such people:

“They wanted to breed not Diaspora Jews but rather new Jews of an entirely different physical and mental type. This dictated the judicious and systematic use of contraception and abortion prevent the birth of undesirables.

In short, they sought to encourage a higher birthrate among certain populations only, specifically that of the largely Ashkenazi New Yishuv, composed of middle-class city dwellers, the Zionist labor movement, and urban and rural pioneers…The Jewish populations with high birthrates were precisely those that the eugenicists saw as detrimental to the national project — the Haredi Old Yishuv and the Mizrahim. These groups needed to be taught to use contraception and abortion to reduce their family size.”

By 1942, senior Nazis met at Wannsee to discuss implementation of the Final Solution. That year, Chief Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog wrote about abortion in the Yishuv vis-a-vis the slaughter of children in the Holocaust:

“It is a hideous sin, a double sin, against the laws of our holy Torah and against the future of our Jewish nation. It is a grave sin against the laws of our sacred Torah, which is a Torah of life, which desires life and the multiplication of life…And here divine justice has struck us, saying: You have learned the ways of the modern nations, to shed the ‘burden’ of large families, [and now] the evil people of the gentile nations are casting Jewish children into the water!”

In 1975, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik used the word “murder” to describe abortion in Eretz Yisrael. “Their blood cries out from the earth,” Rav Avigdor Miller said in that context. Rav Immanuel Jakobovits condemned “this mass slaughter of the innocents in Israel, posing a security problem graver than any threats of war or terror.”

And now? Whereas America maintains the Hyde Amendment with a vigorous pro-life movement, Medinat Yisrael subsidizes abortion with little opposition.

“And we call ourselves enlightened,” former Knesset member and abortion opponent Nissim Ze’ev said in 2008.

In his recent book Ask Rabbi Jack, one of the questions Rabbi Jack Abramowitz answers is about abortion. He writes, “The Torah does not permit abortion on demand…The Torah not only prohibits abortion for Jews, it is universally prohibited under the seven Noahide laws under the general category of murder.”

Rabbi Abramowitz then adds:

“The Talmud in Yevamos (63b) says that Moshiach won’t come until all the souls that are waiting to be born have been born (based on Isaiah 57:16), so intentional refusal to procreate holds up the redemption.”

With reference to that Gemara, Rabbi Lazer Brody has written:

“In light of the above Talmudic teachings, any person who performs, supports, assists, or encourages abortions is delaying the arrival of Moshiach with his or her own two hands…So, if you’d like to lend a helping hand in bringing Moshiach as fast as possible, do what you can to fight against abortion in every way possible.”

Rabbi Brody recounts elsewhere:

“Dr. ‘Pesach’ is assistant head of obstetric medicine at one Israel’s leading hospitals. Dr. Pesach gave me an inside picture on what goes on in Obstetric Ultrasonography over here: ‘In Israel, the abortion laws are the most liberal anywhere. The government and the kupot cholim prefer the relatively minor cost of an ultrasound and pregnancy termination to the tremendous expenses of treating and raising a child with a birth defect. So, any time a doctor has the slightest doubt as to the health of the fetus, he recommends termination.’ ”

Certain religious Zionists often talk about the geulah. How many of them speak out against state-financed abortion in the holiest land on earth?

Rav Shimon Schwab observes on Yeshayahu 43:21:

“The purpose of the Jewish people in the world is ‘that they tell My praises,’ to teach the world about the existence of HaKadosh Baruch Hu and His moral law for all of mankind.”

Is silence before carnage in the heichal ha’Melech how we fulfill that purpose?

Occasional writer, fan of racquet and barbell sports, dabbler of languages