Israel Matters! – February 2023

Israel by the Numbers (not Genesis or Exodus) 😉

In last month’s Israel Matters!, we shared that Israel is ranked as the 5th safest country to visit in comparison with the world’s most popular tourist destinations. That’s certainly not what many people think! Besides being the 5th safest, there are a lot of other numbers that you may find surprising, interesting and/or impressive about Israel. We’ve included some of them here.

Size Doesn’t (seem to) Matter

When it comes to total area, Israel is among the smallest countries in the world. According to Wikipedia, Israel ranks 149th out of the world’s 195 countries, measuring about 21,000 sq km, which is slightly larger than the size of New Jersey (see January 2022 Israel Matters for a more detailed comparison).

Given Israel’s small size, it may not be a surprise that Israel is the 35th most-densely-crowded country in the world, with 9.5 million people living within its borders.

Be Fruitful and Multiply

Israel is a member of The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a forum where governments of 38 democracies with market-based economies collaborate to develop policy standards to promote sustainable economic growth. Israel’s annual population growth is 1.6%, eight times faster than the OECD average of .2%. Israel also has the highest fertility rate in the OECD, with an average of just under 3 children per woman. However, there are stark differences in the fertility rate by population group within Israel. Focusing on the Jewish population, there are 6.6 births per woman among the ultra-Orthodox, 4 among the national-religious, 2.5 for traditional-religious, and 2.2 for secular women.

About 2% of Israelis are Americans who made Aliyah. Many of them were fruitful and multiplied by creating their own families there!

The Jewish State?

Although established and known as “The Jewish State,” Israel is far from totally Jewish. About 74% of the population is Jewish, 18% are Muslim, 2% Christians, 1.6% Druze, and 4.4% other/unknown. The median age of Jews is 32 while the median Muslim age is 21. Interestingly, the birth rate among Muslims is close to the national rate of 3 children per woman. As is clear from the chart below produced by the Israel Democracy Institute, the ultra-Orthodox population is growing much faster than other Jews and the Arabs, with the latter groups growing at comparable rates.

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

One metric designed to measure national health is the Bloomberg Global Health Index. According to the 2019 ranking, Israel is the 10th healthiest country (the USA ranks 35th). Like some of the others in the top 10, Israelis eat a Mediterranean diet filled with healthy fats and legumes, fruits and vegetables, and less red meat and processed food. They also have universal healthcare, which is known to lower a country’s rate of disease and preventable deaths.

As for wealth, in 2021, Israel had 71 billionaires, with one of the highest per capita rates in the world, at 6.7 billionaires for every million people!

So, we’ve described Israel’s numerical claim related to healthy and wealthy, but what about wise? Some may associate “the three wise men” with Israel, but Israel today has a lot more than that (and lots of wise women too)! 😊 Israel can boast that it is the fifth most educated country on the planet, with nearly 52% of the population completing a college degree, and a literacy rate of 98% of those age 15 and over. By comparison, about 80% of those living in the United States are considered literate.

In 2018, Israel held over 35,000 active patents, mostly in medical devices, pharmaceutical drugs, communications and software. That’s the fifth highest number of patents per capita in the world. By this point, Israel has been recognized as the world’s “Start-Up Nation” for more than 15 years (see October 2021 Israel Matters – From Citrus To Cyberspace).

Home is Where the Heart Is

Most homes in Israel are apartments, not free-standing houses, although houses are becoming more common outside of the cities where there is more land. 66% of Israelis own their homes, which is amazing, given the cost! Housing prices in Israel have dramatically risen in the past 10 years, with prices continuing to skyrocket. Are you interested in buying a small (1000 sq feet, two bedroom) apartment in Tel Aviv? You can get an unrenovated place, in a so-so area, not near the beach, for around 4,000,000 shekels ($1,200,000). It will cost you double that for a small renovated unit in a nicer location of Tel Aviv. Outside of the cities, in areas like Afula or Bat Yam, that same small apartment could still be quite expensive, around 2,000,000 shekels ($590,000).

A Room with a View

When it comes to viewpoints, Israelis are not afraid to share theirs! Most Israeli Jews describe their political ideology as in the center (55%) or on the right (37%) within the Israeli political spectrum. Just 8% of Israeli Jews say they lean left. American Jews, meanwhile, generally describe their ideology as liberal (49%) or moderate (29%) on the American political spectrum, while about one-in-five (19%) say they are politically conservative. Post-Israeli election commentary has highlighted this fact, leading many American Jews to worry about the direction of the new Israeli government. Time will tell how this plays out.

You Say Tomay-toe, I Say Tomah-toe

Food is often the center of many cultures, and Israeli culture is no different. Israel has many specialty foods, some of which we’ve shared recipes for here in Israel Matters! It’s hard to resist many of Israel’s delicious foods, including their bread – which is usually freshly baked daily (and with no preservatives, so it doesn’t last long but is tastier and healthier).

If you’ve visited Israel before, you know their fruits and vegetables are super flavorful – and Israelis eat a lot of them! Restaurants frequently place multiple dishes of salads on your table even before you order something to drink! (And since we are talking numbers today, by ‘multiple’, we mean 8-12 different salad dishes!) When Israelis go grocery shopping, their carts are filled with fresh fruits and veggies – in quantity! For example, when buying tomatoes, they don’t buy just two or three, they buy two or three POUNDS! Here are a few examples of the prices for common items you might purchase at an Israeli grocery:

1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of tomatoes: $1.88
1 lb of boneless chicken breast: $6.00
1 qt milk: $1.88
Dozen large eggs: $4.50 (although it’s not uncommon for Israelis to buy them in trays 
of 30 eggs or more!)
½ kilo (1.1 lb) of local cheese: $9.00
1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of apples: $3.36
1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of potatoes: $1.50
1 package of 8 pita breads: $2.65


But don’t try to buy a car or pay for gas in Israel

– even a small car will run you about $50,000, with gas costs over $2.00/liter (or about $8 per gallon)! What kind of fuel am I?

This ends our little tour of Israeli facts and figures. Some of them help us understand a little better what it’s like to live there, but many of these numbers give us even more reason to be proud of our wonderful Israel.