It sounded like a story heard time and again: A government official criticises her rivals for breaking COVID restrictions — and then is caught breaking them herself.
That is what seemed to happen Friday night, when an Israeli reporter tweeted that Israel’s Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli had travelled to the United States, contrary to government recommendations.
Journalists and politicians called out Michaeli’s apparent hypocrisy as Israel grapples with a spike in COVID cases. The speaker of Israel’s parliament, a political ally of hers, pointed out that he chose to vacation with his extended family at a village within Israel. Galit Distel Atbaryan, a freshman lawmaker from the opposition Likud party, tweeted that last year Michaeli had criticised then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for travelling to Washington, D.C., during the pandemic to sign a diplomatic treaty.
Michaeli, 54, is the leader of the Labor Party.
“Now Michaeli is relaxing in the U.S. while COVID is still COVID,” Distel Atbaryan tweeted, according to the Israeli newspaper Maariv. “Except there’s one difference: She won’t come back with a peace treaty.”
But on Saturday night, Michaeli revealed that she did come back with something — or rather someone — from her trip: a newborn baby.
She and her partner, the Israeli comedian Lior Schleien, had travelled to the United States because they were having a child through surrogacy. The announcement came with an extra level of surprise, because Michaeli is an outspoken feminist who has disputed the idea that women have an obligation to raise children.
Michaeli posted the news on Facebook, along with a photo of her and Schleien grinning and holding their son, Ori. She explained her decision in the post.
“When Lior first told me ‘Let’s have a baby,’ I was sure it was a punchline,” she wrote. “After all, he’s a comedian and we’re talking about me. And it’s well-known that I had no intention of having children.”
But she wrote that out of her love for Schleien, she agreed that they should become parents, writing that, “As time passed, I saw how much he wanted this, and I looked at him, and loved him. And I’ve chosen to live with him and take this journey with him.”
After Michaeli posted the news, the condemnations became congratulations in a country where having children is (almost) universally celebrated and highly incentivised by the government. Israel has relatively high fertility rates and provides monthly childcare stipends, in addition to subsidising fertility treatments.
Avraham, the journalist who had reported on her trip, tweeted that Michaeli’s staff had not told him the reason for it, and wished her “a huge mazel tov.”
Distel Atbaryan deleted her earlier tweet, replacing it with her best wishes.
“I wrote a tweet that jabbed at Merav Michaeli for her trip to the U.S.,” she wrote. “It turns out that she flew there not for a vacation, but actually for the birth of her first son through surrogacy. I immediately deleted my tweet and I’ll take this opportunity to wish her all the best in that journey, and mazel tov.”
In her post, Michaeli said that becoming a parent has not changed her views on motherhood, which she wrote “turns into a burden on women,” and said that having a child should not be seen as obligatory. But she wrote that she’s happy to be a parent.
“This is a love story,” she wrote. “Now it’s a love story of three.”
Schleien’s post was shorter. Above the same photo, he wrote, “Meet: Ori.”
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.