July 23, 2005, 6:29PM

Forecast shows Israel as home for largest Jewish community
Reuters News Service

JERUSALEM - Israel will by next year become home to the largest Jewish community in the world for the first time, surpassing the Jewish population in the United States, a think tank says.

Not for nearly 2,000 years has the Holy Land been home to the globe's biggest Jewish community.

The recent report from the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute said the Jewish population of Israel was about 5.24 million and the United States' about 5.28 million, but the balance is shifting quickly.

"The Jewish community in Israel is the most vibrant in the world," said Avinoam Bar-Yosef, director general of the Jerusalem-based institute.

"In the U.S., the community has been stagnant by numbers for many years," he said.

Immigration to Israel has dropped, especially since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000.

However, the birth rate of Israeli Jews is much higher than abroad â€