In the last decade, the percentage of Israeli adults for whom Hebrew is the mother tongue has increased, as has the rate of Israeli Arabs for whom Arabic is the mother tongue. The adult population 20 and over comprise 5.9 million people.
New data collected by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) show that Hebrew is the native language for 55% of Israelis, including 68% of the Jews, and 39% of them know Hebrew even though it was not their native tongue. This compares to only 49% of Israelis having Hebrew as their native tongue in 2011.
For 20% of Israeli adults, Arabic is their native tongue, and 5.9% know the language. This compares to 18% of Israelis speaking Arabic as a mother tongue in 2011.
Only 13% of Israelis of all faiths and 15% of Israeli Jews speak Russian as a mother tongue today, compared to 15% of Israelis 11 years ago.
In addition, 2.1% of Israelis and 2.6% of Israeli Jews speak English as a native tongue, compared to 1.9% of Israelis in 2011. Regarding French, 1.7% of Israelis and 2.1% of Israeli Jews speak it as a native tongue today, compared to 1.9% of Israelis in 2011.
Just 1.1% of Israelis and 1.3% of Israeli Jews speak Spanish as a mother tongue, compared to 1.6% of Israelis in the old survey. A total of 1.3% of Israelis and 1.6% of Israeli Jews speak Yiddish as a native tongue, compared to 2% of Israelis in 2011.
Although there are over 160,000 Jews of Ethiopian descent living in Israel, few – only 0.9% of Israelis and 1.1% of Israeli Jews speak Amharic as their native tongue. The figures for 2011 were not give. Only 5.5% of Israeli adults speak a different language as a native tongue beyond those mentioned above.
Thus, Hebrew and Arabic, which are the official languages of the state of Israel, are increasingly the mother tongues of Israel’s citizens. More Russian immigrants speak Hebrew as a mother tongue, and there is a rise in native-English speakers, while there is a decline in native Yiddish speakers and native-Spanish speakers and an increase in native-speaking French among Israeli Jews.
Fully 86% of employed Israelis – 93% of the Jews and 47% of the Arabs – speak Hebrew at work. Fifty-two-percent of Israeli Arabs speak Arabic at work and 30% speak both Arabic and Hebrew at work.
According to the CBS survey, 2.9% of the Jews and 11% of the Arabs avoid turning to state agencies for help because their Hebrew is absent or inadequate. Ten percent don’t ask for medical services because of this.
Among Israelis born in the former Soviet Union, 13% avoid contacting government agencies for help and 8.5% avoid applying for medical services because of language difficulties. Fourteen percent of them are age 65 and over.