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Thursday, April 17, 2014

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A current snapshot

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The post-Pesach period is an ideal moment to take a snapshot of the state of the Jewish People. What better time than now – after Pesach, Yom Hashoah v’Hagvurah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, quintessential occasions of Jewish Peoplehood – to take note of current “Jewish People” facts?

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics on Sunday reported that the population of the country is 8.018 million, 6.04 million or 75.3 per cent of whom, are Jewish. Some 1.6 million, or 20.7 per cent, are Arab Muslims. The remaining 318,000 or four per cent of the population are neither Jewish nor Muslim.

Sixty-five years ago, when Israel was established, Israel’s population totalled 806,000. The population of the country has grown by 10 times since it was founded.

The poignancy of the number of Jews who live in Israel today was noted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he spoke last week at Yad Vashem during the national commemoration of Yom Hashoah. 

“Today, for the first time since the establishment of the state, more than six million Jews live in the State of Israel. You, the citizens of Israel, are the testament to our victory. From the abyss of the Holocaust, we climbed to the peak of Zion. From a deep pit, we rose to a pinnacle.”

Despite the steadily rising number of Jews who live in Israel, there are still far fewer Jews in the world today than there were in 1939 when World War II began, then between 17 and 18 million. 

Prof. Sergio DellaPergola of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, perhaps the Jewish world’s pre-eminent demographer, has just published his assessment of the world Jewish population for 2012. It was published by the Mandell L. Berman Institute North American Jewish Data Bank, at the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, University of Connecticut, for the American Jewish Yearbook.

The executive summary of the study tells the story.

“At the beginning of 2012, the world’s Jewish population was estimated at 13.8 million – an increase of 88,300 (0.65 per cent) over the 2011 revised estimate. 

Prof. DellaPergola compares the growth in Jewish numbers to the growth of the global population.

“The world’s total population increased by 1.26 per cent in 2011. World Jewry hence increased at about half the general population growth rate.

“The world’s core Jewish population was estimated at 11 million in 1945… While 13 years were needed to add one million Jews after the tragic human losses of World War II and the Shoah, 47 more years were needed to add another million.

“The world’s total population increased nearly threefold from 2.315 billion in 1945 to 7.075 billion in 2012. Thus, the relative share of Jews among the world’s total population steadily diminished from 4.75 per 1,000 in 1945 to 1.94 per 1,000 currently.” (My emphasis)

But as we know, as we have always been taught throughout our history, it is not the numbers of our people, but rather the nature of our resolve, character and behaviour that are ultimately determinative of our impact on civilization’s progress. An eye-popping example of this observation was published last week by the unique, excellent news service, Israel21c. Based in Israel, this exclusively Internet service provides stories and features of the richly diverse, colourful, remarkably enchanting puzzle that is the State of Israel.

Compiled by veteran writer Nicky Blackburn, the story itemizes “the top 65 ways Israel is saving our planet.” (Please see page 36.)

As Blackburn notes, “Israel is exporting far more than just technology. It’s also sharing its experience and skills in a whole range of humanitarian and environmental fields to help people everywhere live better, fuller and healthier lives. 

“From environmental breakthroughs that will help reduce greenhouse emissions and technologies that can increase food production and save vital crops to humanitarian aid missions in the wake of catastrophic natural disasters, Israelis are providing significant assistance” to countries and peoples around the world.

Blackburn itemizes 65 discrete projects by Israelis that make the planet a better place. The list is not comprehensive. 

“There are hundreds, if not thousands, more worthy projects going on every day,” she writes.

The full list appears on Israel21c.org. Read it. Be inspired. Take pride.

– MBD

 

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