By David Isaac
A warning by an Israeli futurist and the Israel Builders Association last week that was meant to frighten is at the same time cause for celebration. The futurist, Prof. David Passig, said that Israel needs to address a coming housing shortage or it won’t have a place to put its rapidly growing population.
The reason his otherwise dire warning is also encouraging is that for years Israeli demographers have warned that Israel would be overwhelmed by Arab population growth. The leading figure in this camp is Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola, who has consistently made incorrect forecasts about Arab and Jewish fertility rates.
The reality is that the Jewish fertility rate in Israel is booming. Yoram Ettinger, who co-founded the America-Israel Demographic Research Group, wrote recently that “the number of Israel’s Jewish births has surged dramatically – 74% – from 1995 (80,400 births) to 2018 (141,000).”
What’s more, Jewish fertility is rising especially among secular women. Most assume that it’s only religious women who are having lots of kids. Ettinger cites the reasons as “a high-level of patriotism, optimism and attachment to roots; expanded fertility treatment; reduced number of abortions; and the low rate of infant mortality (3.1 babies per 1,000 births).”
Meanwhile, the Arab birth rate is westernizing – that is to say, shrinking.
Prof. Marcia Inhorn of Yale University writes in the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of The Brown Journal of World Affairs:
“The fertility declines recorded in the Arab world over the past 30 years (1988-2018) have been profound, even revolutionary…The Arab world is in the midst of one of the most dramatic fertility declines in world history….From among the highest to among the lowest [fertility levels] in the world…without major economic development or strong family planning programs….”
The World Bank says that from 1960-2017, the overall fertility rate in the ‘Arab World’ shrank from 6.9 births per woman to 3.3.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Jewish population is approaching 7 million (6.697 million to be exact). Not bad, considering when Israel was established in 1948, the Jewish population stood at only 650,000. At the start of the 20th century, there were only 60,000 Jews in the Land of Israel.
He says Israel’s population density will double by the end of this century. The trouble is nothing is being done to prepare for it – “No one is thinking about it in Israel.”
Maybe they weren’t thinking about it because they’d been flooded with misleading demographic forecasts.
Raul Srugo, president of the Israel Builders Association, hosted Passig at the group’s annual conference last weekend and echoed his warning.
“If we don’t carry out some far-reaching processes that begin immediately, this crisis is expected to turn in the coming years into a social-economic disaster,” Srugo said.
So many Jews, so little housing. Really, it’s not a bad problem to have. And with enough concrete, solvable enough – above ground or underground.
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Photo Credit: GPO/Kobi Gideon