Palestine’s Not-So-Immaculate Conceptions: What’s Behind a West Bank Baby Boom


Leedia Rimawi was on her way to work when the radio on the minibus broadcast the news: a Palestinian woman had given birth to a child conceived by sperm smuggled out of the Israeli prison where her husband was held. “Everyone in the bus realized I was crying,” Rimawi recalls. None had to ask why. “Everyone knows that I’m the wife of a prisoner.”

Eleven months later, Rimawi became the second Palestinian woman to bear a child by an imprisoned husband. She was followed by five other West Bank women; another 16 are pregnant. An unlikely mode of reproduction that began as newsworthy is growing nearly routine: in a storage tank cooled by liquid nitrogen to –196°C, a Ramallah clinic has 65 sperm samples awaiting implantation in wives who have not been allowed to touch their husbands for years.

“For one thing, we wanted a bigger family,” Rimawi says, explaining…

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