“I want my child”: amid ongoing war, Israeli soldiers call ministry to prevent abortion of their unborn babies

By Chris Eyte |
Ruth Tidhar
Ruth Tidhar from EFRAT saves the lives of babies in Israel. | EFRAT

Stories of Israeli babies being saved from abortion are surfacing amid the loathsome agony of death and destruction in the ongoing Israel-Hamas War, as soldiers experience a change in perspective.  

For the past 23 years, Ruth Tidhar has worked for EFRAT, a pro-life organization in Israel, named after the prophetess sister of Moses in the Bible, which saves babies from abortion and supports parents. 

Founded in 1977 by the late Dr. Eli Schussheim, EFRAT has saved at least 87,000 lives to date, according to Tidhar, a social worker by profession, who serves as the Director of the Assistance Department.

She noticed a remarkable change in attitudes that has emerged among some soldiers on the frontline of the conflict, who have pleaded with EFRAT to support their wives in giving birth whilst they are away fighting. 

In an exclusive interview with Christian Daily International from Jerusalem, Tidhar revealed she has received phone calls from soldiers aghast at the suffering experienced in the conflict and wanting their little boys and girls to be saved in the womb. 

She said this was a significant change since pregnant women are often left to make their own choices without support.

“It is a terrible time we are dealing with here. It’s just been so horrible since Oct. 7 [when Hamas attacked Israel and took hostages]. We have so much pain and so much fear, it’s just so horrible. And anti-semitism is on the rise all over the world – that's scary as well.”

The “normal story” heard by workers at EFRAT is that most women “are being pressured by the man in their lives to have an abortion,” said Tidhar. 

“That is what we hear 90 percent of the time. It’s very unusual to hear of anything else. At the beginning of the war though, there was a cluster of cases where a husband, fiancee or boyfriend called and begged us to convince their wives, fiance or girlfriend to continue the pregnancy and not have an abortion.

“The woman may be terrified that the husband is fighting and thinking, ‘How am I going to do this? I didn’t mean to get pregnant.’ But the husband has a totally different viewpoint and says to us, ‘please offer help and explain how important it is. I want my child.’”

Tidhar felt the reason for the Israeli soldiers wanting their children “has to do with the war.” She recalled a soldier, in the second week of the war, saying: “They’re killing us, how can we possibly do that?” That referred to abortion and Tidhar called it “very moving and surprising.” 

She pointed out that Israel is a small country: “I could drive an hour and be at the Gaza border. These brave soldiers are fighting to keep us safe here. The soldiers are fighting off hordes of people who want to kill us.”

Tidhar said that many of the moms did not want to have abortions and EFRAT provided robust support.

“They are looking for someone to save them from doing this, it’s not really something they really want to do. We’re there to give them the ability to make a real choice with a gift of life and we are with them all the way.”

The program offered at EFRAT is inclusive, explained Tidhar. “When a woman begins her pregnancy, in general the story we hear over and over again is that the husband or boyfriend is pressuring her to have an abortion, and she feels inside that’s not the thing for her. 

“We try to give strength with befrienders who listen to her, and give emotional support, but also very meaningful concrete assistance as well, such as a new crib, stroller, baby bath, baby clothing, diapers, bottles, pacifiers – all kinds of things. We give them two years worth of diapers, wipes and formula when needed.”

EFRAT employs a Rise up! program to “really help people get back on their feet after a baby is born.” It involves occupational counseling with a social worker and financial support to help pay for daycare until the Israeli Government’s subsidy starts three months after the mother goes back to work. Until these subsidies begin, daycare is prohibitively expensive. 

The organization helps the new mother finance daycare in order to encourage her to return to work and support her family on her own. This way, EFRAT helps the new mother break the cycle of poverty and need.

“It can be difficult for the moms to pay for daycare, so we built this program, which has helped hundreds of women and that department also gives assistance for things like finishing degrees, paying for tuition. 

“The funding comes, every dollar of it, from private donations. From people who understand the importance of it. And because all the work in the field is done by volunteers and the baby equipment is bought in bulk, we have low overheads.”

A typical $1,500 USD donation provides a support package for a pregnant woman in need and helps her to decide to continue her pregnancy. A generous donor who gives that money gets a certificate from EFRAT with the date of birth of the saved baby.

The day before the interview with Christian Daily International, Tidhar spoke to a woman in her mid 30s who had an unplanned pregnancy and she was not in a relationship. The woman had been trying to get the young man responsible to support her and the pregnancy. 

“I listened to her for a long time and we spoke about it, and she started crying in the conversation and by the end she was telling me her pregnancy stories, about getting ice cream in the middle of the night.

“When we get into the story of the pregnancy and the woman receives that promise of assistance from us the whole way, she looks at this as something she can smile about and feels glad. 

“Not so long ago, another woman was referred to us who worked as a secretary at the Rambam Hospital in Haifa. She decided to have an abortion and was so devastated afterwards that she didn’t know what to do with herself. She was depressed and anguished. 

“Then, at her workplace, another woman knocked on the door and asked for directions to the hospital abortion clinic. And the first woman asked her to sit down and told her experience of having an abortion. Then she paid for this pregnant woman to take a taxi and come to us for help and the pregnancy is now going ahead. She had the opportunity, I guess, to make amends from the pain.”

Tidhar recalled another story about twin babies being saved from death.  

“There was a young man serving as a soldier on the frontlines who recently turned to us and he said his girlfriend was pregnant and they were really scared, and didn’t know what to do. She was pregnant with twins, so we linked her to a wonderful volunteer to get emotional support and they are going ahead with the birth. 

Tidhar herself worked as a social worker for 12 years before getting involved in the charity. “I was looking for a job and I thought that’s what I want to do. It’s been a huge privilege. I was always uncomfortable with abortion but I had no tools to offer these women, so I came to EFRAT and found this amazing program whereby you can say to the woman: ‘You can do this. It’s going to be ok. It will be a challenge because life is challenging but it’s going to be ok.’”  

Tidhar said that online and readily accessible visuals means people are more informed about the development of babies in the womb. “But the information which is not available is how you are going to feel after having an abortion. Every day I speak with women who have such anguish and grief from abortions. It doesn’t go away. It just doesn’t go away. 

“One of the questions we ask these women is: did you have an abortion in the past? If she says she did have an abortion, I will always ask: ‘How was the experience for you?’ And I hear terrible things. Often women turn to us to avoid another abortion and say they will do anything not to go through that again.”

Tidhar hopes that the “cluster of men” fighting in the Israeli army, who understand that babies are a gift of life, will grow. She also wants “every woman in Israel” to know that there are people and ministries like EFRAT to support them, to help and “be part of it.”

“I hope fewer women stand in front of us having made that terrible decision to abort and if they did, they should know they are not alone because we are there for them. We enter a woman’s life at such a stormy point. She has to make a decision quickly, at a crossroads, and it’s so important to be there and give a hand and help.”