The Majority in Israel Is Steadily Becoming a Minority

American WASPs, now a minority, are still doing what they can to push the United States forward. There's no reason the Israeli sabra will behave otherwise as the Arab and Haredi populations grow.

Meirav Arlosoroff
Meirav Arlosoroff
Meirav Arlosoroff
Meirav Arlosoroff

A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister's Office discussed Israel's first-ever long-range strategic forecast with the cabinet. Hidden in the presentation was a chart breaking down the country's population of 25- to 29-year-olds, the people entering the job market.

In 2009 there were 569,000 people in that age group: 53,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews, 111,000 Israeli Arabs and 405,000 non-Haredi Jews. According to the projection, by 2029 the country's population of 25- to 29-year-olds will grow to 704,000, but there will be 127,000 Haredim, 202,000 Israeli Arabs and 375,000 non-Haredi Jews.

That's right, non-Haredi Jews will account for just 53% of the population in this age bracket.

In just a few decades – probably between 2050 and 2060, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics – the Israeli sabra will lose his majority status. What happened to White Anglo-Saxon Protestants in the United States is likely to soon happen to the Israeli sabra. The majority of Israel's population will be made up of Arabs and Haredim.

It won't be an easy discovery for the group that molded the country in its image. But it can be adapted to. American WASPs still did what they could do to push their country forward. There's no reason the Israeli sabra will behave otherwise.

As Israeli Arabs make up a greater proportion of the population, it’s worth asking: How much do we really attend to the welfare of that segment of the population? Before rattling off the usual excuses – that Arabs are poor, uneducated, unskilled and don't help themselves – the sabra should realize that the higher deciles of Israeli Arab society aren't doing that well either.

This can be illustrated by Israeli Arabs' educational achievements. According to the Abraham Fund and the Council for Higher Education, Israeli Arabs have a very hard time reaching academic studies and then succeeding once they get there.

Just 65% of Israeli Arab 17- or 18-year-olds are enrolled in 12th grade, compared with 95% of Jews. Just 60% will take the matriculation exams, compared with 78% of Jews, and 31% will matriculate, compared with 55% of Jews. Finally, only 23% of Arabs that age will qualify to apply to university, compared with 47% of Jews.

But the education gaps don't stop there. Of the 23% who manage to meet university requirements, 32% won’t be accepted after being stymied by the Israeli version of the SAT exam. This compares with just 19% of Jews.

Another 16% will be accepted to university but won’t enroll due to other factors. In all, only 52% of Arab applicants in any given year will begin undergraduate studies, compared with 68% of Jewish applicants.

But acceptance to studies isn't the only challenge. The dropout rates among Israeli Arabs during undergraduate studies are sizable. In the first year, 15% drop out, compared with 11% among Jews, while 25% won't complete their degree.

The end result is Israeli Arabs' negligible participation in higher education, and their negligible participation at the higher end of Israel's labor market. Israeli Arabs account for 12% of the country's undergraduate population, slightly over half their 20.5% share of the overall population. In MA programs their share drops to 8%, and among doctoral students it's 4.4%.

The proportion of Arabs in academic faculties is even lower – 2% – one-tenth of their share of the population.

Students at an Arab high school in Haifa.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

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