The Israel connection is the latest twist in the story told by Clonaid, a company that announced in Florida two days after Christmas that it had delivered the world's first human clone. The company reneged on promises to prove the claim through DNA testing, fueling widespread belief that the whole thing is a hoax.
Clonaid chief Brigitte Boisselier has said the baby was cloned from an American woman, who remains unidentified. On Wednesday, she testified in a Florida court that the baby exists and is now in Israel. Authorities in Israel, where cloning is illegal, said they had no information on the matter.
The religious sect behind Clonaid, a group called the Raelians, believes life on Earth was created by space aliens. The Israeli spokesman for the group, Kobi Drori, said Thursday that the baby was brought to Israel because the parents were Jewish and thus had automatic rights to arrive and even seek immediate citizenship here.
Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman Tova Elinson said she had no information on the claims, and without a name "there is no way to check." Health Ministry spokesman Ido Hedari depanned that while cloning is illegal in Israel, airport authorities don't ask arrivals whether they were cloned abroad.
Drori said the family did not volunteer the information upon arrival. He said they left the United States because of the Florida court case in which a lawyer asked a judge to appoint a guardian for the child, for fear she suffered genetic defects--if she exists.
Judge John Frusciante threw out the case Wednesday after Boisselier said the baby was in Israel. Bernard Siegel, the attorney who had sought the guardianship, said he hopes Israeli authorities investigate the case.
In Israel, the law forbids cloning until the end of 2004, pending more research. Religious authorities have also debated the issue. Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau told The Associated Press he supports technological breakthroughs that further medical care, but opposes "interference in the act of creation," which is the sole domain of God.
Rabbi Yigal Shafran, head of the Chief Rabbinate's medical ethics department, has said that when all other fertility procedures have been tried, cloning should be used to create children if it becomes possible.
Drori, who said his movement had several hundred followers in Israel, said Eve's 31-year-old mother had gone through 10 years of unsuccessful in vitro fertilizations before turning to cloning.
At his request, he was interviewed by AP Television News at a Tel Aviv cafe named Crick And Watson--after James Watson and Francis Crick, the pair of scientists who 50 years ago unlocked the secrets of DNA.