At the close of 2009, the population of children living in Israel numbered a total of 2,468,700 children, constituting 32.7% of the general population. This is a very high percentage in comparison with most Western countries, but it is lower then the equivalent percentage in Israel's neighboring countries. In many industrialized countries the age pyramid reversed in recent years, but in Israel, as in third world countries, the 0-17 age group is still the basis of the age pyramid.
The decrease in the percentage of children among the total population, which has characterized the 1980s, the 1990s and the beginning of the new century, has slowed in recent years.
The average number of children in religious and traditional families is larger than that among secular families. Although we lack accurate nationwide data, the geographical distribution of children in Israel makes this tendency manifest.
Localities in which children number more than half the population, are comprised mainly of traditional to very religious families. For example, in Modi'in Ilit, Tel Sheva, and Rahat, children number nearly 60% of the population, whereas in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv-Yafo, whose residents are mostly secular, children comprise nearly 20% of the population.
As a rule, in the peripheral areas in the North and South of Israel, the percentage of children in relation to the general population is high, whereas in the central area of Israel and along the Northern coastal plane, the percentage is relatively low. In addition, there is a clear connection between the socio-economic status of a locality and the number of children living in it.
The population of children in Israel is highly diverse. It is comprised of nearly 70% Jews, 24% Muslims, nearly 2% Christians and 2% Druze, and 3% of unclassified religion. These groups are themselves diverse, including religious and secular children, immigrants and natives.
Children of unclassified religion are a uniquely Israeli phenomenon, the scope of which has widened in the last decade. This phenomenon refers to children whose parents prefer not to fill in the religion clause on their IDs. These are mostly immigrant children from the Former Soviet Union, who have one non-Jewish parent.
Another group of children, who do not have access to education, health services, and more, and whose rights are infringed upon, are those children living in unrecognized localities in the Negev region. Nearly 52 thousand children reside in these localities, two thirds of whom are aged 0-9.
A group of children living in Israel without full rights is the group of children without Israeli citizenship. It is difficult to estimate the exact size of this group inasmuch as it includes, among others, children of illegal foreign workers who do not register in the Ministry of Interior. Nearly 6.8% of children in Israel do not have Israeli citizenship. More than two thirds of them are residents of East Jerusalem. The rest include children of legal foreign workers, immigrant children whose status has not been resolved, and children of mixed marriages between citizen and non-citizen, especially between an Arab-Israeli and a Palestinian resident of the occupied territories. This group of children living in Israel without Israeli citizenship is considered high risk due to their limited rights. Israeli society must consider the fact that it is creating a growing contingent of children who are discriminated against due to their parents' status. These children are exposed to the dangers lurking over children in general, while the law does not recognize them or protect their basic rights.
The demographic tendencies presented in this short summary have far-reaching consequences on the quality of life and lifestyles of Israeli children, and therefore require special attention. The data collected and disseminated by the National Council for the Child in its annual statistical abstract "The State of the Child in Israel" forms the basis for understanding specific issues and ultimately working towards change, the development of policy and programs in the best interest of the children.
The State of the Child in Israel - 2007, the latest English edition, an abstract of almost 600 pages enfolding 15 chapters of comprehensive data on children’s lives in Israel, is available for purchase.
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