The Jewish population of the entire world exclusive of Israel
is steadily declining. Only in Israel is there real growth.
However, contrary to previous projections which spoke of a
constant decrease in the population of the Jewish people, the
past two years have actually seen a small increase of about
100,000, from 13.1 to 13.2 million Jews in the world,
according to Professor Sergio Della Pergola, from the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem. However the increase is largely
statistical and does not indicate a real reversal of the
overall trend which reflects the natural and voluntary forces
for deaths and births that are operating on the Jewish
Prof. Della Pergola spoke at the first meeting of a new lobby
for diaspora affairs headed by MK Itzhak Gagula (Shas).
In a conversation with Ha'aretz, Prof. Della Pergola
said the rise was due primarily to developments in the former
Soviet Union, where many individuals who were not recognized
as Jews are now asserting their true identity.
However, in the rest of the world (apart from Israel), the
Jewish population is declining steadily as deaths exceed
births by some 30,000 a year. Assimilation also continues to
rise sharply, reaching a peak of 75 percent in Germany and
The overall Jewish world, the demographic expert said, is
rapidly approaching a situation of zero natural growth (an
identical number of births and deaths), and a negative
natural growth even now is only averted by the natural growth
of the Jewish population in Israel.
In Israel the natural growth rate of the Jewish population is
two percent a year, as compared with an average annual
"growth" of minus 0.3 percent in the diaspora. In certain
countries, again mainly in the former Soviet Union, the rate
is minus one or even minus two percent a year.
In addition the situation is even worse, Prof. Della Pergola
said, since only 25 percent of the children of mixed
marriages in the United States define themselves as Jews, and
the situation is no different in many other countries.
Of the 13.2 million Jews worldwide, 8.3 million (63 percent)
reside in the diaspora and 4.9 million (37 percent) in
In the former Soviet Union there are fewer than half a
million Jews (about 468,000), due mainly to the large-scale
emigration of Jews to Israel as well as to the United States
There are actually more Jews today in France (521,000) than
in all the countries of the former Soviet Union.
According to Prof. Della Pergola, if the current trends
continue within less than 30 years there will be an identical
number of Jews in Israel and in the diaspora.
In any event, he noted, even today more than half the Jewish
children in the world aged 15 years or less live in Israel,
and this will rise to two-thirds by 2020.