by Shmuel Sackett
Over 30 years ago, I purchased the sefer “Gateway to Happiness” by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin. I highly recommend it and still learn many Torah lessons from it until this very day. Among other things, Rabbi Pliskin teaches that facts are neutral. A fact cannot be positive or negative, good or bad because it’s simply a fact, a piece of data and nothing more than that. The way we interpret that fact – how we choose to look at that information – is where the “positive/negative” aspect comes in to play.
Let’s take a silly example; in the year 2000, the NY Yankees won the World Series. That is a fact. Now comes the question; was that good news or bad news? Well, if you were a Yankees fan (like me!) that was great news! Yet, if you were a NY Mets fan (who the Yankees beat in just 5 games) then the news was terribly depressing. The fact didn’t change for Mets fans… the way they interpreted it did! What made that piece of information bad was the way they looked it. Kind of like the famous “half full or half empty” example.
Thanks to Rabbi Pliskin’s teachings, I trained myself to always see the good in things, especially when it comes to Jews, the Jewish nation and Israel. Let’s now focus on something far more important than the Yankees (yes, there arethings more important…). A recent conference was held in Israel that was co-sponsored by the University of Maryland and Tel Aviv University on the subject of population growth in Israel. Speaking at this conference was Professor Alon Tal, chairman of the Tel Aviv University department of public policy. In his speech, Prof Tal gave some very interesting facts.
“Israel has the highest rate - per capita - of population growth in the developed world… The population in Israel grows by more than 2,000,000 people each decade… Israel averages 3.1 children per family compared to just 1.7 in Western countries… Arabs average 40,000 births a year in Israel while Jews average over 100,000.”
These sentences are all facts. Now… how would you interpret these facts? Before answering that, let’s see what the Professor said. No, not the Professor from Gilligan’s Island (although he probably would have given a better answer) the Jewish Professor from Tel Aviv University. Here is an exact quote; “David Ben-Gurion encouraged people to have many children, but now we need to have a collective conversation as a nation and realize that while there was once a period in Israeli history when having lots of children was a patriotic thing to do, today it is an unpatriotic thing to do because it harms the common good.” When asked what should be done, Professor Alon Tal, chairman of the department of public policy said, “Birth control needs to be more accessible and abortion standards need to be lessened.” Now you know why I didn’t send my children to Tel Aviv University!
Instead of jumping for joy at the miracle of Jewish growth – especially so close to the near extermination of our people just 2 generations ago – this foolish man chooses to interpret these facts as horrible news. 2 million new people in Israel every 10 years??? Do you know how much traffic that will bring to the roads? Will we have enough food and water? How about housing and schools? This is tragic, thinks the “Professor”… we have to end this now! Quick… let’s start distributing birth control pills and open abortion clinics next to every cellphone store. And this guy is chairman of a department in a university…
My reaction to these facts? How did I interpret this data? Let me tell you a true story; when I read this news I yelled out the biggest “Baruch Hashem” in modern history! The western world is averaging 1.7 children and here in Israel we are at 3.1??? That’s incredible! Millions and millions of new Jews over the next decade?? Amazing! What could be better than that?
Yes, those big numbers bring us challenges and we need to address them all – the sooner the better – but we must encourage parents to have those beautiful babies, not discourage them. We need to build new communities, not abortion centers and reduce taxes for young couples, not increase birth control. Israel is already a world leader is so many areas and as our population grows, so will the blessing from Heaven.
For those who ask; but where will all those people live? I have a simple answer – not in the center of the country! There’s tremendous amount of land in the south (Beersheba area) and in the north (especially the Golan Heights) and the biggest opportunity for settlement is in Yehuda and Shomron. Currently, according to “WestBankJewishPopulationStats.com” there are a bit more than 435,000 Jews living in Yehuda and Shomron and there’s room for millions more!
The Torah tells us that while in Egypt, “The Israelites were fertile and prolific, and their population increased. They became so numerous that the land was filled with them.” (Sh’mot 1:7 – translation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan z”l) That was 3,500 years ago. Today, thanks to thousands of people who refuse to listen to a Tel Aviv University professor, the Israelites are once again fertile and prolific. Our population is increasing and this time, the land we are filling is not Egypt but Hashem’s Holy Land that He promised and gave to the Jewish nation! Am Yisrael Chai!! Let’s keep having those Jewish babies!