July 9, 2007


The demographic predicament (SERGIO DELLAPERGOLA, 7/08/07, THE JERUSALEM POST)

THE COMMON thread of all of these issues is a diffused sense that facing the growing challenges from outside and from inside, while world Jewry stagnates at zero population growth, there is a need for new ideas - here and now. As against the current trends, time is working against us.

Quite a hot debate exists on whether the Jewish majority over the whole territory of the State of Israel and the West Bank - the area dominated by Israel since the disengagement from Gaza - is 62%, as maintained by the pessimists, or 67%, according to the optimists. But everyone would agree that the current rate of population increase is nearly double among the Palestinians in Israel and in the territories than among Israeli Jews.

Over this whole territory in question, the percentage of Jews out of total inhabitants is declining year by year. This trend increasingly raises the question of the ability of the State of Israel to provide Jewish identity and civilizational experience to its citizens, without compromising democratic principles and of civil rights.

The volume of Jewish immigration - currently close to its minimum historical levels - does not contribute much to the Israeli population balance. As against this, Jews in Israel still aim at an ideal family size of four children. This uniquely Israeli ideal goal will not be attained unless active steps are taken in the economic sphere concerning facilities for moving to larger housing, developing the existing early childhood infrastructure, and carefully monitoring the implications of motherhood for women's personal achievement - including women's working conditions and leaves of absence.

AMONG DIASPORA Jewry, another stormy debate has developed over the real rate of out-marriage among American Jews - whether it is 45% or 55%. But few would question that based on the available evidence and under the present circumstances, out-marriage is a factor of erosion of the younger Jewish generation and thus contributes to the ongoing Jewish population aging and decline. Diaspora Jews are far from even approaching the level of generational replacement that still prevails in Israel.

Judaism, quite obviously, does not begin or end with numbers. However, one should be careful about expecting the growth of quality while totally disregarding quantity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 9, 2007 6:18 AM

If a high reported birth rate among Palestinians increases the political pressure for a Palestinian state, then the Palestinians have an incentive to falsify birth rate statistics.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at July 9, 2007 11:27 AM

Excellent rule of thumb, never believe a darn thing the media say.

Posted by: erp at July 9, 2007 12:48 PM

I thought Judaism did begin and end with numbers: Be fruitful and multiply; your descendents shall be like the grains of sand.... etc.

Posted by: Benny at July 9, 2007 1:22 PM

So if a low birthrate suggests that Jews are disobeying God don't they have an incentive to inflate?

Posted by: oj at July 9, 2007 2:32 PM

Mere numbers are a liability. Surely we should not need to be reminded of this again.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 9, 2007 3:02 PM

Let's see now. The Palestinians are multiplying so rapidly and the Jews so poorly that it's only a matter of time before the Palestinians inundate the Jewish State.

And that's why the Palestinians are out there like gangbusters trying to get their own state?

(Before it's too late!)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at July 9, 2007 3:20 PM

Secular Jews are doing most of the counting and they have an incentive to ignore religious Jews.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at July 9, 2007 4:08 PM

Note that they refused a state.

Posted by: oj at July 9, 2007 5:28 PM

Numbers are a function of the culture. A culture that wants to shrink will.

Posted by: oj at July 9, 2007 5:29 PM

OJ: Yes, I think that would give some a reason to artificially inflate the number of Jewish-Israelis. But the larger point I was trying to make was that the author seems to have lost the very thing he seems so concerned about preserving: the point of Judaism.

PS: I think I missed the actual point of your comment though.

Posted by: Benny at July 9, 2007 5:31 PM

That is the point--the mote.

Posted by: oj at July 9, 2007 8:22 PM