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Israel airlifts surrogates, babies from Nepal

Israel is scrambling to bring home babies born to surrogate mothers in disaster-stricken Nepal, while its LGBT citizens are calling for surrogacy options in their own country.
An Israeli man holds his baby, born to a surrogate mother, after being evacuated from Nepal and landing at Sde Dov airport in Tel Aviv, Israel April 27, 2015.  Israel began evacuating infants born to surrogate mothers and their Israeli parents from Nepal on Monday, on the return legs of flights sent to provide earthquake relief. Many Israeli male couples have fathered children with the help of surrogate mothers in Nepal because in Israel the procedure is limited by law to heterosexual partners. REUTERS/Nir

Early on April 25, when initial reports reached Israel about the crisis facing Israeli babies born to surrogate mothers in Nepal, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan opened a little war room of sorts in his home. According to the information trickling in, there were some 20-day-old babies, some of them premature, born in Nepal to Israeli citizens. Most of those Israelis were same-sex couples, trapped there by the earthquake that has devastated the country. The family members of these concerned new parents described a severe shortage of baby food. They told of hospitals in the capital, Kathmandu, which had been turned to rubble, and of cars that had become incubators for the infants who required oxygen.

According to official procedure in Nepal, babies born to surrogate mothers can leave the country only after an arduous bureaucratic process that often lasts weeks. It took Erdan just a few hours to maneuver around the obstacles imposed by the Nepalese government, as well as Israel’s own bureaucratic hurdles. As the minister responsible for distributing ID cards, he coordinated the effort to grant Israeli citizenship to these infants with the Foreign Ministry. This meant that the babies could receive Israeli citizenship papers through the Israeli Embassy in Nepal, even though the actual building was damaged and its staff was forced to work in the courtyard. While the problem of granting these babies citizenship was being resolved, Israel was also handling the logistics of sending aid to Nepal and airlifting the infants from there.

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