ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Surrogacy factors into the rescue and relief efforts in Nepal. The country is a frequent destination for Israelis looking for surrogate mothers. Israel has sent assistance to earthquake victims and flown home some two dozen Israeli couples with brand-new babies, babies who were carried by surrogates. NPR's Emily Harris met the Israeli parents of a preemie. They all survived the earthquake and just returned home to Tel Aviv.
(SOUNDBITE OF BABY CRYING)
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Gilad Greengold holds in his new son Yaari in a neonatal ward in Israel. Greengold and his husband, Amir Vogel Greengold, had rushed from their home in Tel Aviv to Nepal as soon as their baby was born prematurely to a surrogate mother late last week. They were in a cab headed to the Kathmandu hospital when the earthquake hit. Greengold remembers.
GILAD GREENGOLD: It was super strong, super scary. Everyone were afraid - were shocked. And then we started to walk to the hospital because the driver wouldn't drive us anymore.
HARRIS: They found chaos. Hospital staff had moved everything they could to the open parking lot. People were injured, afraid, uncertain. Then, a nurse holding their son spotted the Israeli couple.
GREENGOLD: You couldn't understand who's against who, and who's alive, who's not alive, what's going on - nothing. And all of a sudden you see this miracle. And from that moment, we didn't leave him. We stayed in the parking lot for four days.
HARRIS: Hospital staff gave them a car, told them to turn on the heat and keep the baby warm. For four days, four babies born to surrogates and their new Israeli parents huddled together trying with the hospital staff to provide what the newborns needed. At one point, Greengold found the woman who had carried his new son Yaari. He gave her chocolates and met her husband and their child. It was meaningful but brief, he says.
GREENGOLD: It was just a meeting between two people that cannot really connect in a verbal way because their English was not too good. I don't speak Indian.
HARRIS: Although the baby was born in Nepal, the surrogate mother was Indian. The eggs were from a different woman from South Africa. The embryo was created in Thailand. As Greengold explains all these details, it becomes clear the international surrogacy business is complex.
So we've got South African eggs, Israeli sperm going to Thailand and then going to Nepal to be put into an Indian woman to have a baby?
GREENGOLD: In Nepal, yes. That's the international baby, yes.
HARRIS: The couple says they spent about $70,000 on the whole process. Israel bans same-sex couples or any single parent from finding surrogate mothers domestically. Greengold wishes this were different.
GREENGOLD: It is what it is. Of course, you want your rights. At the same time, we understand that this matter is a matter in conflict and needs to be resolved. It's frustrating that we have to go halfway around the world to be able to be parents, which is a basic right.
HARRIS: His husband, Vogel Greengold, agrees. But right now, he is more grateful than upset with the Israeli government.
AMIR VOGEL GREENGOLD: I don't think any other country in the world would do what they did for their citizen that was stuck in Nepal. We are really thankful, and it's very important to say that.
HARRIS: Israel sent a field hospital and rescue teams to help overall efforts. The government has flown scores of Israelis home, including two-dozen babies born to surrogates. Now, pressure is building to bring still-pregnant surrogates to Israel. Roy Youldous with the Israeli surrogacy company Tammouz says that would likely cost Israeli parents more, and it could be stressful for surrogate mothers and their families.
ROY YOULDOUS: If the hospital is OK - it's opening now, and things may return to normality. I'm not sure what's the right thing for the surrogates.
HARRIS: His company has 75 pregnant surrogate mothers currently in Nepal. Back at the neonatal ward, baby Yaari hiccups through his tiny feeding tube. Father Greengold says they hope to connect with the woman who carried him again, but his thoughts are turning to raising Yaari. The baby's room is ready, he says, with animal print curtains and owls painted on the walls. Emily Harris, NPR News, Tel Aviv.
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