Taking Stock of 2014: Giving Back but not Giving in
Israel’s population grew by almost 200,000 individuals in 2014 according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Some-176,230 babies were born in the Jewish year 5774 which culminated on Sept. 25th, 2014. This covers three fourths of the calendar year, so we can assume the 2014 total will reach upwards of 221,000 newborns. Aliyah helped boost the population figure, as 24,801 new immigrants arrived in Israel in 5774. A large fraction came from France and Ukraine as the world saw a spike in anti-Semitism and growing violence in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The most popular names of the year were Yosef and Tamar for boys and girls respectively. These were followed by Noa and Daniel. Noa peaked the previous year when it took first place on the popularity chart and Yosef replaced Noam from 2013.
Fears of increased growth in the Arab sector were again alleviated as Jewish mothers continued being the most productive of the Western world at 2.99 children per woman and an impressive 2.6 excluding Haredim.
While the trend in the Arab world has been for families to have more children the less money they have, Israeli Arabs haven’t fallen into this category. As government funds for large families have decreased so has the birth rate in the Arab sector.
Israeli Jews have traditionally followed the same pattern: the better of they are, the more children they have. This has been the case since the Emancipation in European when European Jews were for the first time allowed to take up gentile professions and live outside of the ghettos.
Israeli Arabs who are for the most part descendants of Ottoman Empire Bedouins that flocked to Mandate Palestine between 1904 and 1923 as the second and third waves of European Jewry arrived in Israel causing massive growth in the local economy, have historically tended to have more children. This may be explained in terms of cultural and socioeconomic standards which dictate a lifestyle of poverty and lack of basic education. The outcome is clear: people having children indiscriminately of living conditions.
This trend has been altered in the last decade perhaps thanks to an improvement in education and affordable access to literature and media. Israeli Arabs are the best-off Arabs in the Middle East. This may be an additional factor in their decreased birth rate as compared to the Jewish population.
It seems that the policy of providing for the needs of the Arab minority followed by consecutive Israeli administrations is paying dividend. The form it’s taking: that of a dwindling Israeli Arab population at the expense of a Jewish growth spurt could not have been predicted by Netanyahu—or Nostradamus.
2014 was a year of contrasts: it began in a continuation of the general lull in Arab violence that culminated in the Second Intifada of 2000-’01 and ended in a new wave of atrocities. The Arab sector was a willing accomplice to their leadership from both the outside. The tourist influx that had spilled over from 2011 continued well into spring and came to a screeching halt at the start of the conflict in Gaza. The economy rose in the first half of 2014 only to come back to Earth in the second due to instability triggered by another conflict we wanted no part of.
As Israel continues to grow despite the setbacks of the summer of 2014, we need to remember that it pays to give back to minorities. We would also be wise to remember that it’s our hard work and dedication to our homeland that have gotten us thus far and that we can only give so much—that we can give without surrendering our honor and duty to our own people.