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Israel’s Jewish Demography Defies Projections

April 8, 2013 2:06 am 3 comments

The city of Ariel.

On March 21, 2013, President Obama stated at the Jerusalem Convention Center: “Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.”

President Obama was misinformed by his advisors.  The suggestion that Israel should concede Jewish geography, in order to secure Jewish demography, ignores demographic trends in Israel, in the Muslim world in general and west of the Jordan River in particular. These trends reaffirm that time is working in favor of Israel’s Jewish demography.

In 2013, in sharp contrast with projections issued by the demographic establishment, there is a 66% Jewish majority (6.3 million Jews) in the combined area of Judea, Samaria (1.66 million Arabs) and pre-1967 Israel (1.65 million Arabs), compared with a 40% Jewish minority in 1948 and a 9% Jewish minority in 1900. The Jewish majority benefits from a robust tailwind of fertility rate and migration, which could produce an 80% Jewish majority by 2035.

The 66% Jewish majority of 6.3 million (including 350,000 Olim not yet recognized as Jews by the Rabbinate) exposes the systematic errors of leading demographers. In 1898, the leading Jewish demographer/historian, Simon Dubnov, projected a meager 500,000 Jews in the Land of Israel by the year 2000.  In 1944, the founder of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics and the guru of contemporary Israeli demographers and statisticians, Prof. Roberto Bacchi, projected only 2.3 million Jews in Israel by 2001, a 34% minority. On October 23, 1987, Hebrew University’s demographer Prof. Sergio DellaPergolla, told Yediot Achronoth that no substantial Aliya was expected from the USSR, but, one million Olim arrived.  In a September, 2006 article, Prof. Sofer projected that by 2011 there would be 4.5 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria, double the number published in 2011 by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics – 2.6 million. And, in fact, the Palestinian number was inflated by one million Arabs: 400,000 overseas residents; a double count of 300,000 Jerusalem Arabs, who are counted as Israeli Arabs and as West Bankers; etc.

In defiance of demographic projections, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate of three births per woman is higher than any Arab country other than Yemen, Iraq and Jordan. The modernity-driven downward trend of Muslim demography is highlighted by Iran’s fertility rate of 1.8 births per woman, Saudi Arabia’s 2.3 births and Syria’s and Egypt’s 2.9 births per woman.  The Westernization of the Muslim fertility rate was triggered by the unprecedented expansion of education among women, urbanization and family planning.  The surge of Israel’s Jewish fertility rate was triggered by high level optimism, patriotism, collective responsibility, the stable economy and attachment to roots.

In contrast with conventional wisdom, Israel’s Jewish-Arab fertility gap has been reduced from six births in 1969 to half a birth in 2012.  Moreover, the fertility rates of Jewish and Arab women in their 20s and 30s – in Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel – has converged at three births per woman, with the Jewish rate trending above – and the Arab rate trending below – three births.  Furthermore, the fertility rate of Israeli-born Jewish women is already above three births per woman.

In defiance of the demographic profession, the annual number of Israel’s Jewish births has surged by 62.5% from 1995 (80,400) to 2012 (130,000), while the annual number of Israeli Arab births has been sustained at around 40,000 annually. In 1995, there were 2.3 Jewish births per 1 Arab birth; in 2012 – 3.2 Jewish births per 1 Arab birth.  In 1995 Jewish births amounted to 69% of total births; in 2012 – 77% of total births.  In 2013, the Jerusalem Jewish fertility rate is 4.2 births, compared with the 3.9 Arab fertility rate. Contrary to political correctness, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is surging at a time when the fertility rate of the ultra-orthodox sector declines, due to its growing integration into the employment market and military service. The surge in fertility is produced by Israel’s secular Jews, and mostly by the yuppies around Tel Aviv and the Olim (immigrants) from the former USSR.

David Goldman, author of How Civilizations Die, wrote: “the stronger the Jewish commitment, the more likely Jews are to have children. Living in the Land of Israel is one of the strongest manifestations of Jewish commitment…. As unique as the Jews are among the world’s people, their fertility in Israel is also unique among the nations, and cause for optimism about the future of the Jewish people (inFocus, Spring, 2013, The Jewish Policy Center).” Anyone suggesting that Jews are doomed to become a minority west of the Jordan River is either dramatically mistaken or outrageously misleading.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.


  • What a cheap piece of Hasbara! If anything, recent reports from non-other than the government of ISreal show that jews are the minority already. Between immigration having almost haulted and emigration on the rise, pretty soon, the Palestinians will have their land back.

  • Actually, D. Rosenberg, there is one more source of mass immigration – France. Antisemitism there is so rampant and growing that nearly half of 483,000 French Jews own property in Israel as insurance, and growing numbers are making the move.

    Also, Arab fertility is not “much” higher than Jewish fertility rates, Arab fertility rates in both Israel and the West Bank have shrunk due to increased urbanization and higher living standards, and the Arab fertility rate is now slightly higher than the secular Jewish fertility rate and still on the decline, while the secular Jewish fertility rate is seeing some growth, and the National-Religious and Haredim already have a much higher birthrate than the Arabs do.

  • D. Rosenberg

    Ettinger is cherry picking his numbers. Of course, the Jewish majority has grown because of immigration,some of which could not have been predicted. So where does Ettinger think the new source of Jews will come from? Russia is tapped out, Europe and the U.S. have a lot of Jews but even the biggest recession in 80 years didn’t bring hundreds of thousands of them to Israel. Perhaps something else will, but now we are counting on miracles to save us from hard fact. Ettinger is treading on dangerous ground when he says forecasters have predicted wrongly in the past. Isn’t he a forecaster himself, just not a professional demographer.

    As to cherry-picking, the fact is Arab fertility in Israel is still much higher than the Jewish rate and they are far from converging (3.51 versus 2.98 in 2011). The idea that Jews will produce more babies because they are patriotic is silly.The Jewish birth rate declined in the aftermath of the 1967 war even though it was a period of self-confidence and patriotism. Are we supposed to assume that Israeli Arabs are more patriotic than Israel Jews today because they have more babies?

    In any case, the kind of Jewish majorities that Ettinger has tried to squeeze out of the numbers are hardly any cause for confidence: So Israel will have a Jewish majority of 60-70% in however many decades,. What does we do with third of the country who is nether Jewish nor Zionist? What about the Jews — the Haredim — who are not Zionist, don’t serve in the army and don’t contribute to the economy?

    Ettinger simply wants to keep the West Bank and will do anything to make a case for why we should do so. Demography is a problem, so he simply wishes it away.

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