Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli revealed on Saturday that her widely condemned trip to the United States was undertaken for the purpose of meeting her first child, newly born through surrogacy.
Michaeli — whose ministry has a leading role in the coronavirus policies at Ben Gurion Airport — faced negative media coverage over the weekend, after it was reported that she had gone on vacation in the US despite the government’s officially stated position that those without good reason to travel should avoid doing so amid raging COVID-19 infections.
But on Saturday she announced that the trip had been to meet her newborn child, Uri.
In a Facebook post, Michaeli, 54, wrote that she was happy to have gone through the long process of surrogacy, thanking her partner, comedian Lior Schleien, for his support.
“When Lior first told me, ‘Let’s have a child,’ I thought it was the punchline of a joke. After all, he is a comedian, and it’s me, and he knows I have no intention of having children,” Michaeli wrote.
But Schleien eventually convinced her, she said.
“It was a journey of many trials. I’m glad I went through this journey, I now know what it means for me, and what it entails, and what needs to work differently in this system of fertility treatments, but we’ll talk about that another day,” she added.
“He is the child of myself and Lior. We’re so happy with him, and happy to be his parents.”
The backlash online and in the media was immediately replaced with warm support from reporters and commentators, who said that they had been too quick to judge the minister without knowing the full story.
Michaeli will have to self-isolate when she returns to the country, as nearly all travelers do, as part of stricter quarantine rules that took effect last week.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has also been criticized in recent days for going on vacation with his family to the United States.
Israel has seen case numbers skyrocket in recent weeks due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus, with over 7,000 news cases reported daily in recent days, and some 600 people hospitalized in serious condition with the disease. A total of 6,775 people have died from the virus since the start of the outbreak last year.