What will be the reality over the Green Line in fifty years? Professor Asher Cohen, head of the School of Communication at Bar Ilan University, recommends that we don’t predict anything. After all, history has proven – predicting the future is a thing of the past…
Along the rocky and winding roads of social science and history are numerous graveyards where the remains of an infinite number of predictions that never came to fruition are buried. Predicting, especially predictions of long-term social phenomena, is a complicated and virtually impossible attempt. Because demographics is one of the core critical issues of life in Judea and Samaria, it’s worth recalling some of the demographic predictions that have led to the development of a new condition – demographobia.
Simon Dubnow, 1898: “Revival of a Jewish State…An Impossible Act”
The first of the demographobics who is frequently used as an example of failed predictions is the well-known historian Simon Dubnow. His forecast is always mentioned in one brief sentence. It’s worth reading his entire analysis once through to understand why we cannot make long-term predictions:
“…Revival of a Jewish State in Palestine with a significant Jewish population is an impossible act due to the political, social and economic circumstances…After 17 years of intensive labor, with accelerated immigration, expenditure of vast resources and with the assistance of Rothschild’s millions, we were able to settle the land in Palestine with approximately 3,600 residents – meaning, approximately 211 people per year. Assuming that the western Zionist Congresses work with much greater capital and energy, and send to Palestine not two hundred but one thousand settlers per year (this would require an annual expenditure of a few million rubles) – in a hundred years from now, the agricultural population of Palestine would reach 100,000 people. If we multiply this number by five by adding the natural growth rate and flow of the industrial population toward the cities, the result is that in a hundred years from now [in 1998], there will be half a million Jews in Palestine. In other words, a population just slightly greater than the population in Kiev.” (Simon Dubnow, March 1898. Found and translated by Yakov Faitelson, Letters about the Old and New Jewry: 1897-1907.)
The half a million Jews that were seemingly supposed to be here only in 1998 managed not only to arrive fifty years earlier, but to establish the state of Israel that Dubnow criticized as “utopia to the power of three.” Dubnow preferred instead the idea of a Jewish autonomy in Europe.
Among those half a million Jews living in Palestine just prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, there were also those who feared the demographic challenge. Professor Robert Baki, the demographer of that period, warned Ben Gurion that Jews would remain a minority and therefore the future state would demographically collapse. Baki had already corrected Dubnow’s prediction and expected about 2.3 million Jews at the end of the 20th century. However, that number was already living here by the Six Day War in 1967, a few generations prior to the predicted date.
Failed Predictions in the 21st Century
To understand that we can’t even make short-term predictions, it’s worth recalling a few much more recent demographic predictions. In 2000, one of the predictions stated that “By the end of 2025, Israel’s population will reach between 8.8 and 9.8 million residents.” In the recent report published by Central Bureau of Statistics at the beginning of 2018, the country’s population already reached 8.8 million.
That same prediction also states that “By the end of 2025, the Jewish population will be between 6.3 – 6.8 million.” But if you pay attention to the CBS’s report, at the beginning of 2018, we already passed the 6.5 million mark, which means that by 2025, we will definitely be passing the predicted upper limit of 6.8 million.
Why Do Predictions Fail? Judea and Samaria as an Example
One way of understanding why it’s so difficult for us to predict the future is by going back in time as much as possible and picturing the data that was available to them, the atmosphere at the time, etc. Was it even plausible to imagine then, in the past, the way life would look today? The Judea and Samaria region is an excellent example to demonstrate this idea.
Let’s take a tour of Judea and Samaria in June of 1967 and start specifically with the Palestinians. Here’s a picture of the reality in Judea and Samaria when we returned to the region. The life expectancy was 48-49 years. Out of every 1,000 babies born, 162-165 would die, a rate of over 15%. In 1967, there was not even one university in Judea and Samaria. Out of 700 towns, only four were connected to a running water system. Only about 20% were connected to electricity. What we saw before our eyes in 1967 was a population with the clear characteristics of a very weak and impoverished country.
If asked to predict the future, it is highly doubtful that we would have predicted the following statistics, although we may have assumed that there would be some improvement as a result of the “terrible occupation.” Here is what happened over the years: life expectancy jumped to about 75 years, an improvement of one year of life expectancy for every two years of occupation. Infant mortality dropped from over 150 babies per 1,000 to about 20 babies. From zero universities, the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria built 11 universities, not to mention 13 university-style colleges and close to 20 community colleges. In the first decade of the 21st century, 97% of the Palestinians were already connected to the water system and a similar number connected to electricity. Based on the various indices and the weighted average of all of these indices, the Palestinians not only advanced, but also did so much faster than the populations of the Arab countries around them. It’s highly doubtful whether by looking generally at the situation in 1967, we would have been able to predict such significant progress which, for many indices, surpasses the populations of the Arab countries around us (all of the data and sources are based on the chapter entitled “The Auschwitz Legend” in Ben-Dror Yemini’s book, Industry of Lies, p. 155-167).
The Failed Predictions about Judea and Samaria: They Forgot the Ultra-Orthodox and the Secular
Let’s take a look at the predictions of the late 60s and even the late 70s, after the establishment of the Gush Emunim settlement movement. Picture yourself in 1967 standing on one of the hilltops in Judea and Samaria and predicting the following: in fifty years, 5% of Israel’s population will live in Judea and Samaria.
So that the description is accurate for 1967, we’ll use the figures from that year. In the context of that period, when Israel’s population was approximately 2.8 million people, we would be imagining 140,000 people living in Judea and Samaria. If we were to imagine the situation in the year that Gush Emunim was founded – 1974, when Israel’s population was 3.4 million, we would be picturing 170,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria. Ask the early residents of this region and they’ll tell you whether they were even imagining numbers like these.
Numbers aren’t the only thing that we weren’t able to predict. Let’s look at the internal stats. Let’s say we could find the genius who could come close to correctly predicting that fifty years after the liberation of Judea and Samaria, the number of Jewish residents over the Green Line would pass the 400,000 mark. How many people could have ever imagined though that the two largest Jewish cities over the Green Line would be ultra-Orthodox cities, where over 100,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews live? Who would have ever thought that the ultra-Orthodox would be coming very close today to constituting one third of the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria? In the 80s, when the settler population began to grow and everyone focused on the Religious Zionists as virtually the only members of Judea and Samaria’s population, who would have believed that a generation later, the Religious Zionists would only make up less than half of its inhabitants, and that the majority would in fact be composed of ultra-Orthodox, traditional and secular Jews?
The Regional Council – Not What You Thought
How about a prediction that even in the year 2000, we couldn’t have imagined: the day would come that in one of the communities in the Binyamin Regional Council, during the elections for the 20th Knesset in 2015, these would be the results: 40% voted for the Zionist Union (center-left), 24% for Yesh Atid (center), the Likud (right), only at third place, would get less than 12%, and Meretz (left) would get 6.5%, ahead of the right wing, Religious Zionist Bayit Hayehudi. If these were the national results, the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid could have established a coalition government even without Meretz. It seems that the Binyamin community of Kfar Oranim is a great example of why we shouldn’t make predictions.
Instead of Predictions – Dreams
So what should we do? Continue to dream, and leave it to the practical people to transform those dreams into reality. Herzl dreamed and his dream came true, despite Dubnow’s warnings. Ben Gurion dreamed and his dream became an amazing success story, despite the predictions of the demographers of his times. We will dream too, and our dream will continue to push back that frightening statistic of a Jewish minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, a statistic that is constantly moving and changing. Constantly moving and changing – like the upward climb of the residents of Judea and Samaria.