Israelis have been complaining about the density of their country for years. Yet, not many realise how bad the situation really is.
First in Terms of Density
Dr Eliyahu Ben-Moshe, an Israeli demographer and a former deputy director-general of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, says his country is one of the most densely populated nations on Earth.
“In the developed world, there are only two other states that are denser than Israel – South Korea and the Netherlands. But density is something we can handle, by placing people in areas that are less crowded [such as the Negev in the south or the Golan Heights in the north – ed.]. What we cannot handle are the high fertility rates”.
Israel’s population has grown dramatically over the past decade.
In 2005, it was 6.9 million people. Ten years down the line that number was 8.4 million, and today the Jewish state is home to more than 9 million people.
High Price to Pay
According to projections, by 2050 Israel’s population will nearly double to around 16 million people. About a quarter of that amount will be Ultra-Orthodox individuals.
“On average, a secular Jewish woman produces 3 children during her lifespan, much higher than any other OECD country.
In the Bedouin and the Ultra-Orthodox communities, the fertility rates are even higher, and Israel is already paying the price”.
Israeli schools are overcrowded with children, with up to 34 pupils per class. Roads are packed with cars, whereas the country’s real estate prices have reached unprecedented heights, especially in large cities such as Tel Aviv, hailed as the most expensive in the world.
“We could have invested the money we have in infrastructure and the construction of roads. We could have used this cash to develop the country even further. Instead, we are using it to cater to the needs of the growing population, whether this is in education or medical services”, said Ben-Moshe.
“No other country in the world has managed to maintain that balance of being developed and sticking to that fertility rate. Neither will Israel. Something will have to give”, he added.
Politicians Dragging Their Feet
The expert says Israeli governments, past and present, have been aware of the situation but nothing has been done to change the trend. And the reason for this is politics.
In a country that cherishes children, high fertility rates are highly encouraged and Israeli women are often pressured by society to produce more offspring. No politician in Israel will risk going against that “sacred cow” without endangering their seat.
“It is truly a Greek tragedy. We are doing nothing to dampen that trend. It is not that the country will fall apart but the quality of life here will definitely suffer, and we will feel it in every walk of life”.
Although Ben-Moshe is not optimistic about the future, he does say that the situation is still reversible and in a bid to improve it Israel needs to raise awareness of the phenomenon.
It also needs to lower its fertility rates and make sure that the weaker segments of the population, the ones that produce many children, obtain the relevant assistance.
“We need to talk about this issue and explain the situation. If people only knew how much profit there would have been if we lowered our child production from three to two, maybe things would have been different. Because things won’t change on the level of decision-makers unless there is pressure from the bottom”.
Source: SPUTNIK NEWS