A year or so ago I wrote two blogposts (here and here) on the Pew Research Centre’s report into Israel’s religiously divided society. It broke down the 81% of the Israeli population that are Jewish into four categories: Haredi (ultra-orthodox) 8% of the population; Dati (religious) 10%; Masorti (traditional) 23%; and Hiloni (secular) 40%. The Haredim are far more likely to pray daily, attend synagogue once a week, fast on Yom Kippur and not drive on the Sabbath than the members of the other categories. According to this report from Jerusalem Online, the Haredim are also set to become a much larger proportion of a much larger and older Israeli population in the future.
In 50 years’ time, Israel’s population is predicted to have increased from 8.5 million in 2015 to 20 million in 2065 – an increase of 250%. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) conducted an analysis of the 2015 data and “carried out evaluations according to various trends in the world and cultural developments”. It estimated that the current population split between Jewish and non-Jewish will remain fairly constant at around 80-20 over the next 50 years. However, the make-up of that 80% Jewish part of the population will change dramatically. The ultra-orthodox Haredi population will rise to 20% of the population in 2040 and to 32% in 2065. That is, in 2065, 40% of the Israeli Jewish population will be Haredi. The reason for this remarkable change is simple: Haredim have far more babies than their secularised counterparts. At the same time, the population will get somewhat older: those aged 65 years and older will increase from 11.1% of the total population in 2015 to 15.3% of the population in 2065.
The increase in the Haredi population will make for some hard debates in Israel in the years to come I would imagine. The Haredi have traditionally been exempt from compulsory military service, but in 2014 the law was changed to amend this (although critics say it doesn’t go far enough). Aside from their widespread antipathy to being conscripted into the army, the Haredim men are mostly unemployed and rely on donations, state benefits and their wives’ wages. It will be fascinating to see if Israel can survive and prosper when such a large proportion of the population is removed from many of its affairs. It is also an interesting example of a religious community deciding to withdraw from the modern world instead of engaging with it.
PS When researching this post, I found some figures on the rough estimate of how many Jews there are in the world. Can you guess? Go and find out – but I was surprised at how small the percentage was, and how much of an impact on the world and history such a small number of people have had/are still having.