(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)
On the eve of its 71st Independence Day, Israel’s population stands at 9,021,000, crossing 9 million for the first time, according to figures released on Monday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The data show that 6,697,000 Israelis are Jewish (74.2 percent) and 1,890,000 are Arab (20.9%). In addition, there are 434,000 people who are non-Arab Christians or members of other ethnic groups. Seventy-five percent of the Jews in Israel were born in the country.
Since last Independence Day, the population of Israel has grown by 177,000 (an increase of 2%). During that period, 188,000 babies were born, 47,000 people died and 31,000 immigrants arrived in the country.
Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, 3.2 million immigrants have moved to Israel, with around 43% of them arriving after 1990.
According to the data, the country’s population is expected to reach 15.2 million people by Israel’s 100th Independence Day in 2048.
In 1948 there were just 806,000 people in Israel and at the time, the global Jewish population was 11.5 million, and just 6% were in Israel. Today, 45% of the world’s Jews live in Israel.
Independence Day celebrations begin on Wednesday night, as the country transitions from Memorial Day — 24 hours of mourning for its fallen soldiers and terror victims.
The Israeli military said it failed to recognize the risks posed to Israeli drivers on a road north of the Gaza Strip where a man was killed Sunday when a Kornet anti-tank guided missile fired from the enclave struck his car.
Earlier in the day, the Israel Defense Forces ordered some roads around the Gaza Strip closed in light of the threat of sniper and missile attacks from the enclave. However, the Route 34 highway, north of the Strip, near the community of Kibbutz Erez was left open.
“The specific road where the civilian’s vehicle was hit was not closed due to the distance. At the time, we didn’t see that threat,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Sunday evening.
Route 34 runs about 2.5 kilometers from populated parts of the Gaza Strip in some sections. A train route which runs along Route 34 on an elevated track in the same area of the attack was shut for fear of attacks, but the highway was kept open.
The Russian-designed Kornet anti-tank guided missile has an effective range of up to 5.5 kilometers. Unlike the rockets used by terror groups in the Strip, the laser-guided Kornet is highly accurate.
The spokesman said the military was investigating the matter and that it is “very much an ongoing event.” Conricus added that once the IDF completes its probe of the deadly missile attack, it will release the findings to the family of the victim and the public.
Moshe Feder, 68, was fatally wounded when an anti-tank guided missile slammed into his car as he was driving along Route 34. He sustained a serious shrapnel wound to the leg, causing significant blood loss, and was pronounced dead at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center after CPR efforts failed. The Hamas terror group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Feder, a Kfar Saba resident, was survived by two children and his partner Iris Eden. Eden lost her first husband, Yashish Eden, in a deadly helicopter crash in 1997. Known as the “helicopter disaster,” that incident saw 73 IDF servicemen lose their lives when two aircraft collided near the northern border with Lebanon.
Speaking to the Ynet news site, Eden said she knew intuitively that Feder was the Sunday morning casualty.
“I’ve been through a few things in my life and I did not need an official statement [to learn] about his death,” she said. “He was my second love — a kind and generous man. We had established a family together with the children and grandchildren over the last three years.”
While Hamas and other terror groups have long had Kornet missiles in their arsenals, the weapon’s high price tag means they are typically used against higher profile military targets, not against civilians.
Kornet missiles were used repeatedly against Israeli tanks throughout the 2014 Gaza war, through they were relatively ineffective as the projectiles were intercepted by tanks’ Trophy active defense systems.
A Kornet missile was last used in November, when one was fired at a bus that had just been full of soldiers east of the Gaza border at the Black Arrow memorial site, sparking an intense two-day battle. One serviceman, who had remained on board, was seriously wounded in the attack.
In April 2011, the Hamas terror group fired a Kornet missile at a yellow school bus in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel, east of Gaza, killing a 16-year-old student on board, Daniel Viflic.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.