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By the year 2020, the haredi population of Israel will double to 1 million and make up 17 percent of the total population, said Hebrew University demographer Professor Sergio DellaPergola Tuesday.
DellaPergola, who belongs to the Department of Contemporary Jewry and the Institute for Jewish People Policy Planning, spoke at the Knesset's Interior and Environmental Affairs Committee.
The committee discussed the need for city planning that takes into consideration the haredi public.
Mayors and heads of city councils from Beitar Ilit, Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh and other haredi towns who attended the committee said that the state had not allotted enough land for housing nor had it supplied sufficient infrastructure for religious services and education.
DellaPergola said that presently the haredi public made up about 11% of the Jewish population in Israel, or 550,000 individuals.
DellaPergola's estimate conflicts with a Central Bureau of Statistics survey released last week that estimated the haredi population to be just 8% of the population, or 420,000 adults.
"Unlike the CBS, which based its data on peoples' self-definition, I factored in other variables such as voting habits," said DellaPergola.
Every city in which more than 70% of the citizens voted for one of the haredi political parties, including Shas, was considered entirely haredi. However, DellaPergola assumed that a certain percentage of Shas voters were not haredi, rather traditional.
DellaPergola also assumed that the haredi population had more children per family.
Haredi families average 6.5 children, compared to a national Jewish average of 2.6 children.
"Still, these patterns will not continue indefinitely," said DellaPergola. "So it is difficult to forecast when the haredi population will become a majority."
The Central Bureau of Statistics published its own statistics yesterday. At the end of September 2005, the total population of Israel numbered 6,956,600. Over the past year, the country's population increased by 87,100 people, mostly due to new births. This year, the population's growth rate is expected to be 1.7%, a slight decrease from 2004 that is probably due to fewer births and fewer new immigrants.
The number of Israelis living on settlements grew by 4.3% compared to 2004, and the number of residents there in 2005 amounted to 243,100 people. It was not known whether this statistic reflected the changes spurred by disengagement.
By contrast, more Israelis left Haifa and Jerusalem. Tel Aviv is the only large city in Israel that enjoys an annual population increase, with an additional 5,200 new residents in 2005. More than 50% of these had moved from other towns in the city's vicinity.
Some 4,470 residents left Jerusalem this year, although the city's annual growth percentage of 1.8% exceeded the annual average. Similarly, in Haifa, 1,800 residents left the city, and there were fewer births than deaths.
In contrast with 2004, in which there was a 0.1% percent growth in kibbutz populations, that segment increased by 1.1% in 2005, mostly due to natural growth and to the arrival of new immigrants who were initially settled there.