A Jewish baby is born to a woman on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The
baby is healthy, the mother is happy, guests bring gifts, and the child
is welcomed to the world. The birth is remarkable because the
woman conceived the child without having sexual intercourse and
the baby has no identifiable father.
This reproductive moment is not the virgin birth of Christian
Scripture; it is an ongoing, contemporary phenomenon in the state of
Israel. Indeed, such births occur quite regularly in Israel as part of a
small but growing trend among unmarried Jewish women who give
birth to children they have conceived with anonymous Jewish donor
An unusual confluence of social, legal, and rabbinic forces have
enabled the birth of these children. First, many Israelis have enthusi-
astically embraced new reproductive technologies as reasonable so-
lutions to childlessness and, in the case of a growing number of
unmarried women, as legitimate alternatives to sexual intercourse as
pathways to pregnancy. Second, the Israeli medical community has
recognized the potential for procreative innovation inherent in these
technologies and has positioned itself at the cutting edge of their
research and development. Third, Israeli legislators have drafted reg-
ulations to provide broad-based, and in many cases unprecedented,
access to these technologies. Finally, contemporary orthodox rabbis
have spared no effort to determine appropriate uses of these tech-
nologies that are commensurate with traditional rabbinic under-
standings of relatedness.
These dynamics present numerous analytical foci. In this study, I
have chosen to (1) illustrate how rabbinic beliefs about kinship are
made literal through the social uses of new reproductive technology
in Israel, with a particular focus on the construction of maternity
and paternity in rabbinic kinship cosmology; (2) illuminate the cu-
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