One of the more amusing aspects of reading the Israeli newspapers, as I occasionally do, is the advertising. In the English-language versions of the papers, most of the ads are aimed at extracting cash from diaspora (which in the Israeli mind means American) Jews. Thus naff and overpriced Israeli army surplus gear or evil and overpriced Jewish dating websites. See the theme emerging? And me with my hatred of anti-Jewish stereotypes. (Although I’m tempted to get another one of those cool Israeli army bags like the one that the burglars borrowed to cart off my stereo, camera, minidisc player etc. a few years back.)
In keeping with the Israeli reputation for, shall we say, bluntness, the word ‘subtlety’ is not in these advertisers’ dictionaries. (Although there are apparently six Hebrew words meaning ‘subtlety’ according to my Hebrew-English from 1990.)
Thus I came to see the immensely unsubtle video and website from this organisation which aims to reduce the number of abortions in Israel by providing financial, practical and psychological assistance for mothers-to-be who may prefer not to be mothers. ‘Considering abortion? Don’t! We’ll give you nappies and baby clothes and counselling and stuff’ . . . or something along those lines. This approach has apparently rescued some 17,000 little urchins from the vacuum cleaner since the organisation kicked off in 1977.
They even have heart-warming pictures from the regular conventions they hold for all the unwanted kids who ended up being wanted after all. Some of whom will no doubt end up being customers themselves before long, if it hasn’t happened already.
And OK, sure, there’s still plenty of Jewish-mother guilt to be found on the website: the usual pictures of disturbingly human-like foetuses and horror stories about painful and guilt-inducing and life-destroying abortions. But this approach is a lot more compassionate than the god-hates-that tack most anti-abortion groups take, and considerably more practical.
Yet I still find it creepy. I think it’s because of the condescending and (ugh) patriarchal assumption that most women have abortions for financial, which is to say selfish reasons. The idea that some baby food and counselling can turn an unwanted child and an unprepared mother into a family.
But then Israel’s views on most things have always been somewhat on the unfashionable side for inner city pinko liberal types like me. Although they make very cool army bags.