Friday, August 05, 2022

What Will Israel of the Future Look Like?

New immigrants from the Bnei Menashe community (Algemeiner)
Interesting article by Jacob Sivak in the Algemeiner. Based on a 2014 prediction by Bar Ilan Futurist, Professor David Passig: Within the next 35 years, Israel will have approximately 12 million Jews out of 18 million Jews worldwide.  

If his prediction comes true, that is an astonishing growth rate. Of course as with all predictions, unexpected developments can occur that can easily change that trajectory. Nonetheless, continued Aliyah (immigration) and Israel’s high fertility rate does make it seem quite plausible.

The high fertility rate can basically be attributed to the observant portion of the Jewish population there.  The further to the right one goes, the greater that growth will be. The secular world on he other hand - is not as interested in having big families. There is an old joke about the typical (secular) Israeli family consisting of 2 parents and a Yeled V’Kelev – a dog and a boy. With that kind of fertility rate their population will only go down.

Be that as it may, if this trend continues it seems like the observant population will eventually overtake the secular population to become the majority. And most of that majority will be Charedi. Not that there won't be any Modern Orthodox or Centrist Jews. Quite the contrary. Our population will increase too.  But not by as much. Charedim will surely continue to outpace us. 

Contrary to the misconception about my views of the Charedi world, I have no problem with this. Of course I would prefer that Centrism be the Hashkafa of the majority. But it just ain’t in the cards. However, I support the idea of the Jewish people observing Halacha. Because that is the essence of Judaism. Cultural aspects, though important, are nevertheless secondary. What I do not support should be obvious to all that know my views on the subject. Which I talk about a lot. Which is the following.

As important – and even primary as Torah study is to the existence of the Jewish people, in a state that will have a majority of people who believe in Torah study alone for all men for as long as possible, that is not enough. A nation must have all the elements of a modern society that make it successful in our world today. 

Praying for the welfare of the country - although an important element - is also not enough. Sitting in the study halls without full participation all the other vital aspects of the country is a prescription for Israel’s demise. It is necessary for the Charedi world to fully participate in  Israel’s material welfare even as it participates in its spiritual welfare. All facets of it. 

There is a word for that in Hebrew. It’s called Hishtadlus (maximum effort). God desires that we do whatever we can to achieve both material and spiritual success. We  go as far as we can and He will do the rest. We are not allowed to just sit back, pray, learn, and hope He does it all for us.

This means that the Charedi world will have to step up and start participating more fully in all areas of commerce and the professions. It will also require full participation in the military. Gross exemptions will not do when the majority of the population is exempted.

Not that Torah study should God forbid cease. But it can’t be the way it is now. The more the percentage of the Charedi population increases, the greater will be the need. There will still be room for full time Torah study for those who are best suited for it in terms of their personal integrity, spirituality, intelligence, and diligence. But for the rest of the Charedi world military service will be required. Especially if the current hostilities by Palestinian terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and a country like Iran are still around. All of which have pledged to wipe Israel off the map as soon as they are able to.

Israel cannot afford to be lax in this regard if they are to survive. Survival will depend on both diligent Torah study and the Hishtadlus of a strong economy and a strong military.  A military that, because of the changing demographics, will have to consist of a much higher proportion of Charedim.

The problem is that the Charedi world seems to be blind to this trend and blind to the consequences of not changing their culture. While it is true that there has been a lot more participation in the workplace in a variety of ways, the paradigm of full time Torah study for everyone for as long as possible has not changed. 

Nor has there been much  change in how Charedim are educated. The more right wing, the less educated they are in subjects they will require for success. That some are somehow capable of making a decent living even without a decent secular education does not mean that they will be able to fill vital jobs requiring an advanced education. Which only the best and the brightest will be able to latch onto after catching up. 

I don’t think that is going to be enough. A modern society needs doctors, lawyers, and accountants. It also needs craftsmen like carpenters, plumbers, and builders. All manner of professions requiring a higher education and all manner of jobs requiring technical skills and training will need to be filled in order to make it all work  The Charedi world will have to fully participate in the entire gamut of Israeli society in order to fulfil their Hishtadlus obligation. 

I don’t see that happening. At least not yet.  Perhaps there will eventually be the ‘handwriting on the wall’  that will shake things up. But it ought to happen sooner rather than later. Because later – might be too late.