di Lucia Balestrieri | September 25, 2014
Surprise! The most popular boy’s name for babies born in the Jewish state in the past 12 months in the Jewish state is Mohammad, even though the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics – on the occasion of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanà) of 5775 which falls on 25th September – has drawn up a list with names that are certainly more in keeping with the traditions of the Chosen People: Yosef, Daniel, Uri, Yitai and Omer.
The problem, however, is that the officials of the Registry Office have only taken into account the names with a Jewish flavour, ignoring the Israeli Arab citizens. This was discovered by the Israeli site Walla which drew up another classification including the whole of the Israeli population, regardless of ethnic origin.
This means that out of the 176,230 babies born last year in Israel – 90,646 boys and 85,584 girls - Mohammad took first place on the podium, leaving Josef behind without too much difficulty. Indeed, another mess emerged over Josef, as the employees of the statistics bureau had assimilated the Arabic name Yusuf with its Hebrew version counting them as one. In the end, in the first three places, come Mohammad, Daniel and Josef. Another Arabic name appears in the first ten, Ahmed, overtaking David.
Something similar also happened in the classification of girls’ names. At least three of the ten most popular names, Lian, Maryam (or Miriam) and Maya, are used by both the Jews and the Arabs, but at the registry office only the Hebrew version was considered.
The controversy is obvious. The Central Bureau of Statistics minimized the matter, explaining that it was a simple misunderstanding. The complete list was at the disposal of anyone who asked for it but usually the public were only interested in Hebrew names and it had been published in this reduced version. However, some Arab Members of the Knesset doubt that it was a naive mistake. Both the deputy Jamal Zehalke, of the secular nationalist party Balad, and the Communist Afu Ighbarve saw in the episode an umpteenth confirmation of the “racism” that considers the Arabs of Israel as second-class citizens.
According to the registry office, the population of Israel has exceeded 8,900,000 people. Over 6 million of whom are Jewish. The birth rate in the past 12 months increased by about 9% compared to the previous year, when 160,000 babies were born.