Europe’s demographics are not looking too good, we all know that; our American cousins are dealing with something similar.
Yet, relatively far from the midst of the European immigration and demographic crisis, lies a country in the region which will always be known to me as Outremer (“beyond the sea”), as our forefathers with a cross on their tabards used to call it; Israel has been the exception to the rule in last 30 years, with all neighbouring countries experiencing war and/or turmoil (sometimes at Israel’s hands, undoubtedly), while the Star of David enjoyed stability and a built a solid Western-oriented society.
But this is not the place to discuss Israel’s past, or whether we as individuals support one side or the other in the still lingering Palestinian question. This article intends to take a honest glance at Israel’s future.
And for reasons that are in fact different from those behind the European demographic decline, Israel’s demographic future is looking rather bleak as well.
Elements within the Israeli State and society have long decried Arab population growth as an inherent threat to the Jewish State, and reasonably so; available data and projections suggest that ethnic Arab population inside Israel is going to nearly double in the next 40 years, easily making up 1/4 of total Israeli population by the end of the 2050s.
This, combined with the growing demographic pressure from neighbouring countries (which has been overshadowed in what little media outlets cover these themes by the much more relevant African boom), is going to put Israel in a difficult situation both internally and externally.
In addition to this, Haredi Jews (often called ultraorthodox) are going to be one major factor in the demographic future of Israel.
As a matter of fact, ultraorthodox jews have birth rates irrespective of the country where they live; between 2009 and 2014, their total percentage of the Israeli population has increased from 9.9% to 11.1%. In a mere five years.
By the end of the 2050s, they are expected to make up around 28% of the total population, becoming by far the biggest Jewish minority if single groups are considered – with a median increase of 425% in relation to their current numbers.
Well, but they are Jews, you say?
Yes they are, Haredi Jews stick to their own “ultraorthodox” interpretation of the Torah, and their relationship to the Jewish state is rather ambiguous, bordering on open hostility at certain critical moments, as has been seen during the 2014 conscription riots.
Secular Jews in Israel have an equally as alienated relationship to Haredi Jews.
Furthermore, they openly despise any sort of military service, something which is very critical to Israel, a country where ordinary citizens have to serve in the armed forces for 24-36 months (depending on the sex).
Considering that Arabs are not subject to conscription, what is going to happen when a good half of the Israeli population is going to either refuse or be ineligible for service by 2060?
As the country is surrounded on all sides by more or less openly demonstrated contempt and hostility and lives in a state of permanent semi-siege, it seems that Israel’s position on the regional chessboard is going to deteriorate significantly.
Attempts to integrate the ultraorthodox community into the normal operations of the secular State have been ferociously rejected, sometimes with open riots taking place.
If this trend is confirmed in the next decade, it seems certain that Jewish Secularism in Outremer has only tough days ahead.
All data mentioned can be retrieved at http://www.cbs.gov.il/publications/tec27.pdf – English text at the bottom