Israel's cabinet approved on Sunday new health policies that are set to offer women aged 20-33 free abortions. But the president of a Messianic Jewish group with offices in the Mid-East country has called it a sign that preaching the Gospel in Israel is greatly needed.
Dr. Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, told The Christian Post in an email on Wednesday that "these new policies provide one more sign pointing to the importance of proclaiming the Gospel to Israelis and to help the secular majority within Israel appreciate more traditional Jewish values on sex, life and marriage and to turn to the Scriptures for guidance."
According to The Times of Israel, the new policies add to already liberal laws on abortion in Israel, where women can receive subsidies to end their pregnancy if they face medical emergencies or are the victims of rape or abuse. Women can also apply for abortion for a variety of other reasons, including emotional and mental, and although they need to appear before a three-member committee to examine their abortion requests, 98 percent of such requests are approved.
The new health guidelines release additional funding for abortion, costing around $4.6 million, and will reportedly help over 6,000 women looking to take that option.
"We want large families in Israel. We definitely encourage birth," explained Dr. Yonatan Halevy, director general of Shaare Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, who last week announced the "health basket" which includes the new abortion policies. "But when pregnancy occurs and it is undesired or inadvertent, I think we should supply the means to end the pregnancy properly."
Halevy insisted that the new abortion guidelines should not be deemed as radical, and noted that the health basket includes a number of other changes to the country's health care system.
Glaser, whose Messianic Jewish organization hosts conferences in the U.S. that examine Middle East events, Israel and biblical prophecy, told CP that not everyone is happy about the abortion policies. He pointed to Efrat, a pro-life group that is generally supported by the religious Jewish community within Israel.
In the Times of Israel article, Efrat Chairman Dr. Eli Schussheim argued that providing funding for non-medically necessary abortions is like "stealing from sick people – and giving the money instead as a prize to 6,000 negligent women."
Earlier in January, two of Israel's top rabbis, Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, wrote a letter in support of Efrat, declaring that "we see great importance in the work of the Efrat association to save the lives of Jewish children; over its 30 years of activity, tens of thousands of fetuses were saved, and in the past year alone, the lives of 4,000 children were saved."
Haaretz noted that the rabbis have been making sterner warnings against the dangers of abortion in the past year, and in their letter called for "making the wider public aware of the extreme seriousness involved in killing fetuses, which is like actual murder."
Amar and Metzger have also recommended that all rabbis who hold conferences on abortion invite Schussheim to participate or consult with them on the topic, since they claim his organization has been shown to actually save lives.
Another pro-life Messianic Jewish group, Be'ad Chaim, pointed out that based on its understanding, women would still need to gain approval through a committee if they want to have an abortion.
"That means it's not entirely a free-for-all, but we will see what happens 'on the ground' as previously more rigid rules were grossly ignored," the organization said on Facebook on Monday.