Strong Families, Strong Country

I was having a discussion a little while ago with westbankpapa about various things, and the state of the family in America came up (we were discussing the next presidential election). He quoted a statistic to me that left me open-mouthed. He said that almost 40% of the children born in America (in 2005) were born out of wedlock. The divorce rate is at 45.8%, so the total number of children in single parent families is also on the rise.

I was appalled. I know that the social fabric of America is different than what it was when I was a child, but I still thought it was better than that.

I decided to look up the statistics for Israel, and I found some reassuring numbers. It turns out that Israel has one of the lowest divorce rates in the Western world (14.8 percent of marriages end in divorce here, versus 45.8 percent in America).  7% of children in Israel (as of 2007) grow up in single-parent families. (The social scientists all say that this number is growing, which is worrying, but from the perspective of other countries, we are doing ok).

One of the nicest things about coming on aliyah is how child friendly the country is. I remember going in to sign up for kupat cholim (health care) and bringing our oldest, who was a very active and inquisitive two year old at the time. I was a nervous wreck as he explored the office while we were signing forms, but the lady in charge thought he was just adorable, and gave him a pencil and a piece of paper to play with. When he tried to open some of the drawers in her filing cabinet, she was honestly more concerned about him hurting himself than anything else. I remember apologizing for bringing him with us on this errand, but she just waved it off and expressed how cute she thought he was.

This child friendly attitude is not found just in the religious sector. It is true that religious families have more children, on average, than the secular families. But the overall fertility rate here in Israel is 2.9 (for the Jewish population), which means that most families have children. Westbankpapa sees that in his job in hi-tech. When the company went for new models of company cars, and gave the workers a choice, many went to measure the trunk (“baggage” in Hebrew slang) to see if it was big enough for a stroller. The “cool” factor of the car was a lower priority.

It makes me feel good to live in a place where the family is still a high priority. We have many problems here in Israel, but the social fabric is still very strong.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bec
    Aug 17, 2008 @ 15:23:11

    i don’t think that’s a fair comparison. you are comparing statistical numbers based on population but little else. if you compared the state of the jewish family in america and the state of the jewish family in israel, i’m sure the numbers would be closer to each other. here you are comparing families in general. it is known that certain populations in america have a greater number of children born out of wedlock, sometimes just for cultural reasons alone and within certain communities, this is no longer viewed as problematic. in the american jewish community though, practicing or not,marriage is still viewed as a priority and something to be done before having children.

  2. Mrs. S.
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 13:54:36

    But that’s exactly the point! Here, we’re living in a Jewish country, and so marriage is a society-wide priority and not just a priority for one small segment of the population…

  3. Ben-David
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 18:30:26

    Another example is the laid-back acceptance of informal summertime “bring your kid to work” days in my hi-tech workplace. When July’s day camps are over, people wind up without a child care option on the odd day. Nobody says anything about the presence of children – even very young children – in the office. Some of the companies I have worked at even organized day camp for August as a perk.

  4. bec
    Aug 18, 2008 @ 21:01:00

    mrs. s,
    i’m sure that if i were to move to saudi arabi or iran, i could make a similar argument, possibly with even better statistics since the population there is even more homogeneous than in israel.
    and in addition, if you were to look at certain jewish populations in the US as compared to israel, you’d probably find israel’s statistics to be ridiculously high. this is why statisticians are very careful when measuring this kind of data. each side needs to balance in order to have a fair comparison.

  5. Marni
    Aug 25, 2008 @ 02:56:09

    I hate to burst your bubble, but the divorce rate in Israel is much higher than 14.8%, multiple sources have reported the divorce rate to be roughly one-third.

    Furthermore, I would also look at the reasons behind the differences in divorce rates, i.e, religion, social stigma, financial instability, etc.

    Yes I am sure there are a lot of happy marriages in Israel, but I also think that certain situations in Israel make it harder to get divorced than in a country like the United States.

  6. Yankev
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 02:00:24

    I’ve been to Israel only twice, this last time to see our granddaughter (and her parents of course) in Givat HaMivtar. One of the things that impressed me was how everyone scrambled to help when someone gets on or off a bus with a baby stroller, or when a mother needs help wheeling a stroller up or down stairs on the streets of Yerushalayim. My modern Hebrew is awful, but one of the first phrases I picked up that trip was “Ulai azor”. It is rare in the US for this kind of help to be offered by or accepted from people you don’t know.

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