In addition to meeting Orna Donath as part of being interviewed on Israel’s only online childfree forum, “Women Who Don’t Want Children,” I met Anat, a delightful Israeli woman who has monitored this forum for the last five years.
I just had to ask her for some inside scoop on this forum and members’ take on being childfree in Israel.
How did this Childfree forum start?
The forum was founded seven years ago, by a woman who anonymously named herself “Gertrude.” She realized that there was no place in the Israeli online world for people like her – someone who does not want children. She decided that this needed to be changed so that people, particularly women, would have a place to discuss their feelings and thoughts around being childfree.
I discovered the forum a few weeks after it started. I had never wanted kids, and at 29, I was at a point where my friends were starting to marry and get pregnant. I was asking myself why I was different, and if I was convinced that being childfree was what I wanted.
I was astounded to find out that there were other people like me in Israel, and that a forum had been set up to discuss this. Talking with other people online helped me revisit my feelings around being childfree, and to come to terms with who I am and how I want to live.
After about two years, Gertrude handed over the monitoring of the forum to another forum member and me, and I have been doing it ever since.
A note about the forum name—there is no word for “childfree” in Hebrew, so we have felt that “Women Who Don’t Want Children” is the best choice, given language limitations. We have started using the word, “alhori” to describe ourselves, which translates to “non-parent” in English, and its use is expanding beyond forum discussions.
What are demographics of its members?
We don’t have exact data on demographics, but there are approximately 100 active participants at any given time, with hundreds of lurkers or occasional writers. Most of the participants are women, although this is changing. In the early days it was probably around 95 percent women, and now maybe 70 percent. The ages are between 25-45, with some members younger than 25, and a few over 50.
We do welcome parents to the forum, as long as they respect our choice and don’t try to convert or undermine us. The forum members range in varying education level and professions. Quite a few of the members are Israelis living abroad.
Most members tend to be more liberal, open minded and unconventional than average. The vast majority of members describe themselves as atheists or agnostics (this in a country where the majority identify themselves as “Jewish” or “religious” to some extent). We all also value our free time, and actively pursue hobbies, cultural activities, reading, music, etc. And most of us love cats!
What kinds of topics do members discuss most?
The most talked about issues include: how/where to find a CF partner and when to tell a new partner about being CF; people in relationships who are in conflict with their partner who wants kids; pressures from family, friends and society at large; personal dilemmas if they want kids or not, or coming to terms with the downsides of being CF. We also discuss politics, religion, feminism, personal issues, environment, and the things we enjoy in our childfree life.
What do members say about the unique challenges of being childfree in Israel?
Forum members feel that Israel has a unique atmosphere which is especially childfree unfriendly. Fertility rates in Israel are high in comparison with other Western countries. The “average” secular Israeli family is more likely to have three or four kids than one or two.
Beyond the memory of the Holocaust and being a nation in a state of conflict with neighboring countries which are unique to Israel, and strong religious influences, we perceive Israeli society as being particularly nosy and disrespectful of other people’s privacy and personal space. Strangers and brief acquaintances will generally allow themselves to ask personal questions, and also offer their unsolicited opinion on other people’s life choices.
Thanks, Anat! She is an electronics engineer, and she and her partner of 17 years have 5 cats and 2 dogs. In her spare time Anat pursues her hobbies, including karate, pottery and sports.
What country shall we go to next? If you know of online childfree forums in other countries, please share!