Enslaved in a foreign land for 430 years, Israel’s mothers were once confronted with a gut-wrenching choice: either put their newborn sons to death or face the wrath of a powerful king.
Rather than give into the demands of the Egyptian Pharoah, however, two heroic midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, led Israel in a resistance that led to the birth of Moses, who would grow up to lead his people out of captivity and into the Promised Land.
Today, several thousand years after that deliverance, a pro-life ministry in Israel is picking up where Shiphrah and Puah left off. Only this time, the threat to Israel’s sons and daughters is coming from within, robbing a reported 20,000 unborn children of their lives every year.
The problem is actually twice as bad, says Sandy Shoshani, national director of a pro-life group called Be’ad Chaim. Even as taxpayers fund 20,000 legal abortions each year—an official number that has stayed the same since the mid-1980s—private clinics abort another 20-30,000 children on an annual basis.
Many of the non-reported abortions take place while young women are serving a compulsory term in the military. Rather than going through the shame of accessing an abortion through the state, young women in the military routinely opt for private abortions—a trend Shoshani’s daughter saw firsthand while she was in the armed service.
Since 1948, Shoshani estimates over 2 million babies have been aborted. Currently, Israel’s population of just 8.4 million aborts as many as one in four preborn babies—a ratio just below that of China.
It was numbers and anecdotes like these that shocked Shoshani into action back in 2005 when she was asked to take the reins of Be’ad Chaim, an organization serving Israeli women since 1988.
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“The Lord spoke to my heart Proverbs 24:10-12,” Shoshani said. “The Lord showed me a picture of myself like an ostrich and said, ‘You can stick your head in the sand and pretend you don’t know about the abortions in Israel, or you can do something amazing. So, I took up the challenge.”
Picking Up Where Shiphrah and Puah Left Off
Installed as Be’ad Chaim’s director, Shoshani almost immediately drew upon her background as a preschool teacher, community volunteer and mother of seven to address one of the most common reasons women resort to abortion: poverty.
The government will pay for abortions, but many young women—including those fresh out of the military—feel they don’t have the resources to raise a child when they become pregnant.
Under Shoshani’s leadership, Be’ad Chaim started a project called Operation Moses, which provides free maternity help and baby items throughout the first year after a child is born. Since starting Operation Moses, Shoshani and her volunteer team have paid the first year’s expenses for well over 1,500 mothers—helping as many as 450 women at a time.
In addition to Operation Moses, Be’ad Chaim is helping the women and men heal from past abortions with a project called “The Gardens of Life,” which has helped over 2,000 women and men from all over the world grieve a child they lost through abortion.
The drive to reach post-abortive women—who are more likely to choose abortion in a subsequent pregnancy—has also spurred Be’ad Chaim to produce a video, “Life After,” which tells the stories of three Israeli women who resorted to abortion, following them through the difficult aftermath of abortion.
“Whatever we have, we give,” Shoshani said. “We’re very open-handed with helping people. We don’t reject anybody. We accept them no matter who they are and what they do. We’ve even had people who’ve had abortions and come back to us. A lot of girls come back here and say, ‘I just want to hang out here because it’s like a family to me.’”
“They couldn’t stop blessing me.”
With 20 trained consultants in the nation—including three in Jerusalem, two in Beersheba and one in Tel Aviv—Be’ad Chaim’s primary means for reaching abortion-vulnerable women is word of mouth, though the organization has also ramped up its online marketing efforts over the past year.
Just as Be’ad Chaim was retooling its online outreach in early 2016, a young man reached out. Both he and his girlfriend were Orthodox Jews, and they were petrified when they found out she was pregnant. But while his girlfriend felt abortion might be the only way to avoid the shame they would bring upon their family, the man reached out for help to Be’ad Chaim.
Both said they wanted to get married and raise the child together, but the woman told Shoshani they didn’t have the money to have a proper wedding. Living up to Be’ad Chaim’s credo, “Whatever we have, we give,” Shoshani paid for their wedding license as well as a deposit for the wedding hall.
The couple was married in the spring of 2016 and welcomed their child in the late summer.
“I’m just over-the-top thrilled,” Shoshani said. “They were so happy. They couldn’t stop blessing me. I kept blessing them and the guy kept saying, ‘No, no, no: you’re the one who’s going to have a long life. You’re the one who’s blessed.’
“I said, ‘Listen, when you are married and happy and her parents love you, you come back with your 10 kids and tell me how it’s going.’”
Quite the Journey
Originally from Boston, Shoshani became a Messianic Jew during her freshman year in college with the help of a newly converted roommate who, as Shoshani recalls, knew little else beyond the fact that “Jesus died for my sin and rose from the dead.”
As Shoshani and her roommate discussed their faith throughout the semester, Shoshani realized she was desperately lacking hope and a foundational reason for living. Eventually, the same man who’d led her roommate to faith in Jesus showed Shoshani a prophecy in Isaiah 53 that speaks of a Suffering Servant who would bear the punishment of sin for God’s chosen people.
“He said, ‘Who is this talking about?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but it sounds like the Jesus my roommate’s talking about,’” Shoshani said. “He said, ‘You know what? Why don’t you pray and just receive the Lord. If it’s not true you’ve made a fool of yourself in front of me. If it is true, you’ve changed your life.’”
Four years later, after a battle with cancer, Shoshani’s mother died unexpectedly. When her father blamed her mother’s untimely death on Shoshani’s faith in Jesus, he sent her to Israel to a rabbinical place of study in attempts to move her away from her convictions.
Though she would keep her faith in Jesus, Shoshani would also find a new home in Israel. She was of Jewish ancestry and the year was 1979, at the height of Israeli settlement following the Six-Day War of 1967.
Two years later, she met her husband—himself a native Israeli who would eventually become a pastor—and has lived there ever since.
“As a child, I was always looking for God. I think every heart looks for God, but the Jewish heart—there’s something that really seeks him,” Shoshani said. “It’s kind of a wild story, but God has been ultra-faithful. I’ve had quite the journey.”