Mass Aliyah to Israel is Obsolete
As we noted last week, the only long-term solution to the
demographic threat that faces Israel is children and more
children. Chazal said, "If there are no young kids, there are
no adult goats" (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 10:2). If we
want to have people in the future to perpetuate the Jewish
people and the Jewish mission in the world, we must have
In our times, there is no longer any shorter-term solution
than this. Many Israeli pundits and politicians pin their
hopes on aliyah. This has been part of the Zionist
ideology for over a century.
From the chareidi perspective, there has never been an
emphasis on aliyah in the way it was presented by the
Zionists. Chareidim never lost the love for Eretz Yisroel
that is so much a part of Torah, but the overall approach to
making decisions about where to live has to be oriented
towards one's best opportunity for avodas Hashem and,
though Eretz Yisroel certainly has much to offer in this
respect, it does not overwhelm all other considerations. (In
any case our discussion here focuses on what we will call
"immigration" meaning a movement of people to Israel, rather
than "aliyah" which carries ideological overtones.)
Immigration has had impact in Israel in the past. When the
British took over in 1917 there were about 57,000 Jews here
(the majority chareidi; mostly in Yerushalayim), and in 1948
when the State was founded there were some 650,000 -- an
almost twelvefold increase in just 30 years, driven mostly
(71 percent) by immigration. In the next three years,
immigrants doubled the population.
Since then immigration has been an increasingly smaller
contributor to population growth, with the exception of a few
years right after the fall of the Soviet Union. Even the
million immigrants who came then from areas formerly under
Soviet rule included at least a third non-Jews, according to
their own declarations. Some experts estimate that the true
proportion of non-Jews is close to half. The main source of
the increase in Israel's Jewish population is our own
Not mentioned in most discussions of immigration is this fact
that natural increase -- children -- is usually the dominant
contributor to population growth. This is clearly true in the
long run, and it was true in most shorter periods as well.
Mass immigration is no longer a solution to Israeli problems
-- if it ever was -- because there are no longer any masses
who are potential immigrants.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has spoken of bringing 1,000,000
olim in the next decade. Although there are no signs
of even progress towards that goal, he has taken some steps.
However he does not realize that today there is no place from
which to bring such a massive number of immigrants.
According to our interpretation of the data (see Jewish
Observer, November 2002), most of the Hard Core Jewish
people are already in Israel. Almost half of the 5.2 million
people counted as Jewish by the National Jewish Population
Study-2000 (NJPS2000) do not say they are Jewish when asked
by a non-threatening interviewer. What are the chances that
they can be induced to move to Israel? Probably no greater
than the chances that an average non-Jewish American can be
convinced to move to Israel.
Another overlooked but very important factor is the age of
the American Jews. The average age of American Jewry in 2000
was over 49. At the rate they were aging, the average age now
is over 51.
The Jewish population of the United States is thus not a
group that will solve demographic threats in Israel. They are
people who are established in America, at or past the peak of
their careers -- probably the worst time for a radical move
to a new country from their perspective. The many retirees
are better prospects -- they may be able to live better on
their pensions in Israel than in the US -- but they are not
the type of people who provide much demographic balance to an
Arab population that is young and, so far, growing
The rest of the world combined has less than half the Jews
that are in America, and their demographic profile is
It bears saying again: If the secular politicians really
cared about the future of Klal Yisroel, or even the
future of the State of Israel, they would make having many
children a matter of national priority, and those who have
big families, such as the chareidim, should be national
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