In honor of the period between Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim I would like to discuss the state of fertility in the State of Israel. This is a source of pride for many of us who live and work here in this field. When we travel to other countries, they are often jealous of the population growth in our young and vibrant country.
What is so unique about Israel’s fertility?
The Central Bureau of Statistics (Lishkah Hamerkazit L’statistica) reports that in Israel, women have an average of three children. This is significantly higher than the average in any other country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with the OECD average being 1.7 children. Israel has an annual population growth of 2 percent while the OECD average is 0.6.
This demonstrates that having children in Israel is important and it is a very child-orientated society. Large families are the norm, and Israelis tend to have larger families than their counterparts in other countries. In this sense, Israel is a very traditional society. Combined with its high level of technology, these two elements have made Israel one of the centers for fertility treatment in the world.
What is an example of successful Israeli fertility technology?
Israel was the fifth country in the world to perform a successful in-vitro fertilization treatment. The first baby born in the world was Louise Brown, who was delivered in Britain on July 25, 1978. Not long afterward, the first Israeli IVF baby was born, on September 22, 1982. The baby, Romi Newmark, has become a well-known Israeli media personality and a newscaster.
Today, Israel has the highest rate of in-vitro fertilization worldwide. The journal Human Reproduction Update published data that in 2002 there were 1657 IVF treatments per million people performed in Israel. The second-highest rated country, Iceland, was significantly lower, with only 899 treatments per million people. The USA was far behind, with 126 treatments.
In the past decade, this number has only increased. In fact, the Health Ministry has published data that 4 percent of all children born in Israel are conceived through IVF. When we consider that IVF is not always successful and that each year over 180 thousand children are born in Israel, we see that we are dealing with thousands of treatments every year.
One reason why treatment is so common in Israel is a fascinating and almost unique law related to the cost of treatment.
By Rabbi Gideon Weitzman
Rabbi Gideon Weitzman is the senior adviser at the Puah Institute.