Over 30 years ago, I purchased Gateway to Happiness by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin. Among the many things I learned from his book is that facts are neutral. They are not “good” or “bad.” Only interpretations of facts are positive or negative.
Let’s take a silly example: In the year 2000, the New York Yankees won the World Series. That’s a fact. Now comes the question: Was that good or bad? Well, if you were a Yankees fan (like me!), it was great. But if you were a Mets fan, it was terribly depressing. Both sets of fans had the same facts before them, but each set chose to interpret them differently.
Thanks to Rabbi Pliskin’s teachings, I have trained myself to always see the good in facts, especially when it comes to Jews, the Jewish nation, and Israel. A recent conference on population growth in Israel was co-sponsored by the University of Maryland and Tel Aviv University. Speaking at this conference, Professor Alon Tal, chairman of the Tel Aviv University department of public policy, shared some very interesting facts:
“Israel has the highest rate – per capita – of population growth in the developed world,” he said. “The population in Israel grows by more than 2,000,000 people each decade… Israel averages 3.1 children per family compared to just 1.7 in Western countries… Arabs average 40,000 births a year in Israel while Jews average over 100,000.”
All facts. Now, how would you interpret these facts? Before answering, here’s the professor’s interpretation. The following is an exact quote: “David Ben-Gurion encouraged people to have many children, but now we need to have a collective conversation as a nation and realize that while there was once a period in Israeli history when having lots of children was a patriotic thing to do, today it is an unpatriotic thing to do because it harms the common good.”
When asked what should be done, Professor Alon Tal said, “Birth control needs to be more accessible and abortion standards need to be lessened.” (Now you know why I didn’t send my children to Tel Aviv University!)
Instead of jumping for joy at the miracle of Jewish growth – especially so close to the near extermination of our people just two generations ago – this foolish man chooses to interpret the facts of population growth in a horrific fashion.
Two million new people in Israel every 10 years? Do you know how much traffic that will bring to the roads? Will we have enough food and water? How about housing and schools? This is tragic, thinks the professor. We have to end this now! Quick, let’s start encouraging birth control and open abortion clinics next to every cellphone store.
My reaction to these facts? How did I interpret this data? When I read the news, I yelled out the biggest “Baruch Hashem” in modern history. The western world is averaging 1.7 children and here in Israel we are at 3.1? That’s incredible! Millions and millions of new Jews over the next decade? Amazing! What could be better than that?
Yes, those big numbers raise challenges and we need to address them all – and the sooner, the better – but we must encourage parents to have those beautiful babies, not discourage them. We need to build new communities, not abortion centers. We need to reduce taxes for young couples, not increase birth control. Israel is already a world leader is so many areas, and, as our population grows, so will the blessing from heaven.
For those who ask, “But where will all those people live?” I have a simple answer: Not in the center of the country! There’s tremendous amount of land in the south (in the Be’er Sheva area), the north (especially in the Golan Heights), and all over Yehuda and Shomron. Currently, according to “WestBankJewishPopulationStats.com,” approximately 435,000 Jews live in Yehuda and Shomron with room for millions more!
The Torah tells us that while in Egypt, “the Israelites were fertile and prolific, and their population increased. They became so numerous that the land was filled with them.” (Shemot 1:7). That was 3,500 years ago. Today, thanks to thousands of people who refuse to listen to a Tel Aviv University professor, the Israelites are once again fertile and prolific. Our population is increasing and, this time, the land we are filling is not Egypt but Hashem’s Holy Land that He gave to the Jewish nation! Am Yisrael Chai!