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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘population’

Who’s a Pew

Friday, October 18th, 2013

The views in this article are not at all those of the Jewish Press, but we decided to publish the article as an opportunity to expand the public debate. So comment away…

There have been three reports released in the past few days regarding Jewish Population. Two, the Pew Research Study, and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute Study, are concerned with Jewish population numbers. The third, by the University of Huddersfield in England concerns itself with the genetic history of Askenazi Jews. But in fact, all three studies are really about Jewish identity.

The Pew and Steinhart studies have come up with vastly different numbers concerning the size of the Jewish population in the US. This disparity is due to their diverse definition of who is a Jew.

This is not a new problem. Jewish identity has been an issue in the Jewish community at least since the beginning of the Common Era, and perhaps even before. At the start of the Common Era Jews in Rome were proselytizing so successfully that the rabbis felt that they had to erect barriers to conversion for fear that the Jewish community would become too diluted. In essence, they revised the standards for Jewish identification and as Judaism became more rabbinical, whole segments of the Jewish population who were not considered religious enough by the rabbis became disenfranchised and were left out in the cold.

In great part, due to this exclusionary policy, the world Jewish population declined sharply over the next thousand years. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the world Jewish population dropped from about five million at the start of the Common Era, to about one million by the end of the first millennium CE. It remained at about one million until the middle of the eighteenth century when it suddenly skyrocketed to seven million in less than a hundred years.

Both the precipitous population decline and the even more remarkable population increase resulted from the different policies of defining Jewish identity. In the early years of the Common Era, before the rise of rabbinic Judaism, Jews were defined through self description; for example, you could describe yourself as a Roman Jew or as a Greek Jew. There was no other requirement than that. You didn’t have to belong to a synagogue or observe holidays, or keep kosher, or any of the other criteria that are currently applied in population surveys. After the rabbis gained power the nature of Judaism and Jewish identification changed. A Jew could no longer self select. He had to be listed as a Jew by the rabbi. Thus, if a Jew was not affiliated with a rabbinic religious community, he was not counted as a Jew.

This situation continued for the next thousand years until Napoleon granted the Jews citizenship, and pioneers and visionaries like the Bal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, and Rabbi Abraham Geiger, the founder of the Reform Movement, declared that it was not necessary for a person to be affiliated with a synagogue or even know how to pray in order for him to consider himself Jewish. (It should be remembered that the Bal Shem Tov was excommunicated by the Vilna Gaon because of this heretical idea.)

These great visionaries said that if you consider yourself Jewish, then you’re Jewish! As a result of this earth shattering declaration the world Jewish population soared so that by 1935, through the measure of self identification, there were fifteen million Jews in the world. (Hitler did not ask “how Jewish” his victims were)

Today, we are facing a similar problem that confronted the Jews in the first centuries of the Common Era. We have once again set up barriers to Jewish identification and we now have standards to determine if you are a “True Jew:” Was your mother Jewish? Did you have a bar mitzvah? How often do you attend services? Do you belong to a JCC? Contribute to Jewish charities? Been to Israel? Speak and/or read Hebrew? Light Shabbat candles? Have a Christmas Tree? And on and on.

These questions only serve to narrow the field in a time when we should be widening our tent. We can no longer afford to be an exclusive and exclusionary club. We need to find new ways to welcome not only the disenchanted and disenfranchised Jews but also the intermarried, and their non-Jewish partners.

In the same way that Jews of the twenty first century are different from their first century ancestors, so too must the definition of who is a True Jew be different. Until we can settle on a new definition we will be unable to accurately measure the Jewish population.

Bernard Beck is the author of True Jew…Challenging the Stereotype, published by Algora Publishing, 186 pages, $22.95

Disconnect Israel’s Interests from America’s

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

I do not understand the Israelis who are eager for a U.S. attack on Syria. They are confused, willing to be at the receiving end of missiles and, down the road, the object of tremendous diplomatic pressure – to “prove” America’s balanced approach to the Middle East – just to preserve the U.S. hegemony in our region.

These people suffer from a blurred sense of identity. It diffuses their ability to identify an Israeli interest that is independent from, and not contingent upon, an American interest. I have the utmost respect for the U.S., but Israel must be able to look in the mirror without seeing stars and stripes.

Yitzhak Shamir, of blessed memory, was perhaps the best Israeli leader since David Ben-Gurion. Nonetheless, Shamir made a serious strategic mistake under circumstances similar to those we are currently facing. Five years ago, I wrote a column explaining why his actions were so detrimental to Israel. That 2008 column (see below) provides fresh insight into Israel’s current position. (The column was translated from the Hebrew version, which appeared in Makor Rishon.)

