The Central Bureau of Statistics and the Galilee Development Authority revealed Wednesday that the number of Jewish residents in the Galilee area is decreasing.
The CBS and GDA, along with the Jewish Agency, published their annual northern-Israel population report recently, stating that during 2006, out of the 1.2 million residents in the Galilee area some 53.1% were of various minorities, while only 46.9% were Jewish.
Tuesday's Galilee Conference served as a reminder of the government's ongoing lack of interest in the area, as to the dismay of the heads of the GDA neither Prime Minister Ehud Olmert nor Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On agreed to attend, sending only Jacob Edery, Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee and Education Minister Yuli Tamir, to represent the government.
According to data presented in the conference, while many polls show that the Israeli public believes the quality of life in northern Israel is one of the highest in the country, they also believe job opportunities are scares and so they prefer to stay in central Israel.
The lack of government investments in infrastructure in smaller Arab towns, lead many to relocate to northern cities, said the conference's panels; citing data showing, for example, that the northern city of Carmiel now has 8% to 10% non-Jewish population and Upper Nazareth has some 15%.
"I can't say I agree with the data, but nevertheless we have to do everything we can to boost Jewish population in the Galilee," Minister Edery told Yedioth Ahronoth.
"Some 80% of the Jewish population lives in central Israel, while, 80% of the Arab population lives in the Negev and the Galilee," said Prof. Rasem Khamaisi of Haifa University.
"The only real way to overcome this situation is to stop speaking about the Judaization of the Galilee and start speaking about the globalization of the area."
Itamar Eichner contributed to this report