As we celebrate the dawn of a new year, Canadian supporters of Israel – both Jewish and non-Jewish – look to the Jewish state as a continuing source of pride, achievement, and inspiration. Here are just a few fascinating facts on Israel, including recent data released by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics in the lead up to Rosh Hashanah.
· Israel is about 470 km (290 miles) in length and 135 km (85 miles) at its widest point. At 22,072 square kilometres, it is approximately 2/3 the size of Vancouver Island. Near the mid-point of the country, in the densely populated coastal plain north of Tel Aviv, the distance between the West Bank and the Mediterranean is only 15 km – less than the drive across Canada’s largest cities.
· According to the most recent census data (released this month), Israel’s population is 7,933,200. Of this figure, 75% are Jewish Israelis (5,978,600) and 21% are Arab Israelis (1,636,600). 4% are in a broader category encompassing non-Jews who have one Jewish grandparent and Christians of a non-Arab background.
· In 2011, 16,892 new immigrants arrived in Israel (an increase over 2010) – with 3,678 coming from Russia, 2,666 from Ethiopia, 2,363 from the United States, 2,051 from the Ukraine, and 1,775 from France.
· The Israeli population is young compared to other advanced democracies, with 28% of Israelis being under the age of 15 (compared to the OECD average of 19%).
· Israelis enjoy the sixth highest life expectancy in the world (81.5 years). By law, Israelis have access to universal healthcare – in which every patient receives coverage through one of four not-for-profit insurance providers, paid for through a combination of income-related taxes and Israeli government subsidies. As in Canada, no Israeli is denied healthcare due to inability to pay – and the quality of treatment and medical technology remains among the highest in the world.
· According to the World Bank, in 2011 the Israeli economy (measured by GDP) saw 4.7% growth – a higher rate than Canada (2.5%), the United States (1.7%), and the United Kingdom (0.7%).
· Israel has some of the highest per capita rates of engineers, PhDs, scientific papers, and patents in the world.
· In 2011, 3.4 million tourists visited Israel – representing record tourism revenues of some 35 billion NIS (or $9.1 billion USD).