A new study published this week suggests Israeli society is in the midst of a dramatic demographic shift, one which could radically alter Israeli politics, the Israeli economy, and the relationship between religion and state.
According to the 2016 annual survey of Israel’s haredi community, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute and Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, Israel’s haredi population is likely to surge past the country’s Arab population by mid-century – and become the single largest religious group among Israeli Jews.
The shift is caused by a confluence of trends among Israel’s various population sectors.
Secular Jews, presently the largest group in Israel, have maintained a stable total fertility rate (TFR) – the number of children born per woman on average – just at the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman, a figure that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
The birthrate among traditional Jews has increased marginally over the past decade, rising from 2.2 in 2005 to 2.6 in 2014. Among traditional-religious Jews the rate is slightly higher, rising from 2.6 in 2005 to 3.0 in 2014.
For non-haredi religious Jews, the TFR has remained stable at 4.2.
But with a TFR of 6.9, the haredi population’s growth rate is more than double the total Jewish TFR of 3.1 and even the Arab TFR of 3.3.
Given the significantly larger haredi TFR, the study projects the haredi population will surpass Israel’s Arab population (including eastern Jerusalem, but not Judea, Samaria, or Gaza) around 2050.
By that point, the haredi population is expected to more than triple from its current size of roughly one million to over three million.
The study also projects the Arab TFR will continue its decline from 3.6 in 2009 to 2.6 by 2040.
While haredim made up just 9.9% of the Israeli population in 2009, with 750,000 out of 7,552,100, by 2014 that figure had risen to 11.1%, with 910,500 haredim out of a total Israeli population of 8,183,400.
By 2024, the study predicts, haredim will make up 14% of the Israeli population, rising to 19% by 2039, and 27% by 2059. At that point haredim will be a whopping 35% of the total Jewish population, outnumbering the secular, traditional, traditional-religious, and religious sectors.
This despite projecting declines in the haredi TFR, which is expected to decline to less than 5 children on average per woman by mid-century – but still well above the projected TFR for non-haredi Jews (2.4) and Arabs (2.6).