by: Salim Khabbaza, Great Neck, NY
In your issue No: 70 you indicated, correctly, that the Arabs increase their population through high birth rates, whilst Israel depends on Aliya, and fails to catch up.
In fact, Aliya (immigration to Israel) cannot be depended upon, because many Jews in the Diaspora are themselves threatened by assimilation. The New York Times of 16th November, 1998, in an article about potential free trips to Israel by Jewish youths, writes:
'The World Jewish Congress has projected that the Jewish population outside Israel, about 8 million people, will decline to about 4 million in the next 30 years. In the US, about half of all Jews marry non-Jews, and the children of a large majority of those intermarried couples do not remain Jewish.'
On the other hand, the same newspaper, in its issue of December 1st, 1998, writes: 'Ramallah, West Bank Nov 30 (AP) - The Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is expected to nearly triple in the next generation, from 2.6 million today, to 7.4 million in 2025, according to census projections made public today. The estimate is conservative, based on a 50 percent drop in the birth rate and the assumption that only a half million Palestinian exiles will return from abroad, said Hassan Abu Libdeh, head of the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics.
Demographics have always been an important element of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The latest population figures will probably affect the negotiations between the two sides on a permanent peace agreement, which are now getting under way.'
Apart from the Arabs surrounding Israel, there are about one million Arabs now living in Israel proper and holding the Israeli citizenship. After several generations, this Arab minority will catch up and overtake the Jewish population of Israel. Then the Jews of Israel will become a minority in their own country, and Israel will become just another Arab country with a Jewish minority. This may sound alarming, but it is true.
Judaism existed before Christianity and before Islam. How come that the Christians and Moslems spread their respective religions far and wide, and established many independent states all over the world, whilst the Jews lived as scattered minorities among other peoples? High birth rates are certainly a factor, but birth rates are not and cannot be the only factor (the birth rate among orthodox Jews, for instance, is also high). So, what is the main reason?
It occurs to me that we, the Jews, constitute a closed society, piling up insurmountable obstacles in order to prevent or discourage conversion of non-Jews into Judaism. This is specially true in Israel, where conversions at the hands of Conservative or Reformist Rabbis are not recognised. On the other hand, Christianity and Islam, not only welcome conversion into their religions, but encourage such conversion. (The Christian Church employs missionaries for this purpose).
The question that arises is what is the remedy? What can be done to maintain the Jewish majority and the Jewish character of the State of Israel?
The existing laws in Israel tend to perpetuate the status quo and the looming danger. In the Knesset, small religious parties wield strong political influence which is disproportionate to the number of their followers. It is therefore necessary to amend the election law to exclude small parties. For instance, only political parties winning 25% or more of the total votes may be represented in the Knesset.
The next step would be to amend the Law of Return in order to exclude those who convert into Judaism in order to immigrate to Israel for economic reasons (like finding work), or because they have a criminal record outside Israel. Each application to immigrate should be dealt with on its own merit.
After the above two steps had been taken, it would be feasible to pass a law in the Knesset to recognise conversion into Judaism at the hands of Conservative and/or Reformist Rabbis. Then it will also be possible for the Jewish population of Israel to elect a Chief Rabbinate composed of Orthodox, Conservative and Reformist Rabbis, and the door will be open for quicker and easier conversion into Judaism without unnecessary obstacles. This will ensure that Israel will remain a Jewish state whose future is guaranteed for our children and grand-children.
I am fully aware that this is a sensitive subject, and the Orthodox Jews, who constitute a minority of about 10% of world Jewry, will object to such proposals on religious grounds. But they should remember that the tens of thousands of Israelis who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives in five wars were driven by allegiance and love for Israel, regardless of their religious affiliation. The safety and future of Israel must come above all other considerations.
It would appear that the choice is between a Jewish state with liberal laws for recognising conversion into Judaism, and no Jewish state at all, if the Jews in Israel become a minority. In the latter case, the Arabs will achieve, through their higher birth rate, what they failed to achieve in 50 years of war. They will have done that 'by peaceful means.'
Scribe: The main Jewish objective is to preserve the purity of the Torah - For this reason Jews cannot encourage large scale conversions or tamper with our religion. Our destiny is to remain a minority everywhere, and in order to survive we have to pursue a parasitical existence and endure the occupational hazard involved in this kind of existence.