Orthodox birthrate seen saving Jewish majority in Israel

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

WASHINGTON The Jewish birth rate was expected to exceed that of Muslims in Israel over the next 18 years, a report said.

A study by the Washington-based American-Israel Demographic Research Group said Jewish fertility, the highest in the developed world, was rapidly approaching that of Arabs in Israel. The group, in a report entitled "Forecast for Israel 2025," projected a 79 percent Jewish majority as well as long-term population stability between Jewish-Arab population groups in Israel.

The report, in contrast to the forecasts by Israeli demographers, said Jewish growth would be based on the Orthodox community. The group said that by 2025, Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish sector would grow from 16 percent to 23 percent of the nation's population. The ultra-Orthodox was expected to increase to 29 percent of the Jewish sector.

"Israel's Arab sector will grow from 20 percent to 21 percent of Israel's total population," the report said. "After 2025, the Jewish majority will rebound past its current 80 percent position as natural growth in high growth Jewish sectors overtakes growth in Arab population groups."

The so-called secular and traditional Jews would drop from the current 64 percent to 56 percent of Israel's population. The secular-traditional sector would decrease from the current 80 percent to 71 percent of the Jewish community.

The report linked predicted Jewish growth to the current "baby-boomer" generation as well as steady immigration. At the same time, Arab fertility rates dropped from over nine births per woman in the 1960s to 4.4 in 2000 and 3.6 in 2006.

"The mid-case 2025 forecast holds current Jewish fertility levels steady at 2.75 births per woman and annual net aliyah [immigration] of 20,000 based on the recent five-year average and internal targets of Israel's Jewish Agency," the report said. "The AIDRG forecast gradually reduces Arab fertility levels to 2.4 births per woman by 2025 where they stabilize at this long-term intermediate rate."

The study cited 80,000 Jewish births in 1995 and 109,000 in 2006, a 36 percent increase. The group predicted an imminent surge in Jewish births based on the increased pregnancy rate recorded shortly after the Lebanon war in mid-2006.

"Faster convergence in Arab and Jewish fertility or upturns in aliyah would increase the Jewish percentage to 83 percent by 2025 from the current 80 percent," the report said. "If Arab fertility only declines to 3.0, the current Arab rate in northern Israel, the Jewish population will decline to 77 percent."

Copyright 2007 East West Services, Inc.

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