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Where Have All The Secular Israelis Gone?

The other demographic crisis

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Ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews protesting against Iran earlier this month.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

When you hear about the Israeli demographic crisis, your first thought is liable to go to the truism that, barring a major immigration or emigration to or from one side or the other, birth rates have predestined that at some point in the not-too-distant future there will be more Arabs than Jews living between the river and the sea, at which point Israel will cease to be both Jewish and democratic, etcetera etcetera. But have you heard of the other Israeli demographic crisis? Two articles appeared over the weekend approaching the fact that, among the Jews, the ultra-Orthodox will grow in population—their birth rate puts that of their more secular co-religionists to shame—and gain power in Israel, enacting policies (like the Rotem Bill) and shaping a culture that will be less desirable to more secular Israelis and lead them to emigrate (let’s face it, probably to Brooklyn). Here’s your data point: According to present trends, by 2040, 78 percent of Israeli elementary-schoolers will be either ultra-Orthodox or Arab.

Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest-circulation daily, published a piece with a whole heap of quotes warning of “segregation between men and women on buses, and then non-kosher food products will be banned from stores, the state will pass laws that will forbid me from eating non-kosher food.” An economist has a study that argues that the tipping point approaches. “We have two states here,” he argues. “A First World state that is considered a pioneer, alongside a state whose citizens do not get the tools and conditions to contend with the modern-day economy. The second state’s part in the overall population keeps growing, and just like a weight it keeps pulling everything downward.”

And an AP article reports that the increasing religious character of Israeli life is turning off many American Jews—the world’s other great Jewish community, and one that is in many ways a crucial supporter of their Israeli counterparts.

Of course, the thing about this Israeli demographic crisis—the prospect of secular Israeli Jews skipping town in the face of increased ultra-Orthodox prominence—is that it will either see an increasing alliance between religious Israeli Jews and religious Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, and/or intensify the other Israeli demographic crisis—the prospect of Arabs outnumbering Jews. Either way, it should be a cause of concern to those who profess fealty to a “two-state solution.”

Secular Public’s Demographic Nightmare [Ynet]
Israeli Jews at Odds With Liberal Brethren in U.S. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]
Related: The Diaspora Need Not Apply [NYT]

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Michael Nutkiewicz says:

This short piece reveals the historic sea change in Israel: the rise of an demographic group with an ideological and theological world view that will have huge policy implications for Israel and forever erase the classical notion of Zionism as articulated from the late 19th C. through 1967. Even the mainstream Religious Zionists are becoming irrelevant as the movement turns religiously and politically rightward. The “dati leumi” increasingly see themselves as “haredi leumi” with identifier “leumi” looking like a Jabotinkyeske worldview.

It’s a cause of concern alright, but why should it be one only for those who “profess fealty” to a two-state solution? If there were just a single state, would the religious Jewish and religious Arab populations grow at a slower rate? They wouldn’t, of course. No, what’s meant by the item’s last sentence isn’t that these trends somehow make a two-state solution less desirable. It’s that there’ll be some problems a two-state solution won’t solve. But here’s a secret: most people who support a two-state solution, don’t have, in the first instance, the expectation that it will solve every problem. Suppose, say, it was the Democrats who were expected to win big tomorrow, and I said “Yeah, but the Christian Right will continue to grow in numbers nevertheless.” Fellow liberals would wonder whether I was somehow determined to be in a bad mood about America.

If the Haredim take too much control, many secular Jews will leave Israel and few immigrants from the West will come – perhaps as tourists looking for the exotic. Let them exist in their ghettos but not make a pest of themselves in the secular world. It’s deplorable that fanatic religiosity, our variation and the Muslim, has to be taken seriously. It’s bull-shit.

michael says:

This is well known about religious Jews but I think wrong on Israeli Arabs whose birth-rate is similar to “regular” Israelis
The worry is that Israel will becoming a theoracracy with a far right leader and this will be the mirror image of that other great totalitarianstate,Iran.
As this government has no intention of making peace,only the possibility of a coalition between Kadima (Tsippy Livni) and a secular party such as that which will be run by Tommy Lapid’s soncan save Israel by creating a 2-state solution
The probelem is that the Right is so strong in Israel and so potentially violent,that I don’t know if that can happen without either civil uprising or outside intervention (meaning UN and US troops on the ground in Israel to supprt a non-nationalist Right wing government

A blow from a frying-pan, if it does not hurt, smuts. – Spanish Proverb

Plato~ The learning and knowledge that we have is at the most but little compared with that of which we are ignorant.

Lytton Strachey~ Discretion is not the better part of biography.


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Where Have All The Secular Israelis Gone?

The other demographic crisis

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