Nursery (illustrative)
Nursery (illustrative)iStock

Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, Executive Director of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), expressed concern over the population density in Israel and called for a drop in the country's birthrate.

In an interview with Yediot Aharonot, Trajtenberg said, "When I look ahead, I see a future that is blacker than black."

He noted that according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), at the end of 2020 there were nearly 9.3 million people living in Israel, and this number grows by nearly 2% each year.

"We are living in the third most densely populated country among OECD countries, after Holland and South Korea," he said. "By 2050, around 18 million people will be living in tiny Israel."

According to Trajtenberg, the Israeli tradition of seeing children as a blessing must change.

"The phenomenon of having many children is a result of the Holocaust, of an existential fear from the early days of the country, of a few against many, and so on. But this view that if you have a lot of children you contribute to the Zionist enterprise - which was true 60 years ago - is really not true today. And not only is it not true, but that same view of having many children actually threatens Israeli society," he claimed.

"This really is something that is hard to say in public," he admitted. "You are essentially coming out against one of the deepest existential fears that has accompanied us Israelis throughout the 20th century. In our mindset, we still live in the long shadow of the days when the country was founded, and we have not managed to release ourselves from that. But I say this to my own daughters also, even though this is very unpopular: The patriotic thing to do in our days is to have two children, and no more."

Trajtenberg also claimed that, "The fact that the State of Israel continues financial support which is a function of the number of children in a family is foolishness. It's as if you would subsidize buying private cars, even though there are traffic jams."

"The central political issue here are the haredim. Because many of the haredi men learn Torah and therefore do not work, the economic support per child is very significant in their family budget. This is beyond an ideological issue that there is a commandment to 'be fruitful and multiply' (Genesis 1:28), it's a practical issue, a way to create income for the family."

Israel's child stipends were cut sharply in 2003. In December 2009, Israel's National Insurance Institute (NII) published a report which showed that the cut most dramatically affected the birthrates of the Bedouin Arabs in southern Israel, as well as Arabs living in the Jerusalem area. While there was also a drop in the haredi birthrate, the drop was much less significant than among the Arab groups, and had mostly begun prior to the cut in child allowances.

Earlier this year, the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) published a report which showed that the fertility rate for women in the Bedouin community in the Negev is 5.26 children per woman, while the birthrate for Arab women in the Haifa District is 2.61 and in the northern "Triangle" region it is 2.69. Muslim Arab women have a birthrate of 3.16, while Druze and Christian Arabs have lower birthrates.

Currently, the child stipends are "barely enough to buy diapers and formula," according to several who have spoken to Israel National News - Arutz Sheva. For the first child, parents receive 156 NIS per month, while for the second, third, and fourth children in a family the parents receive 197 NIS per child per month. From the fifth child and on, the parents receive an additional 156 NIS per child per month.

156 NIS is equivalent to $45.75; 197 NIS is $57.78.

Parents also have the option to instruct the National Insurance Institute to deduct 50 NIS ($14.66) from each child's monthly stipend and deposit it directly into a savings account for the child, to become available when the child reaches adulthood.