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December 04, 1987 - Image 46

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-04

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Organization Seeks To Make
Childbearing A National Priority


hirty years ago, Israeli
Prime Minister David
Ben-Gurion awarded
money and fame to mothers
of 10 or more children. Now,
declares Eliezar Jaffe, "No
one speaks of Jewish families
being an asset. No one in the
government makes child-
bearing a national priority,
like exports or aliyah."
Jaffe, an Israeli educator, is
co-founder and executive
board member of Zehavi, a
national organization that
aims to focus attention on
Israel's demographics, and to
encourage large families.
Indeed, while various of-
ficials in the Israeli govern-
ment have gone on record
expressing their hope that
Israelis will have more
children, the demographics
show a steady decline in
children per family since
national censuses have been
taken. In 1951, there were 31
live births per 1000 Jews; in
1970, 24.3 live births; in 1975,
23.6 live births; in 1980, 22
live births; and in 1984, 21.6
live births.
Zehavi lobbies in the Knes-
set for legislation that would
provide incentives and bene-
fits for families with four or
more children. For example, it
advocates tax rebates, in-
creased services and dis-
counts, and official support
for itself. Mothers who re-
main at home with small
children should receive the
same National Insurance In-
. stitute benefits as working
women; employed women
should be reimbursed for
child care; day care centers
should be improved, ex-
panded and priority given to
children of large families.
Zehavi endeavors to gain
discounts for educational and
cultural activities, such as
music lessons at community
centers. It has also organized
distribution of surplus fruits
and vegetables at greatly
reduced prices. Some shops
and services already award
discounts to Zehavi card-
holders. The organization's
future lobbying will concen-
trate on achieving discounts
for large families in public
transportation, municipal ser-
vices, electricity and water.
"Such benefits are not a mat-
ter of welfare," claims Jaffe.
"It is simply a recognition of
the fact that larger families
carry a larger burden and
should be reimbursed as a
sign of public sympathy."
Not all Israelis agree that
incentives, financial or

Israeli children: Will monetary incentives increase the Jewish birth rate?

legislative, will increase the
birth rate in a meaningful
way. Hedva and Michael, a
young Eilat couple with two
children, say "Incentives can
help families that already
have children, but they will
not bring new babies into the
Avraham, a religious busi-
nessman and father of eight,
agrees that money alone is
not a factor. "It's education
and the general atmosphere
which will determine the
birth rate"
Avraham suggests inter-
viewing families of many
children in order to show the
benefits of large families "lb-
day," he says, "the media
stress the disadvantages of
raising children — the values
of materialism and competi-
tion get full coverage. Where
are the positive views of the
Jewish family, the strength of
the ties and the warmth?"
Mordechai, a community
center worker in Tiberias, is
himself one of 13 children. Yet
he finds supporting his own
brood of four extremely dif-
ficult because of the economic'
conditions. "I'm not sure I
can send my children to the
university on my salary," he
laments. Times are different
from his father's day, and ex-
pectations and needs are
greater than they were when
he and his siblings were grow-
ing up.
Another approach to the
issue is raised by Benjy,
owner of a Jerusalem bou-
tique and the mother of nine.
Benjy thinks the joy of hav-
ing children should be stressed
by those who want to in-
fluence the national birth
rate. "Just like there is
planned parenthood for abor-
tions and limiting children,"
she says, "there should be

planned parenthood to en-
courage births."
Jaffe feels a policy to in-
crease the national birth rate
must be flexible and adaptive.
Each target population has
its own approach, and will be
influenced by different
"The haredi sector (ultra-
Orthodox) will have large
families no matter what the
government's policy is," says
Jaffe. "They have their own
internal support system and
values." In these circles, rais-
ing children is a mitzvah and
families will willingly adopt a
lower standard of living to
have more. Nevertheless, Jaffe
thinks they should receive
whatever benefits are achieved
to encourage higher birth
rates. "lb leave them out of
the benefits would be dis-
criminatory," he adds.
Another group of citizens,
the young modern Orthodox,
also have a positive attitude
to children. Jaffe feels the
average family in this sector
will be four children at least.
The question is, will they go
up to six or seven? Social in-
fluences, economic considera-
tions and the individual
woman's career aspirations
will be determining factors,
he believes.

Among kibbutzim, the birth
rate is up and the relative
financial security of that
lifestyle may be the cause. On
the average, there are larger
families in rural localities.

No one will have more chil-
dren for the sake of the State.
However, a positive approach
from the establishment will
make it easier for people who
enjoy children and who feel
having and raising them is a
source of fulfillment.

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