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Zero Population Growth in Israel

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Israel, located in the Middle East bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon. The State of Israel has a population of 6,276,883 people of which 187,000 are Israeli settlers in the West Bank, approximately 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, more than 5,000 in the Gaza Strip, and less than 177,000 in East Jerusalem (July 2005 est.). The National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is $129 billion (2004 est.); the GDP per capita is $20,800 (2004 est.). Israel receives economic and military aid from the United States. "Israel is considered a developed nation in accordance with the United Nations Statistics Division, as measured by its international trade statistics ."

The current Prime Minister is Ariel Sharon, the President is Moshe Katzav - the President is primarily a ceremonial role elected by the Knesset (Parliament). The Prime Minister is elected into power by the general population through a democratic election. The ruling party is the Likud party headed by Prime Minister Sharon and is a "right-wing political party promoting Jewish-oriented culture, emphasizing such nationalist themes as the flag and the heroism that won Israel's 1948 war with seven Arab States. It advocates teachings values and behavior codes in childhood education. Likud endorses press freedom, and promotion of private-sector media, which have grown markedly under governments Likud has led ."

The predominant religions in Israel consist of Jewish (80.1%), Muslim (14.6%), Christian (2.1%), and other (3.2%). Presently there is no written constitution, but rather it utilizes a system of basic laws and rights which in the interim benefit from semi-constitutional status. The Constitution Committee believes that Israel is the democratic state of the Jewish people, it will establish the dual nature of Israel as Jewish and democratic, "and emphasize the commitment of its citizens to both democratic and Jewish values ." Israel guarantees equality under the law to all its citizens. It is difficult to define Jews in relation to Israel. Is Israel the "Jewish State" or the "State of the Jewish People"? Is Judaism a religion, or a national culture and ethnicity? Judaism is intertwined in the law and decision makers of Israel as much as it is the nation religion . Talmud interprets Genesis 1:28 as every Jewish man to father one son and one daughter. Jewish Law does permit certain methods of birth control in appropriate circumstances - each case is to be judged by its own merits by a rabbi that is close with the couple and understands in depth their situation . "Jewish Law prohibits men from destroying or wasting seed. Hormonal forms of birth control, such as pills, patches, injections and implants, are acceptable. In contrast, contraceptive methods such as coitus interruptus, condoms and vasectomy, that destroy or block the passage of seed, are forbidden by most orthodox rabbinic authorities. The use of condoms, however, may be acceptable if it is protecting against the spread of an incurable sexually transmitted disease ."

The average life expectancy for the general Israeli population is 79.32 years, with the average male life expectancy at 77.21 years and 81.55 years for the average female life expectancy (2005 est.) . Infant mortality rate is an average of 7.03 deaths per 1000 live births, male infant mortality rate is 7.77 deaths per 1000 live births, and female infant mortality rate is 6.26 deaths per 1000 live births (2005 est.) . The principal health issues impacting Israel are similar to those of western countries: Heart disease and cancer account for about two thirds of deaths. Population pressures are not correlated to the current health issues negatively impacting the population.

The average daily calorie intake per person per day is 2960 calories compared to the recommended 2200-2600 calories by the WHO and the FAO. Few commodities are imported to Israel, grain being the predominate import agricultural. Israel is dependent on imported fuel to meet its energy requirements - its own domestic production of crude petroleum and natural gas is negligible. As a result, Israel has devoted large sums to research and development in the field of solar energy and has come forth as a recognized leader in this technology . "The Arab oil embargo and the Iranian Islamic Revolution have forced Israel to diversify both its coal and oil imports. In 1986 Israel's major sources of coal were from Australia, South Africa, and Britain. The bulk of Israel's oil came from Mexico and Egypt ."

Israel's population is increasing at a steady rate of 2% per year, which includes high levels of immigration. Fertility rates have been declining, but maintain an average of 2.6 children per Jewish women . By 2025, it is estimated that the population of Israel will reach 9,327,118 and GDP will increase to $277.2 billion and GDP per capita will be $29727 . Food and energy requirements will continue to grow steadily to match population growth - as long as GDP continues to increase proportionally in relation to population increases, Israel will be able to maintain and meet their food and energy requirements at if all other factors remain unchanged (example: no new constraints placed on current food and energy consumption by other countries). The view on family planning policies varies greatly from Orthodox Jews to modern day Jewish families with more western-style family planning values. It is difficult to asses whether the population growth rate will remain steady in 20 years as it will depend greatly on whether the Constitution Committee is able to form a recognized constitution to define the state of Israel. As religion is the cornerstone in the day-to-day lives of Jews, if their constitution is amended and recognized, this may revert the general population to more orthodox Jewish practices thus possibly increasing family sizes, but if Israel continues to lack a organized constitution, younger Jewish couples may mirror more Western values in terms family planning structure and will significantly stunt population growth .

Population growth as a whole is not an issue affecting Israel, what is important to the people is which demographic is growing and at what rate. Israel wants to maintain a healthy majority of Jews (80 percent or greater of entire population)



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