* * *

Shamir’s Blunder Nobody really expected Israel to react to the rockets fired on the town of Shlomi last week. And they were right. Israel is not going to retaliate.

From the end of the War of Independence in 1949 and until the First Gulf War in 1991, Israel’s civilian population was out of bounds. Israel had created a balance of fear that dictated that shelling its civilian population was not an option and would lead to all-out war. When the Syrians shelled Israeli towns in 1967, Israel retaliated by conquering the Golan Heights.

But in the First Gulf War, under intense pressure from Israel’s Left, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir reversed two strategic principles that Israel had carefully preserved until then. The first principle was that only Israeli soldiers would be responsible for Israel’s security. The second principle was that the attack of Israel’s civilian population is completely unacceptable. When Iraqi Scud missiles rained down on Israel’s cities, Israel opted to hide behind the broad shoulders of the American and British soldiers, move U.S. Patriot missiles into strategic locations, and, of course, to instruct its citizens to cover all windows with sheets of plastic and masking tape.

Shamir enjoyed the support of the media, academia and Left for a time. No commission of inquiry was established to investigate the mistakes made in that strange war. By the grace of our Father in Heaven, there were very few Israeli fatalities and nobody criticized Shamir’s strategic turnabout. There were no bereaved families to point an accusing finger at the leader of the Right who had sacrificed their dear ones’ lives in vain. There were no reserve soldiers to stage hunger strikes outside Shamir’s home and not one Knesset member or public figure demanded that he resign.

I claimed then – and support that claim even more so now – that Shamir’s blunder was even greater than Golda Meir’s in the Yom Kippur War. In that war, Israel did not lose its power of deterrence. But by the end of the First Gulf War, Israel found itself facing new rules. Israel had entrusted its security to foreign armies and it soon had to pay for its mistake in hard currency. The Madrid Conference, to which the Left pushed the hapless Shamir to attend, was in effect Israel’s unofficial doorway to recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Shamir still attempted to stick to his principles by speaking only with Yasir Arafat’s representatives and not with Arafat himself. But the Israeli public – justifiably – did not bother with the nuances and elected Yitzhak Rabin to succeed Shamir. The Oslo process was on its way.

Approximately 1,500 civilians have already been murdered in the Oslo process – more than all the civilian terror fatalities that Israel had suffered from the establishment of the state and in the pre-state days. Oslo placed a question mark over Israel’s very right to exist. It was only a matter of time until missiles, mortars and rockets began to rain down on Israel’s towns and cities.

Since Shamir’s blunder his successors have followed suit, criminally ignoring the fact that Israel’s neighbors are arming themselves with strategic missiles. They have brought Israel to its knees, waiting for the merciful final blow of tens of thousands of conventional and non-conventional missiles that will lift off simultaneously from launchers in Syria, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and Gaza.

8.081 Million Citizens in Israel on Rosh HaShana Eve

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

On the eve of Rosh Hashana 5774, the population of the State of Israel stands at 8.081 million people according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

75.1% of the population is Jewish, at 6.066 million people. 20.7% are Arabs at 1.67 million people, and 4.2% or 345,000 people fall into the category of ‘Other’ (Non-Arab Christians, and other minority religions).

It is estimated that there are 1.66 million Arabs living in Judea and Samaria.

The Israeli population rose since last year by 142,000 people, or 1.8% similar to previous years.

163,000 babies were born in 5773, and 40,000 people died.

19,000 people immigrated to Israel.

Shana Tova!

Vatican: Papal Visit to Show IDF ‘Imprisoning’ Christian Population

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Fr. Peter Vasko, President of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land (FFHL), heralded Pope Francis’ announcement that he may visit the Holy Land next year as an opportunity for the “whole world to see the plight of Christians in the area.

Vasko said the pontiff’s presence would also “shine a light on the dwindling Christian population in the Holy Land, and hopefully help ease living conditions in the area.” Christians, once a majority in the area, have diminished to less than two percent of the population as restrictions on travel, education and work have increased.

In Palestinian controlled areas, including Bethlehem, what remains of the Arab Christians population are virtual prisoners in their own homes. At the same time, Israeli controlled areas are the only places in the entire Middle East where the Christian population has been rising.

Pope Francis said the visit – his first as head of the Church – would mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s trip to Jerusalem in 1964. The announcement came on the heels of Israeli President Shimon Peres’ recent visit to the Vatican. During that visit, Peres urged the pope to come to Israel, adding, “The sooner you visit the better, as a new opportunity is being created for peace, and your arrival could contribute significantly to increasing the trust and belief in peace.”

