Wednesday November 26, 2014
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26.11.2014
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Yoram Ettinger

Defying demographic projections

On March 21, U.S. President Barack Obama stated at the International Convention Center that "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."

Obama has been misinformed by his advisers. The suggestion that Israel should concede Jewish geography 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.

Currently, in sharp contrast with the demographic establishment's projections, there is a 66 percent Jewish majority (6.3 million Jews) in the combined area of pre-1967 Israel (1.65 million Arabs) and Judea and Samaria (1.66 million Arabs), compared with a 40% Jewish minority in 1948 and a 9% Jewish minority in 1900. The Jewish majority enjoys a robust tailwind of high fertility rates and immigration, which could produce an 80% Jewish majority by 2035.

These 6.3 million Jews (including 350,000 new immigrants not yet recognized as Jews by the rabbinate) expose the systematic errors made by 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, Professor Roberto Bacchi, projected only 2.3 million Jews in Israel by 2001, a 34% minority. In 1987, Hebrew University demographer Professor Sergio Della Pergola told Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth that no substantial aliyah (immigration to Israel) was expected from the USSR, but a million Soviet immigrants then arrived.

In a September 2006 article, Professor Arnon Sofer projected that by 2011 there would be 4.5 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria, almost double the actual number issued in 2011 by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics — 2.6 million. And, in fact, the Palestinian number was severely inflated: It included 400,000 overseas residents and a double count of 300,000 Jerusalem Arabs, who are counted both as Israeli Arabs and as West Bank residents.

In defiance of demographic projections, Israel's Jewish fertility rate of three births per woman is higher than any Arab country's 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 and Syria's and Egypt's 2.9. 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 levels of 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 80,400 in 1995 to 130,000 in 2012, while the annual number of Israeli Arab births has been sustained at around 40,000 annually. In 1995, there were 2.3 Jewish births for one Arab birth; in 2012 there were 3.2 Jewish births for one Arab birth.

In 1995 Jewish births amounted to 69% of total births and in 2012 to 77% of total births. In 2013, the Jerusalem Jewish fertility rate is currently 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 is in decline, 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 immigrants from the former USSR.

"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," David Goldman, author of "How Civilizations Die," wrote (in Focus, 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.

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