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Israel’s Future is Young: Jewish Birthrate Up, Muslim Rate Down

End of the year statistics show a young and Jewish Israel in the future. The Jewish birthrate rose this year while the Muslim birthrate dropped.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 9/16/2009, 2:28 PM

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The State of Israel faces a promising Jewish future, according to statistics released Wednesday by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBC). The nation’s population now stands at 7,456,000, three-quarters of which is Jewish.

Although the Arab-Muslim birth rate still is higher than that of Jews, the birth rate among Jews is growing while that of Arabs and Muslims is declining. The Jewish rate last year reached 2.88 children per woman, compared with 2.80 the year before. At the same time, the Arab birth rate dropped to 3.84, compared with 3.90 the previous year and 3.97 two years ago.

The new generation representing those under the age of 14 comprises 28.4 percent of the total population, far higher than that of Western countries, where the rate is on average only 17 percent.

On the other side of the age spectrum, the average life expectancy is growing, with women adding seven months to their life span, which now is 83. Men can expect to live on average to the age of 79.1 years, five months more than last year.

Other statistics show that while a plurality of Israelis prefer to live in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, nearly half a million moved outside of the major urban cities. Judea and Samaria welcomed nearly 4,000 newcomers who moved from other areas this past year.

One problematic statistic for the future is the average age of marriage for Jews. Sixty-two percent of Israeli men in the 25-29 age bracket are single, compared with 42 percent for women. Single Muslim men are almost at par with Jews, but single Muslim women make up only 15.5 percent of the age bracket.

One reason for the stark difference is the cultural trend of polygamy among Bedouin, whose population has soared as at least half of all men take two wives, and a significant number still take up to four wives. It is not rare for a Bedouin man over the age of 50 or even 60 to marry a teenager, although the practice is seen far less frequently in the State of Israel than in surrounding Arab nations.

Israeli law forbids polygamy but the government has made an exception for Bedouin on the basis of their religious tradition. However, some Bedouin leaders have also said they encourage the practice not because of religion but rather as a way to become a majority in the Negev, where they have taken over thousands of acres of government land, claiming it belongs to them by tradition.