Temanthe surrogacy law: both parties must be Israeli citizens, share the same religion, and cannotbe related to one another. Surrogates must be single and raising at least one child, whilecouples must be married and be childless or have only one genetic offspring.The strict directives of the Israeli surrogacy law have resulted in my “field” being madeup of a distinct population. All of the persons partaking in surrogacy contracts in Israel todate have been Jewish, permanent residents and citizens of Israel, between the ages of 22and 52. Moreover, all of the surrogates have been single mothers raising between one andfive children of their own, and all of the couples have been heterosexually paired, mostlymarried couples, with long histories of female infertility, or in which the female partner waseither born without a womb or lost her womb to hysterectomy.I have been researching surrogacy since 1996, shortly after the passing of the law. Aftercompleting my M.A. thesis on this subject, I continued to research it towards my PhD. Whatinterests me most about surrogacy are the personal experiences of those involved in theprocess and how Jewish-Israeli culture shapes their experiences. This interest also framesmy methodology, which has followed several complimentary methodological tracks. Theseinclude narrative interviewing, textual analysis of media and legal documents concerningsurrogacy in Israel, and online participation in a Hebrew-language discussion forum inwhich Israeli surrogates and intended mothers share their surrogacy experiences.Unlike an anthropologist who travels to a foreign country or conducts research for alimited period on a group to whom he or she is foreign, I am a Jewish-Israeli woman andlive no more than six hours away from any of my informants. Therefore, my research hasnot been limited by time or place. As a result, I’ve been “in the field” for over seven years.During this time, I have kept in close contact with many of my informants, reinterviewingthem repeatedly and taking part in their lives, to the point that many of my initial informantshave turned into personal friends. It is the precarious anthropologist–informant relationshipand the friendship that these relationships sometimes span that I address here.
A little background on the general framework of the surrogacy process in Israel will behelpful at this point. Couples and surrogates find one another through ads in the newspa-per, private agencies, or online surrogacy discussion boards. Looking for the appropriatepartner to proceed with takes time. Some couples I met interviewed over fifty women beforefinding their surrogate, while surrogates usually met several couples until they felt the right“chemistry” with a particular couple. Together, all three submit forms to a government-runapproval committee that decides whether they can continue with the process. Merelyobtaining the committee’s approval is a very trying event in itself, sometimes lasting up to ayear because of the bureaucracy.