2015 was characterized by minor changes in the size and demographic patterns of world Jewry. Of special significance: an increase in the number of Jewish inhabitants (and those of “no religion”) in Israel by approximately 130,000; a rise in the number of new immigrants in Israel (a continuation of the trend observed in the last two years); and the stability of the high level of Jewish fertility in Israel – above three children per woman.
In light of the fact that Israel is home to the largest Jewish community in the world, 6.3 million out of, according to Sergio DellaPergola in the upcoming 2016 American Jewish Year Book, world Jewish population of 14.4 million at the beginning of this year,1 the dynamic of its demographic patterns, and the ongoing scholarly and public discourse on the balance between Jews and non-Jews, we devote the demographic chapter of this year’s Annual Assessment to the Israeli population. The heterogeneous composition of the population requires detailed analysis of its demographic characteristics, follow-up over time, and evaluation of possible future developments. This should allow us to efficiently use the empirical evidence for policy-making conducive to the continued increase of the Jewish Israeli population and the Jewish character of the country, while also securing the status and equal rights of all its minority groups.
Jerusalem’s special status as a capital city, its religious importance to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, and its being one of the more sensitive focal points in the Arab-Israeli conflict, led us to examine Jerusalem’s population in detail. Add to this the events of summer-winter of 2015 – the rise in tensions between Jews and Arabs that has resulted in a spate of stabbing, car ramming, and even shooting attacks of individual residents of the city. The recent wave of attacks known as the “Lone-Wolf Intifada,” although other parts of the country were not spared, was focused disproportionately on Jerusalem. It has awakened a debate on the status of Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, both those within the security barrier and those on its other side. Although a political agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority doesn’t seem close at this time, there is no doubt that any eventual deal will include Jerusalem. Religious, security, economic, and also demographic considerations will need to be taken into account.