August 8, 2009

Demographic time bomb in Israel

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An August 6, 2009, Los Angeles Times article about tensions between ultra-Orthodox and secular Israelis got me thinking about demographics in Israel. It's a problem now. It is going to be a really, really big problem in the not-too-distant future.

In a nutshell, the LA Times article described problems that arose when ultra-Orthodox Jews moved into an upper-class secular Jewish neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Fights over opening a parking lot on the Sabbath, missionary-like practices directed at secular Jews and other activities led to trouble between the two groups.

This July 16, 2009, MSNBC clip about a riot in Jerusalem will give you an idea of what secular Jews are facing.

If demographic trends continue (and they will), these conflicts are only going to grow. From the LA Times article:
With birth rates nearly two or three times the national average, Israel's ultra-Orthodox community is expected to grow from 16% of the population to 23% by 2025. That's only 16 years away.
And then there are the Muslims. According to forecasts, the Israeli Muslim Arab population will grow to more than 2,000,000 people, or 24-26% of the population in less than 15 years. (link).

So, in 15 years (or less), half the population of Israel will be made up of ultra-Orthodox Jews and Muslims. Secular Jews (still the largest group) and non-Muslim Arabs (primarily Christians and Druze) will make up the rest. The percentage of ultra-Orthodox Jews and Muslims will keep increasing at a faster and faster pace.

And then there are the Palestinian Territories.

The Palestinian Territories, with more than 4 million people, is ranked 14th in population density (it would have placed much higher than 14th, but the list is topped with "countries" like Macau, Monaco, Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Vatican City, etc. (link) The Gaza Strip has a yearly population growth rate of about 3.35% and the West Bank is about 2.18%.

Israel also is one of the most crowded countries in the world. It ranked 42nd in population density but as with the Palestinian Territories it really should have been much higher.

More ultra-Orthodox Jews and more marginalized Muslim Arabs in a very small and crowded space. It's going to get ugly.

The video
below (in two parts) by George Negus of Dateline is a good piece on the ultra-Orthodox community.

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