Israel is expected to face a massive post-pandemic wave of emigration and a significant drop in the rate of immigration, the country's leading demographer warned in an interview with Haaretz.
Drawing attention to the highly sensitive issue of the Zionist state's demographic makeup, which over the decades has been maintained as a Jewish majority through ethnic cleansing and violent gerrymandering of boundaries, Professor Sergio DellaPergola warned that high unemployment rate, coupled with political discontent, could drive young Israelis away.
This prediction, argued the Italian born professor who emigrated to Israel in 1966, challenged the government's rosy coronavirus Aliyah (immigration of diaspora Jews) forecasts.
"I pray that I'm wrong, but I've been doing population projections for 40 years – and, unfortunately, I'm usually right," said DellaPergola, who worked at the Hebrew University and according to Haaretz is widely regarded as the dean of Jewish demographers.
Refuting the Israeli governments forecast DellaPergola explained that "It looks like all those making these predictions are operating on the basis of hopes and fears rather than rationality."
DellaPergola pointed to Israel's poor handling of the global pandemic and suggested that it would be hit with a double whammy on the issue of demography. "If you add to the equation the fiasco of how Israel has handled the coronavirus, not only should we not expect a big wave of aliyah, but what I predict is a huge wave of yerida (emigration)," he said, using the Hebrew term for Jews leaving Israel. "It will be mainly young and educated Israelis."
With its low unemployment rate over the decades, emigration from Israel had been significantly low but Covid-19 has completely reversed previous trends. Unemployment in Israel was running at less than five per cent, Haaretz estimated, it is currently in excess of 20 per cent, with nearly one million Israelis out of work. This is a major push factor, explained DellaPergola.
Political discontent is also another issue that's pushing Jewish Israelis out of the country. "Many young Israelis don't see a future in the country anymore," DellaPergola said, "and this is something tragic that's not being discussed. The disenchantment of these people with the government, together with high unemployment, can turn into something truly explosive. And I don't see any politicians, or even officials at the Jewish Agency, who understand this."