Elchanan Poupko

A letter to Israel’s demographically intoxicated 

You're right. You do have many children – more than anyone else in Israel. But guess who has even more children
Kohelet founding chairman Prof. Moshe Koppel at a Times of Israel Live event in Jerusalem’s Israel Democracy Institute, December 15, 2022. (Oded Antman/IDI)

With the cool breeze of Jerusalem on our faces, sitting and talking with a supporter of Israel’s far-right politician Itamar Ben Gvir, we cut straight to the end. “Look,” he cut our conversation with a smile, “it’s very simple. I have six children, and these leftists from Tel Aviv hardly have half a child. This is how I end every conversation with them,” he told me.

The person speaking to me was no exception. Much of the tension and unprecedented social tension surrounding judicial reform is about demographics. Many of Israel’s non-Orthodox would like to know what happens when they are no longer the majority in Israel. In contrast, many religious people see the clock ticking in their favor, just to wonder how long to wait before making their majoritarian victory official. One of the judicial reform’s biggest advocates, Moshe Koppel of the Kohelet forum said so very recently. If what they want will not pass now, it will pass in one or two, or five years. Why? Because “religious people have more children,” Koppel said.  


It is the demographically intoxicated who feel like their time to rule and trample on the rest has come that I would like to address here. 

Dear Demographically Intoxicated Israelis,

You are right. You do have many children — the most — more than anyone else. Mazal Tov. 

Do you know whose demographics are bigger than yours? 102 million Egyptians, 17 million Jordanians, 83 million Iranians, 10 million Jordanians, 43 million Algerians, 40 million Iraqis, and so on. It is time to start thinking about what is stopping Israel’s many enemies from waltzing into Israel next time there is some kind of conflict, and the Middle East is prone to conflict. It is time to think really hard about that. 

The last time that happened, on Yom Kippur of 1973, were it not for very heavy and immediate American aid launched by President Nixon, also known as Operation Nickle Grass, Israel might have been completely wiped out. The number of children a Ben Gvir, Shas, or Agudah voter will not make much of a difference in case of war. 

Too many of Israel’s judicial reform advocates would also like to see Israel’s deference to the United States go away as well. They dream of a Putin and China that loves them, even as Putin provides the Iranians with nuclear capabilities and builds up Iran’s drone capabilities. Israel’s demographics are blinded by their own demography and blind to the demography of others. Asked by Israel’s general and National Security adviser Yaakov Amidror why they always vote against Israel in international bodies even when they know it is wrong, a Chinese diplomat said simply: “We know your numbers, and we know their numbers. It’s plain math.” Spoiler alert to Israel’s demographically intoxicated: once Israel is not defined as a liberal democracy, China, Iran, and the Arab League will not be waiting for you with open arms. The awakening can come in the form of an existential threat, with no major ally to back Israel’s military. 

It is time for the demographically intoxicated to ask themselves how many friends they can afford to lose. 

Recent statements by Likud minister Shlomo Karhi, telling many of Israel’s combat pilots to “go to hell,” Israel saying the same in action to many Reform and Conservative Jews, Ron Dermer saying Israel should focus on Evangelical Christians rather than on American Jews, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Tzfat saying that having to choose between abandoning judicial reform or having those who oppose it leaves Israel he would side with the opposition leaving Israel, Netanyahu declaring MK May Golan as Consul General of Israel in New York — the diplomatic equivalent of the US sending Kanye West as its ambassador to Israel — and too many other needless insults, make you wonder how many friends Israel would love to lose. How many bridges need to be burned for Israel’s demographically intoxicated to realize they might have a problem?  

I urge Israel’s demographically intoxicated to take a look at the world birthrate index and ask themselves if they would be willing to accept the standards of living they will find in the top five, 10, or even 20 countries listed for highest birthrates; you would not. If demographics win against your own people, why is that not working elsewhere? Ask yourselves why it is that more than 90% of Jews choose to live in liberal democracies. The number of Jews flocking to live in Hungary, Poland, Turkey, and Venezuela is not particularly high. At the same time, there are still millions of Jews who would love to live in the United States, Canada, Australia the UK, and Israel (for now). 

It is clear too many Israelis have forgotten what it is that makes their lives possible. Those who are demographically intoxicated should think a thousand times before they decide to trample upon large parts of the Jewish people, especially if life once those being trampled upon leave or cease to be productive will come to a stop. 

As it becomes crystal clear what kind of division and destruction this reform is going to bring, I urge those supporting it and those seeking to go out and rally later this week for the reform to heed the word of God sent to the kingdom of Judah more than 2,600 years ago:

And the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, the man of God, saying: “Speak to Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying:

So said the Lord, ‘You shall not go up, and you shall not war with your brothers; return each man to his home for this thing has been brought about by Me.”‘ And they heeded the word of the Lord, and they returned from going to Jeroboam.” (Divrei Hayamim II 11) 

About the Author
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is a New England based eleventh-generation rabbi, teacher, and author. He has written Sacred Days on the Jewish Holidays, Poupko on the Parsha, and hundreds of articles published in five languages. He is the president of EITAN--The American Israeli Jewish Network.
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