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Fertility and How to Fix It: From Israel, With Love

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Israel faced a huge challenge, either grow in population and remain in power of the country or drop in population and lose the country to the Arabs. The Israelis succeeded in reinvigorating their fertility and by learning from them, Europeans can do the same.

One way that Israel ensured the survival of its Jewish people is by becoming the most pro-natal country in the developed world. IVF, artificial insemination, egg donation and surrogacy as well as state care programs are just some of the ways that Israel has turned around it’s demographic destiny. We can do the same!


Ancestral Identity

Israelis’ pro-natalist attitude has been said to be underpinned by major biblical texts. Jewish national identity is founded on family myths (e.g. the Patriarchs and Matriarchs), and the biblical commandment “be fruitful and multiply” constitutes childbearing as not only a goal in one’s own life, but as a contribution to a collective mission. Although at present the majority of Israeli Jews do not define themselves as “observant” and do not adhere to religious dictates, all are well acquainted with these biblical notions, which are repeatedly taught and alluded to in the national school curriculum. Thus, even for many secular Israelis, childbearing often carries the broader significance of linking oneself to the communal Jewish body. The Israelis recognise their heritage. They know and understand what their ancestors went through and for that they are grateful and they show their gratitude by having more children so that those children can have a better future, exactly what Europeans need to do.

It has been noted that “Jewish Israelis of all ethnic and class identities are highly family oriented.” They tend to marry young, have more children, and divorce less frequently than North Americans and Western Europeans. The “supreme significance of the family and child bearing for Jewish Israelis” is related to various religious, historical, cultural, social, and geopolitical conditions.’ All of this stems from strong adherence to their culture and a strong focus on Biblical and Judaic teachings in their school. We have to (re)instate the importance of the family, the importance of tradition and country and all these things that have been thrown to the wayside in favour of ‘progress’.

Experts have also noted the impact of the Jewish “history of persecution” and particularly of the teachings of the Holocaust as an additional explanation for Israel’s pro-natalist approach. As is taught, the genocide perpetrated on Jews in the Holocaust and the ongoing loss of life in terrorist attacks and in wars since the establishment of the State are considered by some experts as having strengthened Israel’s resolve to survive as a Jewish homeland in an area that is often viewed as hostile. This resolve seems to be directly connected with Israel’s public policy in support of reproductive rights.’ How many wars and slaughters have Europeans survived? Countless. The Holodomor is a perfect example, there are endless examples that could be used by politicians and activists to get people reinvigorated and to awaken in them a fevor to repopulate their countries.


Numbers and Democracy

The reasons are various, from the biblical command “Be fruitful and multiply” to the reported death of six million Jews in the Holocaust, to fears of being outnumbered by Arabs. This fear of being outnumbered shows a flaw in democracy because if one ethnic group in a given area becomes the minority, the majority group can take their rights away and vote them out of power, etc. This is another talking point politicians and activist can use.

European countries face the same problem that Israel faced decades ago, today. Most people refuse to believe it, many are willfully blind and the politicians who are advocating for immigration as a way of keeping the economy healthy and the population from ‘falling’ are complicit. Democracies can only work properly if the country is homogeneous.


The Religious Aspect of Pro-Natalism

American Jewish Fertility by Religious Current

Religious SectAverage No. of Children per Woman
Modern Orthodox3.39


That Israel’s exceptional fertility stems from religious commitment rather than ethnicity is suggested by the enormous contrast between orthodox and secular Jewish birth rates in the United States. Nowhere is the fertility gap between religious and non-religious more extreme than among American Jews. The stronger the Jewish commitment, the more likely Jews are to have children. These same natalist ideas are in the Bible:

“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3-5, RSV)


All we have to do is implement them again and recognise that we will lose our homelands if we do not. Just as Israelis understood and forged on, so too must we.  

Hungary is already implementing pro-natal policies and their example is what all of our countries should follow. It is revealing how those who criticise Europeans who wish for their countries to remain homogeneous are often people who have a homogeneous country of their own to fall back to. What we must recognise is that we have no such luxury. Realising this means we have a lot of work to do, so let’s get to it!





Sources: JPC, Library of Congress, Reuters, Haaretz

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