More than seventy years after the Holocaust, the global Jewish population has returned to the level it was at before the Second World War, after a surge in numbers in the past decade. The Jewish People Policy Institute said in its annual survey that there were about 16.5 million Jews around the world, a figure not seen since the 1930s and the Nazis’ attempts to exterminate them. “There is a certain symbolic value in that the Jewish people have re-attained the number that they had before the awful destruction,” Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said after his cabinet reviewed the report. “It stems first and foremost from the increase here in the state of Israel.”

The Nazis killed six million Jews between 1941 and 1945, wiping out two thirds of the European Jewish population. Millions of other “undesirables” were also killed, including Poles, homosexuals, disabled people and Roma. The Jewish population has consistently increased since then, with the biggest jump, 8 per cent, coming in the past ten years. The largest share is in Israel, home to about 6.1 million Jews, followed by the US with 5.7 million. Next are France, Canada and Britain, which have fewer than half a million each. Much of the recent growth has come from Orthodox Jews, who follow the biblical commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” and have large families.

Israel already has one of the highest birthrates in the developed world, with an average of three children per family; among ultrareligious Jews the average jumps to 6.5 per family. The growth in Israel and North America has been offset by a decline in the Jewish population elsewhere. Europe is now home to about 1.1 million Jews, down from 1.3 million in 1970, a trend attributed to both assimilation and migration to Israel. About 7,000 French Jews arrived in Israel last year, twice the number of the previous year, with many citing fears of antisemitism as a reason for their move. The Jewish population in the former Soviet bloc has plummeted from more than two million during the Cold War to 293,000 today. Most of them emigrated over the past 25 years. In the US, more than 25% of Jews under 18 live in Orthodox homes.

The report notes that the population would be higher were it not for intermarriage, which has become increasingly common in the West. A study by the Pew Research Centre, released in 2013, found that 58 per cent of US Jews married outside the faith, up from 17 per cent in 1970. “Were it not for the problem of assimilation, that number would grow,” Mr Netanyahu said. Yet the survey also found that 59 per cent of Americans with one Jewish parent identified with the religion, calling it “the first time in modern Jewish history” that a majority has done so. The global population includes about two million people who have one Jewish parent and others who identify as partially Jewish.

Source: The Times

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Last year’s fighting between Russia and Ukraine had unintended consequence. The Jewish population of both Russia and Ukraine left in large numbers. According to Mark Adomanis, a Russian demographics expert, if the current trends continue, the number of Jewish people in these nations will be almost non-existent. Where are they going? Most of them are emigrating to Israel. President of Mission Eurasia Sergey Rakhuba backs this claim. He says, “Because of the crisis in Ukraine, the number of new immigrants from Ukraine to Israel grew 215% in the last eight to twelve months.” That, coupled with a 50% increase of new immigrants from Russia to Israel, means the Russian-speaking population in Israel is growing exponentially.

That’s on top of the immigrants who left when the Soviet Union collapsed. Rakhuba says, “Out of over three million Jews in Israel, every third Jew in Israel is a Russian-speaking Jew today. So, if you come to Haifa or Tel Aviv or even Jerusalem, you see all these Russian speakers everywhere, but somebody needs to reach them with the Gospel.” Mission Eurasia has been working in Israel for more than a year, establishing their School Without Walls program–their next generation professional leaders initiative. “We have 40 students now, working with Russian-speaking communities there to train those who will go and plant home churches.” Seven house churches have already been established. Rakhuba is praying seven more churches will be planted in the next two or three years.

Rakhuba says many Russian speakers don’t have any religious affiliation. “They are very much open to the Gospel, because that’s where they’re trying to connect in their mindset and their understanding.” While this is a new opportunity for Mission Eurasia, it’s not something that will always be there. Rakhuba says, “We believe within the next 7-10 years that window of opportunity will start closing because the children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union will be more assimilated to the Hebrew language and Jewish culture.” Rakhuba asks Christians everywhere to pray for their Next Generation leaders–“leaders that will go into towns and plant churches reaching Russian-speaking Jews, bringing the Gospel to Israel. And, pray for resources that are needed to support these Jewish evangelists in Israel.”

Source: Mission Network News

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Israel is one of the Top 5 Happiest Countries in the World, according to a new Better Life Index report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Israelis are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Israelis gave it a 7.4 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.6,” reads the report. Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland took the top four spots in global happiness. The United States did not crack the top 10 for the fifth consecutive year. The OECD survey rates the 34 OECD member nations, as well as Brazil and the Russian Federation, on 22 variables—including income, education, housing, health, life expectancy, community and life satisfaction.

Israel regularly ranks high on ‘happiness’ surveys despite the image many people outside the country hold about the country. “What makes Israelis happy? It’s never boring here, we don’t believe in the Chinese curse of ‘may you live in interesting times.’ We think it’s great that it’s not boring here, we can laugh about life here. Just look at the satirical television show Eretz Nehederet,” Holon resident Amos Fabian, 48, says. Positive psychology expert Tal Ben-Shahar, nicknamed Prof. Happiness, has said that Israel’s top rankings in international surveys on happiness has less to do with the country’s geographical location and more to do with the people inside the tiny nation.

“It’s because of our focus on relationships. Friends and family are very high up on our value scale, and quality time with them is given a priority. Time we spend with people we care about and who care about us is the number one predictor of happiness,” he said. Asi, a father of three in Jerusalem, agrees. “There’s warmth, family, friends, everything you need,” says the 42-year-old Jerusalemite. “There’s the sea, archaeology, history, good food, a population made up of so many different cultures and communities. It’s like a tiny America. There’s nothing missing.”

Source: OECD Survey

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A recent spate of Palestinian terror attacks has left one person dead and more than a dozen others wounded. Palestinian stone-throwers recently attacked a tour group outside the Lions’ Gate on the eastern side of Jerusalem’s Old City. A 60-year-old woman suffered injuries to her head and had to be taken to a nearby hospital. The fatal attack took place in the coastal city of Jaffa, where a young Palestinian Arab armed with a knife went on a 20-minute stabbing spree, during which he killed Taylor Allen Force, a graduate student from Vanderbilt University in the US. Force and his wife, who was also injured in the attack, were in Israel as tourists. Among the other wounded was a pregnant woman. The attacker was eventually chased down by police and shot dead.

Around the same time, a terrorist on a motorcycle shot and seriously wounded two Israeli police officers in Jerusalem. Earlier, a knife-wielding Palestinian terrorist followed an ultra-Orthodox Jew into a wine shop in the central town of Petah Tikvah and began stabbing him repeatedly in the upper body. The victim managed to break free and exit the store with the knife still stuck in his neck, only to return moments later, pull out the knife, and kill the terrorist with his own weapon. The following morning, two Palestinian terrorists in a car opened fire on a public bus in the northern Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ramot. Failing to wound or kill anyone, they then drove toward the Old City, where they shot and seriously wounded an Israeli Arab man during a brief gun battle with police.

Source: Israel Today

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