Israel, known officially as the State of Israel, is a democratic country in the Middle East on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon is located towards the north, Syria to its northeast, Egypt and Gaza Strip on the southwest, Jordan and the West Bank to its east, and the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea south of Israel. Its laws define Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State, and the fact is that it’s the world’s only state with a majority Jewish population.
The demography of Israel is monitored by a body named the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. The most recent demographics of Israel, taken on Israel's Independence Day in 2013, found 75% of the population is Jewish while Arabs account for 21% of the population. The remaining 4% (318,000) are referred to as “others” and are family members of Jewish immigrants who are yet to be registered with the Ministry of Interior as Jews, non-Arab Christians or non-Arab Muslims with no religious or ethnic background.
Israel has a Law of Return, which grants all Jews and people of Jewish descent the right to citizenship. The Jewish people in Israel come from many backgrounds. About 73% are Israeli-born while 18% are immigrants from North America and Europe and almost 9% are from Africa and Asia. Jewish people from the former Soviet Union and Europe, plus Israeli-born descendants and Ashkenazi Jews, account for 50% of Jews in Israel.
Over the last 10 years, many migrant workers have moved to Israel from Africa, China, Romania, and South America. While there are no precise figures with many living in the country illegally, it's estimated there are up to 203,000 migrants, including 60,000 African migrants.
Around 92% of Israelis live in urban areas. There were more than 300,000 Israelis in West Bank settlements, 250,000 in East Jerusalem, and 20,000 in Golan Heights settlements as of 2009. 6.5% of the population is made up of Israeli settlers. Almost 8,000 were living in the Gaza Strip until they were evacuated during the country's disengagement plan a decade ago.
Israel Religion, Economy, and Politics
Israel is the site of the holy land from the world's most prominent religions, with a long history of related conflict. Israel is the only country on earth with a Jewish majority, claiming nearly three-quarters of the population. 17.8% of the country is Muslim, 2% is Christian, and 1.6% are Druze. Israel has no constitution, but rather a document called the Basic Laws of Israel, that defines the nation as a Jewish State. The country officially recognizes five faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Druze, and Baha'i Faith. The city of Jerusalem is the source of much of the religious contention in Israel because of its ancient role in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, each of which considers its history of the utmost importance.
The Israeli economy is very strong and the people living there tend to have much higher qualities of life than in surrounding areas. Major industries include technology and industry manufacturing, and diamond cutting/polishing. Without much as far as natural resources, Israel has to import most everything. The current median age in Israel is approximately 29.9 years of age, with a total life expectancy of 82.5 years of age. In terms of factors supporting life expectancy and influencing the quality of life, the national expenditure on healthcare is approximately 7.8% of the GDP, which results in 3.58 physicians per 1,000 individuals and 3.1 hospital beds per 1,000 residents of Israel. 100% of the population has access to improved drinking water and improved sanitation as well.
Politically, Israel is broken into three Zionist parties: Labor, Revisionist, and Religious. There are also many smaller parties, and the elections in Israel tend to get very complicated, and any party rarely gains a majority seat in any branch of governance.
Israel Population History
During the establishment of the State of Israel, there were only 806,000 residents. In 1949, the population crossed over the one million mark. Nine years later, in 1958, the population crossed the two million mark, indicating a strong positive population growth rate.
In early 1994, Israel had a population of approximately 5.3 million people. Of this, 81.5% were Jewish, 14.1% were Muslim and 2.7% were Christian, while 1.7% was comprised of Druze and others. The main factor that led to positive population growth was the large number of Jewish immigrants that arrived from all corners of the world. In 1948-1951, there were approximately 687,000 who arrived at the shore of the State of Israel. The majority of these were survivors from the Nazi extermination camps located in Europe, as well as members of communities whose migration originated from the Arab countries in Asia and North Africa.
As a result of this immigration, Israel’s population doubled in less than four years. In the years of 1955-1957, 1961-64 and 1969-74, smaller migration troops also settled in the country. The growth increment in these years was 30%-45%, with 35-50% of this figure being a result of the migration balance. The influx arising from migration was sometimes low and in 1974 it settled to an all-time low until the period of 1990-93, when thousands of Jews migrated from what was then the Soviet Union.
The immigration, as well as stability natural population increase, resulted in a population growth from 17% in the 1980s (of which migration accounted for 6%) to 40 per thousand (of which migration contributed over two-thirds). Emigration from Israel, though playing a small part, was also significant in the migration balance: 20% of emigration, as well as 30% in 1983-92, significantly reduced the population.
The rate of natural population also decreased from 21.6 per thousand in the late 1950s to 15-17 per thousand recorded, despite fluctuations in the past decade. Some of the factors leading to the decrease were life expectancy and fertility rate, as well as age structures of different population groups.
The fertility rate, or the number of children a woman had, fluctuated under different population groups in the 1950-60s. Well-off families were able to keep the number of children down while poor families saw the number of children born shoot up. In the 1960s, the rate was more than 9 among Muslims and about 3.4 among Jews. It then narrowed down in the 1970-80s. Total fertility declined among Asian/African Jews, Christians, Muslims and the Druze as well as European/American Jews. The rates were 2.61 among Jews, 4.68 for Muslims, 2.03 among Christians and 3.76 for Druze and others.