In Israel, Jewish and Muslim Birthrates Are Converging

Those who would push Jerusalem to make precipitous territorial concessions often point to projections that Jews will otherwise become a minority in Israel’s borders. But, as the Economist reports, the demographic realities suggest something else. (Free registration required.)

Yasir Arafat, who led the Palestinians for three-and-a-half decades, described “the womb of the Arab woman” as his “strongest weapon.” . . . At the time there was indeed a wide demographic gap. In Israel itself Arab women were having almost twice as many babies on average as Jewish women. But in the past few decades this gap has disappeared, as the birthrate of Israeli Arabs has fallen while that of Israeli Jews has risen.

In this, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs have followed a path trodden by women elsewhere. Across the OECD, a club mostly of rich countries, the average fertility rate has fallen from almost three in 1970 to 1.6, well below the rate of about 2.1 needed to keep a population from shrinking.

This makes the rising birthrate of Jewish Israelis all the more surprising. Between 1960 and 1990 their fertility declined from 3.4 to 2.6, suggesting they were in step with their sisters elsewhere. But then they began to buck the trend, driving the birthrate back up to its current level of 3.1.

Some of this trend can be attributed to the high birthrates of Israel’s ḥaredi population. But the Jewish state’s demographic miracle is also in part due to the fertility rates of secular families, which are significantly higher than those in economically similar countries:

One . . . explanation may be that Israeli grandparents tend to help out more than their peers in many other rich countries. Since Israel is small and densely populated, grandma is never far away. In one survey 83 percent of secular Jewish mothers aged twenty-five to thirty-nine said they were supported by their child’s grandparents, whereas only 30 percent of German mothers said the same. In Israel the traditional family structure is still strong. In France and Britain more than half of babies are born out of wedlock. In Israel it is under 10 percent.

Read more at Economist

More about: Demography, Fertility, Israeli society, Yasir Arafat

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem