Over the past decade, the birthrates among Israel’s Jewish and Arab populations have come close to parity, a far cry from the major gap recorded a decade ago, according to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday.
At the end of 2014, data showed that, on average, Jewish Israeli women could be expected to give birth to 3.11 children, compared to 3.17 children among Arab Israeli women.
At the beginning of the 2000s the figures stood at 4.3 children on average for Arab Israeli women and just 2.6 for Jewish Israeli women.
The figures were among statistics published by CBS about Israeli children up to 17 years of age ahead of Universal Children’s Day on November 20.
In all, there are 2.74 million children in Israel, making up some 33 percent of the population, CBS said.
Some 1.945 million, or 71% of the children, are Jewish; 713,000, or 26%, are Arab; and the remaining 3% are not classified as either Jewish or Arab, and include groups such as non-Arab Christians.
The largest concentration of children is in the center of the country, where 639,000 live.
Bnei Brak is the Israeli city with the highest percentage of children — 46% of the local population. Children make up 40% of Jerusalem’s residents, much more than in Tel Aviv, where those below the age of 18 are just 21% of the population.
Demographics is a hotly debated political issue in Israel, with some analysts arguing that the Jewish population could eventually become a minority due to higher Arab birthrates, in particular when the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is included in calculations.
According to the Palestinian statistics, 6.08 million Palestinians currently live west of the Jordan River, compared to 6.10 million Jews. Higher Palestinian birthrates (and low Jewish immigration) mean that by 2020, 7.14 million Palestinians will live in the land and just 6.87 million Jews, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics claims.
The official Israeli numbers are similar to the Palestinian ones. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reported 1,719,000 Arab citizens (including some 140,000 Druze, as well as other Arabic-speaking religious groups, who don’t necessarily identify as Palestinians or even Arabs), and 6,218,000 Jews living in sovereign Israel at the end of 2014.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) — a branch of the Israel Defense Forces that controls the Palestinian population registry — claims that 2.754 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and 1.73 million in the Gaza Strip. That puts the total number of Palestinians in the land at approximately 6.2 million, very close to the number of Jews living in the same territory.
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.