In the Knesset recently, I explained to Israel’s absorption minister that one million Jews would be making aliyah in the next decade.
How do I know? Because the history of Zionism is built on waves of aliyah. And in the emerging geopolitical reality, all the harbingers of the next wave exist: anti-Semitism, economic conditions – and, on the positive side, Jewish identity.
The blessed waves of aliyah come on the heels of a dramatic change in Israel’s birthrate patterns. The only community in the world where the birthrate is rising instead of declining is the Jewish community in Israel. The average Jewish woman in Tel Aviv (not ultra-Orthodox and not a settler) gives birth to no fewer children than does her Arab counterpart from Ramallah. Even without the expected aliyah, demographics in Israel today are in favor of the Jewish people.
And now for some statistics from former ambassador and demographics expert Yoram Ettinger:
Ettinger writes: “An eight percent Jewish minority in the Land of Israel did not deter Herzl in 1897. A 55 percent Jewish majority within the Partition Plan boundary of the Jewish State did not deter Ben-Gurion in 1948. From a minority of nine percent and 39 percent in 1897 and 1948, respectively, in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and “pre-1967 Israel,” Jews have surged to a 66 percent majority in 2013, benefiting from a robust tailwind of fertility and immigration.”
The demographic pessimists have failed.
In March 1898 Theodor Herzl’s adversary, the leading Jewish historian-demographer Shimon Dubnow, predicted that in the year 2000 there would be no more than 500,000 Jews west of the Jordan River. But in that year, there were five million Jews west of the Jordan.
In the 1940s Professor Roberto Beki, founder of Israel’s Office of Statistics, warned Ben-Gurion that in the best-case scenario, in 2001 there would be only 2.3 million Jews west of the Jordan River – a minority of 34 percent. But in 2001 the five million Jews in that area made up a majority of 60 percent.
In 1967 then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was warned by leading demographers that in 1987 there would be an Arab majority west of the Jordan River. But by that year, there was a 60 percent Jewish majority.
Leading demographers in Israel did not believe that there would be a massive aliyah after the War of Independence. But one million Jews arrived. In the 70s, they did not predict an aliyah wave because, in their view, the western Jews can but do not want to make aliyah, while the Jews in the Communist bloc want to make aliyah but can’t. But 300,000 Jews came. In the 80s, they rejected the notion that a wave of aliyah would come from the Soviet Union, even if the gates of Moscow were to open. But a million immigrants came.
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