pier, David Bachar - Sept 5 2010
A baby crawls across the pier in north Tel Aviv. Photo by David Bachar
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On the eve of Rosh Hashanah 5771 (the next Jewish calendar year ), Israel's population has exceeded 7,645,500 - of which 5,770,900 are Jews, 1,559,100 are Arabs and another 315,500 are labeled "other" - according to figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The figures do not include the migrant workers in the country, who are estimated at 220,000.

Some 60 percent of those relying on soup kitchens and charity organizations will have to do without meat on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, a survey conducted by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has found.

In 2009, the annual growth rate among Jews in Israel was 1.7 percent, among Arabs it was 2.4 percent, and among the "other" population groups this figure was 0.8 percent. Broken out by religion, the growth rate for Muslims was 2.8 percent, for Christians 1 percent, and for Druze 1.7 percent.

Some 14,570 immigrants arrived in Israel in 2009, 6 percent more than the previous year. The countries from which the most immigrants arrived were Russia (3,245 ), the United States (2,474 ), the Ukraine (1,602 ), France (1,558 ) and the United Kingdom (708 ).

Some 1.2 million people - 17 percent of the population - required social services in 2009. A quarter of them were children up to 14 years old, and another quarter were elderly people over 65.

National Insurance Institute figures (the latest of which are for 2008 ) show that almost every fourth person in the country - some 1,651,300 - is poor, 783,600 of whom are children.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews survey, especially conducted for Rosh Hashanah among 300 needy people in five soup kitchens, found that 60 percent of those using soup kitchens and charities will not be able to afford to eat meat on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. Some 47 percent of the country's needy, more than half of whom are working poor, said their situation has worsened in the last two years.

"In recent years we have seen the hardship expand among working people who cannot make ends meet," said fellowship founder and president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. The IFCJ has contributed some NIS 4 million to pay for 20,000 food packages to be distributed among the needy.

According to figures compiled by certain charitable organizations, at least 223,000 families suffer from what is referred to as "nutritional insecurity" - a state in which a person has no regular access to essential nourishment. The organizations say the increase in people asking for help as Rosh Hashanah approaches has not been considerable, but the extent of poverty among the needy has deepened.

In other census results, about 28 percent of Israelis are currently under the age of 15. In 2009, immigrants to Israel continued to be overwhelmingly female. For every 1,000 women that immigrated, only 892 men made aliyah.