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7 Nissan 5760 - April 12, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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The Justice Minister Arouses a Storm in Saying that Large Families are Not a Blessing

by Betzalel Kahn

A storm has erupted in the political system as a result of the untoward remarks of Justice Minster Yossi Beilin who, on Sunday (4 Nisan) launched a sharp and unprecedented attack on the concept of "families blessed with many children." Beilin made his remarks in an interview in Sunday's Ha'aretz, in one of a serious of articles attacking the extra monthly allocations paid by the government to large families. Beilin's remarks were received with shock and much anger not only by the religious sector, but even among the overall populace, because they were directed toward large families in general, without regard to whether they are chareidi, religious or secular.

Minister Beilin said in the interview: "The fact that there are many children is not a blessing. Most of the large families are a decree distress, difficulties and deprivation on their children, who become burdens on society. Most of the mothers in such families become servants and slaves of their homes . . . The concept that birth must be encouraged in order to maintain a demographic balance is cruel."

He made these remarks in reacting to a proposal submitted by MK Rabbi Shmuel Halpert to grant large families several new, additional benefits. That proposal has already passed the preliminary Knesset reading (kria tromit) and two weeks ago it nearly passed the first reading. However, due to Meretz's parliamentary maneuver in requesting that the vote be seen as an issue expressing no-confidence in the government -- which requires a further waiting period before it can be brought to a vote -- it was postponed to a later date, after the Pesach break.

Beilin says: "There is no connection between the blessing of having children and numbers. Large families are not necessarily blessed ones. If all of the children are neglected, is this also a blessing? It's like saying that if a person has only two children, his family is not one which is blessed with children. That's not a nice expression, in my view. There are families in Jerusalem with 15-17 members. Do these children receive good educations and proper attention? When there are many children they are a tremendous burden on the wife . . . I don't want Israeli society to be composed of large families. That's a terrible poverty decree."

Beilin attacked the promise Prime Minster David Ben Gurion gave in the 50's to allot 100 lirot to every family with ten children. "That's a terrible statement. . . . I think that he made a big mistake. We must distinguish between helping poor and large families, something which we must continue to do, and encouraging families to join the cycle of childbirth, poverty, stress, frustration, and the becoming of a burden on society. I am categorically against such encouragement, and don't think that it is the state's role."

Beilin thinks: "The arrangement of the child allotments in Israel constitutes an incentive to have more children. I don't want financial considerations to play a part in the decision of whether to bring more children into the world. Today they discriminate between children when they apportion the allotments. I say: Don't discriminate. Give every child an equal sum."

Condemnations of Beilin's remarks came from all sides of the political spectrum,

Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz said: "We have a dispute with the secular world, over what is more important -- to `live it up' or to live. The secular have no regard for life. What's important to them is to live it up. If having more children prevents them from having a good time, then according to them, they shouldn't have more children. That's the essence of the dispute between Torah Jewry and secularism. However no one, not even the secular leaders, has ever dared to say that [out loud in public]. Beilin has said it and that's what so disconcerting. According to his approach, the encouragement of childbirth results in the imposing of heavier taxes on the well-to-do.

"This type of approach is hair-raising. It can easily lead to the conclusion that there are people whose very existence is far too expensive, such as the crippled and the mentally disabled and others who are "bothersome" to society. The perspective wherein we measure human life by one's utilitarian value is very hair-raising. There is a mythology of distortion, which is all lies, such as the well-known lie that families have more children because they have a financial incentive to do so. There's nothing more ridiculous than that. No one profits from child allotments.

"The secular resort to lying, defaming and mudslinging so that people will regard chareidim in a disdainful manner, as if we give birth to children for monetary reasons. It's frightening what that man does. The biggest lie is that in large families, children don't receive good educations. The fact is that all of the drug addicts and the `jet set' are not from large chareidi families. Violence prevails in the secular schools. That's not the case in the chareidi schools. What type of education do children receive in the large and blessed families? Exemplary educations. Come and see our Shabbos table, then you'll remove your shoes in deference to the holiness and see education for love of Hashem and love of one's fellow in its true form."

"Beilin says that in our community women can't advance in their careers. There are chareidi women who work and also manage their homes. But they focus on the most important of all: to raise generations to Torah, derech eretz, courtesy. That man, Beilin, is replete with lies and with patronizing attitudes. He defames mothers who raise their children honorably," Rabbi Ravitz concluded.

Rabbi Moshe Gafni said: "This is a very serious expression. According to Beilin, anything that has no economic value, should be gotten rid of. According to his approach, we should get rid of the crippled and of the development towns, and there is no need to found enterprises for the unemployed, because anyone who isn't constructive, in Beilin's eyes, should be gotten rid of The prophet said: `He didn't create it for chaos, but in order to populate it." Hakodosh Boruch Hu created the world in order to eliminate chaos, and so that it would be populated with people who would help each other. What sort of world does Beilin wish to enter? A world of chaos. If he finds himself in trouble, who will help him? Does he want to enter a world like the one he envisions. Does he want Israeli society to enter such a world?

"During the first years of the state, large families were looked on favorably and were called "mishpachot beruchot yeladim" -- families blessed with many children. The majority of Israeli society and its leadership saw large families as a blessing. Today, the Justice Minister says that he regards large families as a burden. Does he want the next stage to be throwing newborn infants into the Nile? I can only pity his value system, and how he sees the world and society. Parents love their children, whether they have one or ten. However one who doesn't know how to take care of ten children, will not know how to take care of one either. The proof for this is that the "high society kids" who are involved in crime, come from wealthy homes where there are only one or two children. `Beware of the sons of the poor, because Torah will issue from them,' " he concluded.

MK Rabbi Shmuel Halpert sharply condemned the sharp expression of Beilin. "Minister Beilin isn't truly worried about the burden of large families. He is worried about the `lest they multiply' aspect of the chareidi families who are liable to take the government out of the hands of the Left and Mr. Beilin in the near future. Beilin supports the immigration of non-Jews from the C.I.S, and opposes the natural demographic proliferation among the Jewish Nation. Beilin is continuing with the ideology of Teddy Kollek who said that two things bother him: chareidi proliferation and Arab proliferation in Jerusalem.

The Labor and Welfare and Labor Minister, Eli Yishai attacked Beilin and said: "If we want a Jewish majority in Israel 30 years from now, we must encourage children and help large families by investing in their children's education and by offering them assistance in raising them. It has been proven that children from large and blessed families, who have received good educations, grow up beautifully, and contribute to the state and its economy. The state should thank those parents who choose to enlarge their families and in that way sacrifice much for the good of the state. These families deserve maximal help so that they will succeed in raising their children."

The Housing Minster, Yitzhak Levi said: `[Beilin's] remarks emit a bad odor. They constitute an anti-Jewish declaration which negates the Jewish values of the State of Israel. It is forbidden for a public figure to say such things. The Jewish outlook encourages family life, precisely before Pesach and the Seder, when the concept of family life receives an added boost, we hear remarks which contradict our belief and faith. Such remarks made by a public figure are forbidden. We will encourage and help large families."

The Minister of Commerce and Industry then said that we must change the policy of the distribution of children's allotments and expand the allocation given today for one child and give equal allocations for all children. He also proposed using the existing budget of children's allocations, and to redivide it equally among all children.

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