Israel’s Changing Democraphics

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This is one of these things that people are sort of hazily aware of, but the real numbers are quite stark:


In 1960, the Israeli Central Statistical Bureau (ICSB) reported that just 15 percent of students in the Israeli primary-school system were either Israeli Arabs or haredim. Now, about 46 percent are. Around 2020, the majority of primary-school students will likely be composed of children from those two groups, each segregated into its own segment of the school system (Fig. 1). And though, at current rates, it will be well beyond the time horizon of our current projections before these two politically disparate groups “dominate” the Israeli electorate (Fig. 2), by 2030 they are likely to be very close to composing half of all 18- and 19-year olds, the youngest tier of the electorate and the age at which Israelis are first eligible for conscription (Fig. 3a & b) — a dramatic shift in Israeli ethnic and religious composition.

Such a development is completely contrary to the demographic hopes of Israel’s secular Zionist founders, which hinged on a healthy pace of secular-Jewish childbearing and steady streams of Jewish immigrants. For the long run, the founders trusted in the powers of prosperity and modernity to turn Israel’s kaleidoscopic assortment of Jewish and non-Jewish ethnic communities into a modern multi-ethnic population with European-like aspirations for women and European-like levels of fertility (a measure demographers use to estimate the trend in lifetime childbirths per woman).

The piece argues that this rise in the Arab and Haredi population is also fueling the rise of Avigdor Lieberman as a polarizing alternative to Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox.