The Last Name Israelis Are Most Keen to Shed: Mizrahi

Names they might choose instead include Chen, Mor and Tal, while many of the country's ubiquitous Cohens and Levys are also eager to make a fresh start.

Protesters pasting names of Mizrahi Jews on Tel Aviv street signs on June 9, 2013.
Daniel Bar-On

Mizrahi is the family name Israelis most often seek to have changed, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The most common new name Israeli Jewish men pick for themselves is Chen (Grace) which is also sometimes spelled Hen or Khen in English.

Besides Mizrahi, popular last names among Jews whose forbears came to Israel from the Middle East or North Africa include Peretz, Biton, Dahan, Azoulay, Malka, Ohiyon, Hadad and Amar. Ashkenazi names at the top of the frequency list include Friedman, Klein and Levine.

The list of Israel’s most common last names, published by the statistics bureau to mark Family Day this coming Sunday, holds no big surprises. Cohen and Levy top the list.

Distribution of names

The cliche is true: If you shout out “Cohen” or “Levy” in a crowded place, it’s highly likely someone will answer you, because one out of every 25 Israelis has one of those two names. There are 285,000 Cohens and Levys in Israel.

Cohen and Levy have also made it onto another list. After Mizrahi, Israelis are also keen to jettison the names Levy, Hassan, Cohen, Amar, Abutbul, Abitbul, Biton, Schwartz, Hadad and Sabah.

Other names desired by Israelis who change their name are Mor, Tal, Avital, Elimelech, Michaeli, Shoshan, Bar, Shahar, Golan and Segev.

Among Muslim Israelis the most common family name is Agbaria; among Christian Arab Israelis it's Khoury. Among the Druze the most common family name is Halabi.

According to the statistics bureau, 75 percent of Israeli women getting married are changing their last name to their husband’s. Only 2.3 percent are choosing a double-barreled last name both the husband’s and the wife’s. This choice is more common among women.

The statistics bureau also said Tuesday that the average number of people per family is 3.7, a figure that has not changed over the last decade. Jewish families in Israel have 3.56 members on average, Arab families 4.59.  

Meanwhile, the settlers have an average family size of 4.71 members, while for Jewish families in Tel Aviv the number is 3.22.

Not surprisingly, the Tel Aviv area has the largest percentage of couples without children (33 percent), while the West Bank settlements have the largest percentage of couples with children up to age 17.

Among big cities, Tel Aviv and one of its suburbs, Ramat Gan, have the least number of children per family on average 2.97. In contrast, in Beit Shemesh near Jerusalem, the figure is 5.23 children per family.