A growing number of children are born in Israel each year not knowing the identities of their fathers, according to figures released this week by the New Family organization.
Less than a week before the United Nation's International Day of the Child on November 20, New Family estimates that more than 3,500 of the children born in 2006 do not know who their fathers are and close to 40,000 children in Israel have no paternal ties, a rise from 34,000 in 2003.
Among the 3,500, the research also found that at least 2,800 children were born to single parent families and more than 10,000 children in Israel are considered mamzerim, or bastards, according to Jewish law, challenging the general perceptions of what makes up a family unit.
The research was based on data published by the Interior Ministry, which is the national registrar of births.
"In the past few years, due to socio-economic factors, the notion of what makes a family unit has broadened," commented Irit Rosenblum, director of New Family. "The configuration of a family is much more diverse - we now have single parent, single sex, mixed couples, priests and divorcees, couples who chose to be together outside of the religious framework, and many more."
In a country where Jewish marriages and burials are performed according to Halacha and under the auspices of the Rabbinate, these children will eventually find themselves in a difficult situation, said Rosenblum.
"There is no official body outside the Rabbinate that recognizes them," she continued. "Even now, the State of Israel prefers to sit on the fence on this issue."
According to the research, the New Family also found that the highest number of children born without knowing the identity of their fathers was in Beersheba, with the lowest figure in the Golan Heights.
New Family was set up in 1998 aimed at defending the rights of unconventional families in Israel. It is the first organization of its kind dedicated to advancing family rights and the rights of individuals within families. The organization maintains that every family unit in Israel is entitled to equal rights.
The International Day of the Child on November 20 marks the day on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. The UN recommended that the day be devoted to promoting the ideals and objectives of the two charters and safeguarding the welfare of children around the world.