JERUSALEM (May. 6)
Israel will be the largest Jewish center in the world by the year 2000, Jewish Agency Chairman Simcha Dinitz has predicted.
If that prediction holds true, about half the world’s Jewish population would then be living in Israel. For the first time, there would be more Jews in Israel than in the United States, Dinitz told the Jewish Agency Executive this week.
According to the most recent statistics, there are about 12.8 million Jews in the world, of whom 4,175,000 reside in Israel and 5,535,000 in the United States.
Dinitz warned, however, that the number of Jews is decreasing rapidly because of intermarriage and a low birthrate.
Israel’s total population is 5,090,000, according to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, the eve of Independence Day.
Jews make up 82 percent of that total; Moslems, numbering 700,000, represent 13.8 percent. The rest of the population is composed of 132,000 Christians, or 2.5 percent, and 85,000 Druse, or 1.7 percent, the government statistics agency reported.
The population grew by 4.3 percent in 1991, compared to a 5.9 percent growth rate the previous year. Two-thirds of the increase was due to immigration.
Dinitz disclosed Tuesday that 2,228,444 immigrants have come to Israel since the state was established in 1948. The most recent aliyah, from 1989 through April 1992, brought in 418,661 olim, 87.6 percent from the former Soviet Union and 6.8 percent from Ethiopia.
About 1 million Jews are left in the 15 republics of the former Soviet Union. The rest are scattered in Jewish communities around the world.
The Jewish Agency reported that a total of 43,103 Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel since the state was founded. Of that number, 7,345 were brought in by Operation Moses between 1985 and 1986 and 14,103 by Operation Solomon last May.
Since then, another 3,016 olim have arrived from Ethiopia.
About 1,300 Jews are believed still to be living in that country — 200 in Addis Ababa, the capital; 450 in Gondar province and the rest scattered in villages throughout the country.
According to the World Zionist Organization and the British Olim Society, the United Kingdom provided the highest percentage of immigrants from any Western country — 10 percent of its Jewish population.
(JTA correspondent Hugh Orgel in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.)