Most Popular Baby Name in Israel: Mohammed

Some 2,650 Mohammeds were born in Israel in 2014, 650 more than Noam, the most popular name among Jews – but not all of these Noams were boys; 400 were girls.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Babies at the Dyada enrichment program for small children, November 2015.
Babies at the Dyada enrichment program for small children, November 2015.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

A little over a year has passed since the Population Authority created a bit of a storm when it chose to keep Arab names off last year’s list of the most popular baby names in Israel. Last year’s list had Yosef as the name given most often to boys in 2013, but the authority never bothered to mention that Yosef had a serious competitor for first place: Mohammed.

This year the Central Bureau of Statistics learned from the Population Authority’s mistake, and in its first-ever report on baby names the bureau states: “The most common name among those born in 2014 was Mohammed.” But the CBS makes the explanation clear: “This name was very common among the population because it is given to one out of every seven Muslim boys. In comparison, the most common names among Jews and Muslim girls were given to one out of 40 children.”

Some 2,650 Mohammeds were born in Israel in 2014, 650 more than Noam – but not all of these Noams were boys; 400 were girls.

Following Noam among Jews came Ori, David, Yosef, Eitan, Ariel, Daniel, Yehonatan and Moshe. Some of the names are not gender specific, for example, 1,300 boys and 500 girls were named Ariel. Ori and Daniel (the latter is spelled in Hebrew the same as Danielle) were also names given to both boys and girls.

One formerly uncommon name that has moved up the list quickly is Ovadia. In 2012 only 36 boys were named Ovadia in Israel, while in 2013, the year Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef died, this number jumped to 117. In 2014 the number of Ovadias climbed to 209. Another name that became significantly more popular was Eitan, which rose from 10th place to seventh among Jewish male babies, likely because of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, which in Hebrew was called Tzuk Eitan.

Noa remained in first place for Jewish baby girls – for the 15th consecutive year. But this may finally change in the near future as it is losing ground to other names. Tamar is the greatest threat to Noa, followed by Shira, Maya, Yael, Adel, Talia, Avigail, Ayala and Sarah.

Looking at the numbers in closer detail we find differences in popularity by city. In the two cities with the largest Haredi population, Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, the most common girls’ name among Jews was Sara, followed by Esther. Noa does not even break into the top 10 in those cities. Adel was number one in Ashdod, Bat Yam, Netanya, Be’er Sheva and Ashkelon for girls. Adel is rising very quickly, while another girls’ name, Romi, climbed from No. 29 to No. 15 last year. Roni, with an “n,” has fallen far to 19, from 12 the previous year, and even higher in earlier years. Maya was first for girls in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rishon Letzion and Ramat Gan in 2014.

Jewish boys’ names have a geographical distribution too, with Yosef being the most common in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, while Noam was first in Ashkelon, Bat Yam, Holon and Be’er Sheva. Ori was the winner in Tel Aviv and Modi’in.

Among Muslims, one out of five baby boys was named either Mohammed or Ahmed (14.5 percent Mohammed; and 5.5 percent Ahmed). After these came Yusuf, Omar, Abed, Adam, Ali, Ibrahim, Mahmoud, Amir and Khaled. Among Muslim girls the most common name was Maryam, followed by Jana, Lian, Malak, Alin, Lyn and Nur.

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