Israel began repatriating its nationals from quake-hit Nepal on Monday, including two groups of babies born to surrogate mothers in Kathmandu whose fathers are homosexual Israelis, officials said.
Three of the newborns arrived on a military plane in the morning, and five others landed at noon on an aircraft commissioned by Magen David Adom, Israel's emergency medical service, which had brought medics to Nepal on Sunday.
"It's so good to have you back home, I'm proud to be a citizen of Israel," Interior Minister Gilad Erdan told the group of fathers holding babies and toddlers upon their arrival.
But according to a Time report, the surrogate mothers who delivered the babies have not been allowed to travel to safety regardless of their condition in Nepal.
Among the mothers who are likely to be left stranded due to this policy includes a number of Indian surrogate mothers since many of them had moved to Nepal to deliver the babies. The Time report points out many surrogacy agencies in Israel had to move operations and potential mothers to Nepal after a change in Indian law prevented gay couples married less than two years from engaging surrogate mothers.
According to reports, an additional 100 Nepalese and Indian women in Nepal are still expecting and waiting for assistance.
Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said on Monday he would give permission for the most heavily pregnant to be flown to Israel to give birth. Interior Minister Gilad Erdan also promised to remove immigration hurdles for the rest.
“We have decided to hold off on all the procedures, even if it causes a problem with the Nepalese or Indian governments, so as to bring over the babies as soon as possible.”
However, the move to leave the mothers behind has sparked outrage even in Israel.
In Israel's Haaretz newspaper, Alon-Lee Green wrote, "How can it be that none of the human interest stories or compassion-filled posts mentioned these women, who came from a difficult socioeconomic background ... to rent their wombs ... who now, like the babies they've just had, are also stuck in the disaster zone."
Under Israeli law, only heterosexual couples can legally have children through surrogate mothers, meaning homosexual couples and single people often seek help overseas.
Nepal has become a destination for people seeking to have children through surrogate mothers, though the practice is controversial, with critics saying it exploits the poverty of women.
The foreign ministry says 25 babies were recently born in Kathmandu – four of them prematurely – to surrogate mothers from India, and it would be doing everything possible to bring the remaining 17 babies and their Israeli parents to Israel.
Nepal allows surrogacy practices in its borders for foreigners, but prohibits Nepalese women from being surrogate mothers.
Officials said the rest of the babies could be brought on an Israeli plane which was expected to leave Nepal on Tuesday, along with others of the 600-700 Israelis in Nepal.
The ministry said it has yet to succeed in contacting 50 Israelis in Nepal following the Saturday quake that has claimed more than 4,000 lives.
Tammuz, an Israeli firm offering surrogacy services, said meanwhile it had sent a delegation from India to ensure the well-being of the approximately 80 pregnant Indian women in Nepal who are serving surrogate mothers to the company's primarily Israeli clients.
Israel's justice ministry said on Monday it would allow the surrogate mothers in advanced states of pregnancy to fly to Israel, but only on the condition they were doing so of their free volition and after the dangers of flying in their condition was explained to them.
(With AFP inputs)
Your guide to the latest seat tally, live updates, analysis and list of winners for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 542 constituencies on counting day of the general elections.
Updated Date: Apr 30, 2015 08:57:38 IST