The Land Is Full: Addressing Overpopulation in Israel

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The Land Is Full: Addressing Overpopulation in Israel
By Alon Tal
Yale University Press, 2016
408 pp.
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Tal, one of Israel’s leading environmentalists, unabashedly embraces a Malthusian vision of contemporary Israel: there are too many Jews and too many Arabs. In its zeal to reverse the legacy of the Holocaust, the state has pursued disastrous pro-natal policies, such as providing financial awards to couples who bear children and housing subsides to large families. Israel’s carrying capacity has been greatly outstripped; the country is heavily dependent on imports for food. Nevertheless, voices such as Tal’s are dismissed as unpatriotic, even anti-Semitic. Tal’s book occasionally wanders as it uses the theme of overpopulation to explore a wide range of topics, such as Israeli society’s patriarchal values and the status of women in the country. Other topics, such as agricultural self-sufficiency, are left dangling. Despite Israel’s pro-natal agenda, total fertility is trending down in all sectors of society. Tal urges the government to reverse course and try to accelerate that trend, but he doesn’t say whether or not he favors a suspension of Jewish immigration. He implies, however, that the country is unlikely to witness future influxes on the scale of the nearly one million Jews who arrived from the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet states between 1989 and 2006.

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