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Russians Surpass Moroccans As Largest Immigrant Group

Russians have now surpassed Moroccans as the largest immigrant group in Israel, according to new population statistics.

Their ranks have swelled over the last two years of mass immigration from the former Soviet Union, bringing the number of Russian immigrants in this country since late 1979 to 650,000.

There are some 500,000 Israelis of Moroccan origin. Coming up behind them are Polish Jews, with a community of 275,000; Romanians, at 266,000; Iraqis, at 260,000; and Yemenites, at 100,000.

Israel had 5,058,800 inhabitants at the end of 1991, of whom 18 percent were non-Jewish, the just-published official statistical annual says.

A sharp drop in immigration has halved the estimated population increase this year, to 2.5 percent. But over a three-year period, the country registered a 14 percent increase in population, and with it a rise in the number of elderly. About 460,000 Israelis are now age 65 or older.

The statistics indicate Israelis are marrying later and divorcing sooner. Couples wed in 1991 were two years older on average than those marrying in previous years. At the same time, divorce rates among couples married 10 years or more rose from 8 to 10 percent.

A low birthrate among Russian immigrants has pushed down the national fertility average, the survey found. Comparing birth rates within Israel, the survey found Jewish women had an average 2.6 children in 1991, compared to 4.7 children for Moslem women.

Although the non-Jewish population accounts for only 18 percent of the total, 28 percent of all children born in Israel in 1991 were not Jewish.

In at least one age category, the statistics dispelled a widely held belief about the preponderance of single women over men in Israel. Unmarried men age 30 to 40 outnumbered unmarried women 48,900 to 42,600, the survey found. Past the age of 40, however, the trend begins to reverse.

Life expectancy for Israelis continues to be high. Men can expect an average life span of 74.2 years and women 78.4 years, the survey says.

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