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Jerusalem's Changing Demographics

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Jerusalem Demographics

Jerusalem Demographics

Lisa Katz
As Jews worldwide prepare to celebrate their 40th Jerusalem Day in commemoration of the city’s reunification in 1967, there is increasing concern about Jerusalem’s demographic trends.

Since the 1860s, there has been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. With high Arab growth rate and the increasing flight of Jews from the city, how much longer will Jews be the majority in Jerusalem?

Jerusalem’s Changing Population Ratios

Jerusalem’s Palestinian growth rate has been high. Jerusalem’s Arab population is growing by 3 percent a year.

In contrast, Jerusalem’s Jewish population is growing by a little over 1 percent a year, and this primarily due to Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox population. On average, ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem – about a quarter of the city’s population - have more than seven children.

The expansion of Jerusalem’s Arab and ultra-Orthodox communities has contributed to increased political and religious tensions in the city. At the same time, it has weakened the city’s tax base and strained municipal services. Consequently, secular, middle-class Jews are moving out of Jerusalem.

In 27 out of the last 29 years, more Jews have moved out than moved into Jerusalem. Last year, Jews leaving Jerusalem outnumbered those moving in by 6,000, and this figure is in line with figures for the past decade, according to the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies.

After the 1967 war, Jerusalem’s population was 74 percent Jewish and 26 percent Arab. 40 years later, in 2007, Jerusalem’s population is 66 percent Jewish and 34 percent Arab. According to the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, the gap between the city’s Jewish and Arab population is narrowing by about 1 percentage point a year.

Jerusalem - A Symbol, A Residence

Jerusalem has great symbolic meaning to both Jews and Palestinians. For Jews worldwide, Jerusalem is the spiritual center of Judaism, the ancient Jewish capital, and the current capital of the Jewish State of Israel. According to a recent poll, more than 60 percent of Israelis said they would not want to give up Israeli control of the city’s holy sites, even as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. For Palestinians, Jerusalem is an economic hub, the site of Islam’s third holiest site, and the capital of their future state.

As a place of residence, Israelis and Palestinians differ on their views of Jerusalem. Compared to the rest of Israel, Jerusalem is a poor city with great religious and political tension. A recent poll revealed that 78 percent of Israelis said they would not consider living in Jerusalem or would prefer to live elsewhere in Israel. For Palestinians, Jerusalem offers more economic opportunities than any Palestinian city in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

Jerusalem - A Demographic Problem for Israel

As of 2005, Jerusalem is home to 475,000 Jews and 245,000 Arabs. This 66 percent Jewish - 34 percent Arab ratio is narrowing by about 1 percentage point a year.

As Jerusalem’s Arab population swells and Jewish population shrinks, Israelis are becoming increasingly concerned about the difficulty of maintaining Jerusalem’s status as the eternal capital of the Jewish State in the future.
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