Jewish Baby Boom Alters Israeli-Palestinian Dynamic

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When the Oslo peace process began in the 1990s, fertility among Israeli Jews stood at 2.6 children per woman, compared with 4.7 among Muslims in Israel and east Jerusalem and 6.0 among Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Yet over the past decade, a demographic revolution with long-lasting political consequences has occurred. Jewish birthrates in Israel have spiked while Arab birthrates in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere in the Middle East have declined. This unlikely baby boom has made many Israeli Jews a lot less afraid of being outnumbered, Yaroslav Trofimov reports for the Wall Street Journal.

The Jewish fertility rate in Israel was 3.11 per woman in 2014, while among the Arab citizens of Israel and east Jerusalem residents it was 3.17, according to Israel’s statistics bureau. Palestinian fertility rates have fallen to 3.7 in the West Bank from 5.6 in 1997, and to 4.5 from 6.9 children in Gaza, according to the Palestinian statistics bureau. “Birthrates in the Arab and Jewish sectors will continue converging,” said Israel’s defense minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Regardless of its political implications, Israel’s baby boom represents a puzzling exception to the world’s demographic trends. Usually, as countries become wealthier and as women become more integrated in the workforce, fertility rates plummet. But in Israel, families began having more children, giving the country the highest fertility rate among the world’s advanced economies. Israeli Jews nowadays have more children, on average, than Egyptians, Iranians or Lebanese.

{Matzav.com Israel News Bureau}

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