Peres added, “I turn to you and ask that within your sermons in front of millions of believers in the world you include the hope for peace in the Middle East and the whole world.”

Vasko said the Vatican has long supported FFHL programs, which provide education, housing and work opportunities for thousands of Palestinian Christians. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI visited Israel during their tenures.

Pope Francis accepted Peres’ invitation, but no date has been set for the trip.

Britain: Muslim Prison Population Up 200%

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

The number of Muslim convicts in British prisons has surpassed the 11,000 mark for the first time, according to data included in a new report produced by the British Parliament.

The statistics — from a July 29 House of Commons research report entitled, “Prison Population Statistics” — show that the number of Muslim inmates in England and Wales jumped to 11,248 in 2012, up from 3,681 in 1997. Stated another way, over the past 15 years, the number of Muslims in British prisons has jumped by more than 200%.

The rate of increase of Muslim inmates in British prisons is eight times faster than that of the overall prison population, and the numbers show a clear overrepresentation of Muslim convicts: Muslims, who make up roughly 5% of the British population as a whole, now make up 13% of the British prison population (compared to just 6% in 1997).

The growth in the number of Muslim inmates is fueling fears that British prisons are becoming hotbeds for Islamic radicalization.

Although most of the Muslims in British prisons are immigrants from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, an increasing number of Muslim inmates are converts to Islam.

According to a research report recently commissioned by the British Ministry of Justice, many non-Muslim inmates in British prisons are being bullied into conversion or are embracing Islam in exchange for promises of protection from physical assault.

The study examines the Islamic “gang culture” inside the Whitemoor Prison in Cambridgeshire, which houses around 500 of the most dangerous prisoners in Britain. Researchers from the Cambridge Institute of Criminology who wrote the report found that more than one third (39%) of the prisoners at Whitemoor are Muslims.

Prisoners told the researchers that they had felt overwhelming pressure to convert. In some instances, they said, Muslim inmates had left Islamic literature in their cells and ordered them to “read this.” In other instances, inmates were promised that if they converted to Islam, they would be safe from physical assault.

The report states that if loners, including sex offenders, converted to Islam, fellow Muslims would defend them; they could thereby gain safety from a large and dominant group. Others used their newly acquired faith as a tool for status in establishing influence.

Non-Muslims and prison officers inside Whitemoor described Islam as an “organized gang” and a “protection racket,” which “glorified terrorist behavior and exploited the fear related to it.”

Prison guards said there were “proper Al-Qaeda” members in the prison who were regarded with “awe” by younger inmates. Some prisoners described Whitemoor as a “recruiting drive for the Taliban” and fertile ground for hatred and a new generation of extremists.

Guards also said they had a policy of “appeasement” towards the powerful and growing Islamic prison population, particularly convicted terrorists who were feared to be recruiting future extremists.

The report states: “The threat of assaults motivated by religious fanaticism or extremist ideology added weight to the atmosphere at Whitemoor,” and continues: “The new population mix, including high numbers of Muslim prisoners, was disrupting established hierarchies in the prison. Social relations among prisoners had become complex and less visible. Too much power flowed among some groups of prisoners, with some real risks of serious violence. There were high levels of fear in the prison. In particular, there were tensions and fears relating to ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalization.’”

The report concludes: “More prominent, in practice, were pressures (and temptations) felt by some prisoners to convert to Islam. Conditions in the prison made participation in Islamic practices the most ‘available’ option for those looking for belonging, meaning, ‘brotherhood,’ trust and friendship.”

Meanwhile, British media recently reported that Dale Cregan, a notorious quadruple murderer who is serving a life sentence at the Manchester Prison, is being targeted by extremist Muslims who want to convert him to Islam.

Cregan, who is of Irish Catholic background, is said to be afraid of rival gang members who have offered a bounty to anyone who attacks him in prison. Muslims have offered to protect Cregan if he converts to Islam. According to prison officials, Cregan is so well known that if he converts to Islam, it would be seen as a way to further increase the influence of Muslim gangs inside the prison.

The True Conflict of the Middle East

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has been largely replaced by the Sunni Muslim-Shia Muslim conflict as the Middle East’s featured battle. While the Arab-Israeli conflict will remain largely, though not always, one of words, the Sunni-Shia battle involves multiple fronts and serious bloodshed.

Shia Muslims are a majority in Iran and Bahrain; the largest single group in Lebanon; and significant minorities in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. While the ruling Alawite minority in Syria is not Shia, it has identified with that bloc.

