Advocates for family values, fathers' and children's rights were dismayed this week when Israeli television and radio stations began running an advertisement on behalf of the Justice Ministry, trumpeting a new fast track that will assist women in collecting overdue child support payments from their former husbands.
The fast track is featured by the Hotzaa Lapoal, Israel's Collection Agency, which enforces judgements regarding child support, among other debts. Long lobbied for by genderist women's groups, the fast track's employees will save mothers who are owed child support much of the hassle that accompanies the collection of money that is owed them.
This includes the filing of requests for information, and getting the authorities to take actions like repossession of property, revocation of driver's licenses and various professional licenses, issuing of orders preventing the debtor from leaving Israel and the jailing of debtors.
The commercial shows mothers accompanying their children in situations that involve a shortage of money: a boy asks his mother for a cereal he wants, as they shop in the supermarket; an adolescent girl asks her mother for a nice dress for the school graduation party; a girl wants to take ballet lessons. In each of the cases, the mother is apprehensive at first, but then transforms into a confidently smiling “soldier” in olive camouflaged military fatigues, and goes ahead to give the child what he or she wanted.
The narrator says: “You fight – so that they can continue to get what they love most. You fight, so that they can have something to wear at their graduation party. Thousands of women are forced to fight, every day, so that they can get the child support payments their children deserve. From today – there is someone there to fight for you.”
The image of women in uniforms deeply shocked many advocates for fathers' rights on pro-family social media pages, and some remarked that the uniforms look like the ones worn by Hizbullah terrorists. Worse, they said, was the message transmitted to children of divorce, who could glean from the commercial that their father is "the enemy."
Some of the distraught fathers noted that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who leads Israel's "peace camp" and is averse to what she sees as the government's excessive militarism against Israel's Arab neighbors, had no problem with the militaristic nature of her ministry's commercial, which is directed mostly against Jewish men.
An angry divorced father was quick to edit and upload a counter-video, which speaks about the plight of divorced fathers, who fight to give their children a good home despite having to pay for two households. “For years, you fought for the country," says the narrator. "Now – the state fights you. Mothers in uniform declare war on you. The ammunition – children. The weapon – courtesy of the state.”
The average child support paid by Israeli divorced fathers is higher than that in most OECD countries, and only Switzerland is known to have a higher average rate, according to Israeli men's rights activists.
According to the most recent OECD annual report, in Australia, Finland, Germany, Norway, Poland and Sweden, the average monthly payment per child is less than $200. In Austria, Belgium, Canada and Britain, it is between $200 and $300, and in the US it stands at $333.
The average payment per child in Israel is over $500, according to the activists' websites. Only the payments in Switzerland are known to be higher, at $657 according to the OECD chart.
In addition, Israel is believed to be the only country in the world in which children are automatically transferred to their mother's custody in divorce. In divorces of Jewish couples, the mandatory child support falls exclusively on the man, and men are often ordered to pay more than they earn, regardless of how much their ex-wife earns. Attempts to legislate more egalitarian divorce laws have encountered stiff opposition from women's groups.