On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Israel's population is estimated at 6.8 million, consisting of 5.5 million (81 percent) Jews and 1.3 million Arabs.

The decline in the population growth rate continued in 2003, with the population growing by 1.8 percent - an addition of some 117,000 - compared with a 1.9 percent growth in 2002 (122,000). These figures are a result of a decline in immigration, which reached similar proportions to those in the 1980s when immigration figures were at their lowest since the establishment of the state.

The Jewish sector grew in 2003 by 1.4 percent, while the Arab population increased by 3 percent. The Arab-Moslem population increased by 3.3 percent, while the Christian community increased by only 1.2 percent.

The age groups maintained their relative proportions in the population in 2003. However, the group aged 75 years and more, especially among the Jews, grew by 5.5 percent in 2003 compared with 4.4 percent in 1990. The Israeli population is undergoing a moderate aging process, compared with other Western states, with the Jewish population older than the Arab one. Children up to 14 years of age make up 26 percent of the Jewish population, compared to 41 percent of the Arab population.

In the Jewish population there are 966 men for every 1,000 women, and the difference increases the older they get. At the age of 75 and older, there are 670 men to every 1,000 women. Until the age of 33 there are more men than women, and from the age of 34 the proportion is reversed.

Among singles, the number of single men is larger than single women in all age groups, and increases after the age of 35. In 2003 people continued to put off their marriage to a later age. Some 40,000 weddings took place in 2002.

In 2003 the proportion of native Israelis - 3.4 million, consisting of 63 percent of the population - remained stable. Native Israelis whose father was also born in Israel make up some 48 percent of all the native Israelis in 2003, and 30 percent of the overall Jewish population. For example, in 1983 native Israelis whose fathers were also born in Israel accounted for only about 16 percent of the Jewish population.

The largest ethnic group in Israel consists of people of European and American origin, and their children who were born in Israel. This group numbers 2.2 million, making up some 41 percent of the Jewish population.

Some 37 percent of this group are immigrants from the former Soviet Union states, who arrived after 1990. The next largest ethnic group is people who came from Africa and their children, reaching 860,000, some 16 percent of the Jewish population. Some 50,000 people in this group immigrated from Ethiopia from after 1990.

The smallest group of people are of Asian origin and their children, whose number reached 703,000 in 2003, making up some 13 percent of the Jewish population.

In 2003, 145,000 babies were born in Israel.