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Fewer immigrants slow down Israel’s population growth rate

JERUSALEM, Sept. 30 (JTA) – Israel’s population is growing, but not as quickly as earlier in the decade. The Central Bureau of Statistics said this week that the Jewish state has a population of about 5,863,000, of which 4,702,000, or about 80.2 percent, are Jews. Israel’s Muslim population stands at 872,000, or 14.9 percent of the population; Christians, 190,000, or 3.2 percent; and Druse and other religions, 100,000, or 1.7 percent, the bureau said. The statistics, released each year on the eve of the Jewish New Year, indicated a rate of population growth since the previous Rosh Hashanah of 2.45 percent. The growth rate was lower than that posted at the beginning of the 1990s, when a massive influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union contributed to annual growth rates in the 4.5 percent range. In its Statistical Yearbook published Sunday, the bureau said that in the year 5757, the Jewish population increased by 1.9 percent while the Muslim population increased by 3.5 percent. Most of those increases were attributed to natural growth, or birth rates outstripping death. The bureau also reported that a record 2.5 million Israelis traveled abroad during the past year and that economic growth dropped drastically from 6 percent in 5756 to 2.5 percent. According to the bureau, Israelis have life expectancy rates that rank among the world’s highest. Israeli women can hope to live 79.1 years, placing them 17th in the world. Men must suffice with 75.5 years, which puts them third in world life expectancy rates. Japanese men and women have the world’s highest life expectancy rates.