As Israel enters its 60th year, the American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG) provides some good news: The ground is being prepared for a major Jewish demographic boost, beginning in 2025.
The Arab birthrate is down, while the Jewish birthrate - especially in the hareidi and religious sectors - is increasing. The effects are currently merely arithmetic, but these are expected to begin multiplying geometrically within a generation.
At present, the Jewish majority is hovering around 76% (non-Jews who are not Arabs make up another 4% of the population), with the religious and hareidi populations each representing slightly over 10% of this amount. Latest Central Bureau of Statistics numbers show that there are 600,000 hareidi-religious Jews, and about that many who describe themselves as "religious."
By 2025, however, this sector is expected to grow to nearly 30% of the Jewish population - and to 23% of the entire country. As time passes, its growth will be faster and faster, as the most fertile sectors make up increasingly larger portions of the population.
The study was headed by Bennett Zimmerman of Los Angeles, with the help of Yoram Ettinger, an Israeli government consultant and former Congressional liaison in Israel's Washington embassy. "In contrast with the demographic fatalism that has been introduced to Israel in recent years," Ettinger told Arutz-7 today, "our study shows that this is simply not true. The trends are in our favor. The Jewish-religious birthrate is higher than the Arabs', and these babies will grow up in 15-20 years and will bring about a population explosion."
Ettinger noted that while Arab populations all over the world are conforming more to modern life-styles, with their birthrates dropping accordingly, this is not true with the Jews. "When the government slashed monthly allowances for large families several years ago," Ettinger said, "this led to a sharp drop in Bedouin child-bearing (down from 9.6 per woman in 2004 to 7 at present), and a drop of approximately one baby in the Arab sector. But in the [Jewish] religious sector, the birthrate did not drop at all, and even showed a slight increase."
Unrelated to the monthly allowances, slight gains have also been noted in the secular public and among new immigrants from Russia.
Fertility rates for Israeli Jews stand at 2.75 per woman - the highest in the industrialized world - and are not expected to rise further by 2025. On the other hand, the AIDRG study expects the Arab rate to drop to 2.4 by then.
The Bedouin sector raises a warning light for Jewish demographers, however. They total 150,000 people, and though their birthrate is dropping, it is still the highest in the country. At present, 2% of Israel's 20-year-old women are Bedouin -but 4% of Israel's 10-year-old girls are Bedouin as well.
Zimmerman and Ettinger have long said that Jewish-Arab population estimates often appear to overestimate Arab growth. A year ago, they presented findings to the US Congress showing that the Palestinian Authority had deliberately misled U.S. and international humanitarian efforts by inflating its population figures to attract billions of dollars in relief funds.
The two researchers have long championed what they call the "Million Person Gap" between the official population estimates of the West Bank and Gaza - over 3.3 million - and the reality of approximately 2.4 million.
“And so it turns out that the demographic knife is not really hanging over our heads," Ettinger said last year. "In 1900, Jews constituted just 8% of the population west of the Jordan, in 1948 it was 48%, and today we are 60%. ...The Jewish majority is stable at 67 percent in Judea and Samaria."