The main conflict in this confrontation is in Syria, where a Sunni rebellion is likely to triumph and produce a strongly anti-Shia regime. A great deal of blood has been shed in Iraq, though there the Shia have triumphed politically.

The tension is already spreading to Lebanon, ruled largely by Shia Hizballah. In Bahrain, where a small Sunni minority rules a restive Shia majority, the government has just outlawed Hizballah as a terrorist, subversive group, even while European states have refused to do so.

By Islamizing politics to a greater degree, the victories of the (Sunni) Muslim Brotherhood group have deepened the Sunni-Shia battle. And, of course, on the other side, Iran, as leader of the Shia bloc, has been doing so, too, though its ambition was to be the leader of all Middle East Muslims.

Yet also, especially when it comes to Iran, the Sunni Muslim bloc is also very much an Arab one as well. Many Sunnis, especially the more militantly Islamist ones, look at Shias—and especially at Iranian Persians—as inferior people as well as heretical in terms of Islam. I don’t want to overstate that point but it is a very real factor.

This picture is clarified by a recent report by the Cordoba Foundation, a research center based in the U.K. and close to the Muslim Brotherhood. The name, after the Spanish city where Islamic religion and culture flourished before the Christian reconquest in the fifteenth century, may seem chosen to denote multiculturalism and peaceful coexistence. But, of course, it was picked to suggest the Islamic empire at its peak and the continued claim to every country it once ruled, including Spain.

The report is entitled Arab and Muslim National Security: Debating the Iranian Dimension and summarizes discussions among “a group of prominent and influential Islamic figures,” though no names of participants are included. The focus was to define and warn about the Shia and Iranian threat to the Sunnis and Arabs.

In the report, Iran is identified as the aggressor against the Sunni Muslim (Arab) world, pushing “its political influence through religious sectarianism.” Implicitly the discussion rejects the idea that either “the Palestinian issue” or unity as Muslims overrides the Iranian national security threat.

One concern is that of demography. “Such demographic pockets [that is, non-Sunni Muslims and non-Arabs] in some Arab countries pose a threat to society regardless of how small they are.”

Remarkably, the paper states that Iraq’s population changes “have distanced it from the Arab order.” In other words, because there are more Shia Muslims and non-Arab Kurds in Iraq, it is out of phase with other Arab states and might look toward either Tehran or Washington.

Another demographic concern is Iran’s alleged effort to convert non-Muslim Alevis in Turkey (they say they are Muslim but they aren’t really); Syrian Alawites (same story), and Yemeni Shia Muslims (of a different sect) to Iran-style Shia Islam (Twelver Shiism).

Iran has also succeeded, the paper continues, “in securing strategic victories, such as its gains in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bahrain, Yemen, and the eastern parts of Saudi Arabia. Actually, though these are pretty limited gains in each case.

Syria, where the pro-Iran regime is likely to be replaced by a Sunni, Muslim Brotherhood one, is a setback for Iran. And by overthrowing Syria’s regime, the sponsor of Hizballah, that will cut Iran’s sponsorship of Lebanese Shia (Hizballah), “almost thirty years of hard work totally wasted.” That’s overstated but it contains some basic truth.

The paper also states, accurately, “Although Islamic movements in the Arab world may seem on the surface to be homogeneous and inspired by the same intellectual sources, there is lack of coordination and total chaos.” As an example it cites the Sunni Islamist movement in Iraq which faces: “Serious challenges from expanding Turkish economic interests, Iranian cultural and sectarian influence, and Kurdish expansionism.” It then asks whether the Iranian and local Shia or the Iraqi Kurds are the bigger threat.

Israelis Live Longer than Most OECD Countries

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

The average life expectancy in Israel is 81.7 years, fifth highest among OECD countries, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The annual report on the eve of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, also reported that 10 percent of Israelis live in Jerusalem

Tel Aviv is the second most popular city, where 5 percent of Israelis live. The figures do not include the entire metropolitan Tel Aviv, known in Hebrew as Gush Dan and includes Kfar Saba, Ra’anana, Petach Tikvah, Bnei Brak, Ramat Gan and Rishon LeTzion, among others.

Arabs comprise 20.7 percent of the entire population, and the statistics reflect a continuing trend that denies the claim that the Arab percentage of the population is increasing.

However, the Bedouin population continues to soar in the Negev, where Jews are a small minority outside of Be’er Sheva.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israelis-live-longer-than-most-oecd-countries/2013/04/17/

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