Jerusalem – Earlier this week I took a cab, and before I had a chance to stare out the window and fake deep interest in highway signs – a well-known hint that I want to be left alone – the taxi driver started talking. “You’re ultra-Orthodox,” he said. I nodded, hoping to end the conversation right there. After all, what do haredi women know about the Wall Street crisis? (They were talking about it on the radio at the time.)
Yet to my regret, my hopes were premature. “What do you think about this woman?” the driver asked, and passed over to me an old copy of Yedioth Ahronoth from last week. “Is she bored or what?” he added, pointing to the photo of Sima Zalmanov hugging her 19th child.
I didn’t need to hear anything else to get upset. “Do you even know her?” I said. “Did you ever speak to her? She’s a smart woman, with university education, but you think she’s problematic just because she has too many children in your view?”
“Look,” the driver tried to defend himself. “If the ultra-Orthodox were serving in the army and working, I wouldn’t care. But as they don’t do those things, they should not be making children at our expense.” At that point, I was seeing red. “She is a high school principal, and her husband is a member of the security forces. Did you approve it now? Her personal decision contributes to the Jewish demographic balance in the State of Israel. It’s too bad that instead of thanking her you’re making her out to be a freak.”
If we listen to Tel Aviv taxi drivers, the Israeli public is still a captive to old slogans that are no longer relevant. In their view, today too the IDF is supposed to get us out of trouble. Yet there’s one “tiny problem” about this. Many of us forget that for many years now the IDF is being restrained by the sour expression of some kind of European minister or another, and any legitimate operation requires “permission from above,” “international understanding,” “global consensus,” or however you wish to call it. Money is also not the solution for surviving in the Middle East’s hostile environment. The rule of a wealthy minority is doomed for failure. They attempted this method unsuccessfully in South Africa – Jews are hated, and wealthy Jews are hated even more.
What will ultimately guarantee our existence in the Middle East in the next 100 years is, hold tight, the ultra-Orthodox; the only sector willing to pay the real price for living in this country and promote the national interest of all of us – a country with a Jewish majority. If it wasn’t for those large families, Jerusalem would have a good chance of seeing an Arab mayor elected in the upcoming elections. Moreover, the Knesset would have turned into an Arab institution with a Jewish minority a long time ago. It appears that while worrying about the economic burden and the security burden, we forgot a simple fundamental rule – majority rules.
With all the pain this entails, one bi-national state will become a certainty in the future if we keep on having 1.6 children per family. Indeed, it isn’t easy to raise 19 children while pursuing a magnificent career – Sima Zalmanov can tell you all about it. And indeed, those who know Sima can tell you that she’s unique. However, we should note, even if this is unpleasant to hear, that one or two children per family are not enough for a people fighting for survival.
This is not about issuing decrees or establishing organizations that condemn “birth refusal.” I’m not in favor of forcing anyone to take part in the national mission of guaranteeing a Jewish majority around here. “Be fruitful and multiply” comes on a volunteer basis only, because children should be made with love, or not made at all. Yet if there’s one sector here that has honorably met the challenge, why isn’t it cited or appreciated?