Be fruitful and multiply, says the Old Testament, and Israel’s government takes this seriously, offering the world’s most effective fertility treatment for free or at low-cost to residents. Women under age 42 are entitled to up to eight rounds of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), and women age 42-45 can get three rounds. The program is equally available to both married and single women as well as gay, straight, Arab and Jewish women. As a result, the Israeli fertility rate of nearly 3 births per woman exceeds the industrial nations’ norm by such a wide margin that Israel will have a larger population than Poland by 2085 and Israel is on track to have more young people than Germany by the end of the century if fertility remains unchanged. This means that 150 years after the Holocaust, Israel will have more military-age men, and will be able to field a larger land army, than Germany. (statistics courtesy of Jewish Policy Center)
“It’s such a child-centered society. People find it very hard to find their place here if they don’t have children,” says Dr. Karen Friedman, who heads up the Mind Body Fertility Center at Hadassah University Hospital, Mount Scopus. Read more here.
What is driving this population growth?
To some, the focus on population growth stems from the Holocaust. Six million Jews were lost to the Nazi gas chambers, threatening the survival of Judaism. Other sources cite the growth of the Haredi, ultra-Orthodox, population, mostly immigrants from Russia and the U.S. wanting to raise their children with Jewish tradition. Although this group makes up less than 20% of Israel’s population, they average almost seven children per family. “In our community,” my friend Carrie tells me, “we are considered a small family because we have only three children. Most of our daughters’ friends have five or six kids in the family.”
Policy makers view it differently. According to an article on jewishpolicycenter.org, “The late Yasser Arafat can take credit for the worst demographic forecast of the twentieth century. “The womb of the Arab woman,” the late Palestinian strongman averred, “is my strongest weapon.” By this he meant that the Arabs of Israel and the occupied territories would outbreed and overwhelm the Jews. A generation of Israeli politicians believed him, fearing that a “ticking demographic time bomb” threatened the integrity of the Jewish state” and approved funding for the fertility program.”
At the time of Arafat’s words, the fertility rate of Muslim women in the Arab world was just over 8 births per women. Today it has dropped to the same average as Israeli women, 3 births per woman. The fact that this statistic is cited in virtually every Israeli article about the subject leads me to wonder if the fertility program’s intentions are less biblical and more nationalistic and territorial. Just don’t make the mistake of suggesting that to an Israeli – I did it twice and was greeted once with naïve denial and the other with downright hostility and defensiveness. Regardless of the motivations, the program has created hundreds of thousands of “miracle babies” for parents craving parenthood and a booming industry for foreigners willing to pay for the best fertility treatment in the world.
Here are some interesting articles if you want to learn more: