Germline gene editing “for the purpose of creating humans” is banned and can be punishable with up to four years imprisonment or fines under the Prohibition of Genetic Intervention Law, passed in 1999 and since renewed multiple times by the Israeli Parliament. However, the Minister of Health may give permission for germline gene editing experiments, upon the recommendation of an advisory committee.
An amendment of the Prohibition of Genetic Intervention Law, passed in 2016 and in effect until 2020, upheld a ban on germline gene editing unless authorization for it is granted by the Minister of Health. Authorization must be based on the determination that the procedure would “not harm human dignity” and must be made with a recommendation of the Superior Helsinki Committee, an advisory committee for the approval of human research.
After a Chinese scientist altered the DNA of human embryos that were carried to term, reported in 2018, some Israeli researchers joined an international call in 2019 for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of germline editing.
2019: International group of researchers from seven countries (none from Israel) calls for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of germline editing after a Chinese scientist genetically edited embryos during fertility treatments, and at least two of those embryos were carried to term.
2016: Israel’s parliament passes Amendment No. 3 to the Prohibition on Genetic Intervention (Human Cloning and Genetic Change in Reproductive Cells), maintaining the ban on germline gene editing.
2000: Genetic Information Law passed, regulating genetic testing and research.
1999: Israeli parliament passes the Prohibition on Genetic Intervention (Human Cloning and Genetic Change in Reproductive Cells) banning germline gene editing.
Israel is by tradition more supportive of germline gene editing than many other countries because Talmudic tradition dictates that life begins 40 days after conception. In addition, there is a Jewish imperative to help humans in need of treatment, which promotes medical advances in human research. However, some Israeli bioethics experts say that Chinese scientist He Jiankiu’s experiments on the DNA of human embryos were “tantamount to changing the human race without its consent.”