The most popular boy’s name in Israel is… Muhammad but you won’t read about it 22Nov11 November 22, 2011

by Sol Salbe  – Facebook Profile  -  21 November 2011

Universal Children Day occurs on 20 November. So to mark the occasion, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics issued a detailed report (Heb)   about various aspects of children in Israel. But in ethnocentric country there is no such thing as a report on Israeli children, heaven forbid. Everything is divided into Jewish Children, Muslim Children…or sometimes Jewish Children / Arab Children. So to give but one example, if you are for example interested in the proportion of children being raised in single parent family you are provided with separate figures for Jews (9 per cent) and Arabs (5 per cent). Everything from fertility figures to school participation rates is ethnically and religiously stratified. Israeli kids as such do not exist.

The fun part comes with names given to babies born in the last year. This is a perennial favourite with the media. Nothing unusual here.  Melbourne’s Herald-Sun, Australia’s largest circulating newspaper takes pride in having the previous year’s names during the first week of the new year. People are always interested in popular babies’ names: run a Google search for “babies popular name” and you’ll get about 109 million results.  So the Israeli media is full of it as well, especially the Hebrew media. But here is an example in English from Arutz Sheva, the pro-settler news service:

The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) published some data in honour of Universal Children’s Day.

The most common names given to newborns in the last decade are Noam for boys and Noa for girls.

Other popular names for boys include Ittay, Uri, Yehonatan, Daniel, David and Ariel.

Popular girls’ names include Shira, Maya, Tamar, Talia and Noia.

No ifs, buts and maybes about it the most popular name for boys in Israel is Noam. Sounds straight forward, doesn’t it? The Hebrew Ma’ariv  is just as adamant:

Noah for girls, Noam for boys – these are most common children’s names in Israel, as revealed in data released today (Wednesday) by the Central Bureau of Statistics….

There were no surprises with the boys either: Noam is leading with three per cent, with Ittay and Uri which have also been getting top billing in the past three years. These are joined in the top ten by Yonathan/Jonathan, Daniel, David, Ariel, Ido, Yoseph/Joseph and Itamar.

Notice anything strange so far: “data” and “percentages”. Isn’t anything missing? What’s wrong with old-fashioned numbers? Go back to the Herald-Sun article. It deals with figures, not percentages: 7085 for Jack and 5217 for Olivia (for the decade.) But why hide the raw figures?  Because the most popular name in the state that wants others to recognise it as the Jewish State, the most popular boy’s name (last year and possibly for nearly three decades) is actually… Mohammad.

No, it does not mean that Muslims are taking over Israel. As Haaretz explained in about 1984, when the phenomenon was first observed, Jewish families choose quite a few different names for their sons. But quite a few Muslim families include a Mohammad (or a variant of the name) among their ranks. It is simply a matter of custom and tradition. But, consciously or otherwise, the Israeli media, has gone through hoops to cover up the fact.

So how do I know that it is Mohammad? Because I found the answer in Ynet. Again don’t expect an explicit admission. Under the heading of  Names of those born in 2010: Noa, Noam and Muhammad rule (Heb) the paper writes:

About 166,000 babies were born in Israel in 2010 – and the most popular names among them were Noam, Ittay, Noah, Shira, Muhammad and Rimas. More children were called Ronnie and Ariel and fewer were named Rebecca and Moses

In the body of the article the paper noted:

Noa and Noam maintain their top billing in 2010: the most common names for Jewish boys, who were born last year were Noam, Ittay, Uri, Yonathan/Jonathan and Daniel. The five most common names for girls were: Noa, Shira, Maya, Tamar and Yael. This is revealed by data released today (Wednesday) by the Central Bureau of Statistics on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day.  Leading the race top spot the Arabs were Muhammad for boys and Rimas for girls.

Most people will therefore assume that the most popular boy’s name in Israel was Noam. But the paper also attached tables of names and percentages for both Jewish and Muslim babies, so anybody can work out the actual figures.

A quick calculation would show that with 3 percentage points and 120,700 babies there should be approximately 1811 Jewish boys named Noam.  But with 36,200 Muslim babies and 12.2 percentage points there were about 2208 Israeli babies who are called Mohammad.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know which figure is higher.

Note: I have used a 50:50 sex distribution in the above calculation. Demography tells us that the distribution deviates slightly from this figure but not enough to make a difference on this occasion.  [And at any rate I’m not aware of any differences between the two national groupings.]

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