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Demographic History of Jerusalem
Aspect of history
Demographic history of Jerusalem by religion, based on available data
Arab and Jew at Arab bazaar, Old City of Jerusalem
Most population data pre-1905 is based on estimates, often from foreign travellers or organisations, since previous census data usually covered wider areas such as the Jerusalem District. These estimates suggest that since the end of the Crusades, Muslims formed the largest group in Jerusalem until the mid-19th century. Between 1838 and 1876, a number of estimates exist which conflict as to whether Jews or Muslims were the largest group during this period, and between 1882 and 1922 estimates conflict as to exactly when Jews became a majority of the population.
In 2016, the total population of Jerusalem was 882,700, including 536,600 Jews, 319,800 Muslims, 15,800 Christians, and 10,300 unclassified. In 2003 the population of the Old City was 3,965 Jews and 31,405 "Arabs and others" (Choshen 12).
Jerusalem's long history of conquests by competing and different powers has resulted in different groups living in the city many of whom have never fully identified or assimilated with a particular power, despite the length of their rule. Though they may have been citizens of that particular kingdom and empire and involved with civic activities and duties, these groups often saw themselves as distinct national groups (see Armenians, for example). The Ottoman millet system, whereby minorities in the Ottoman Empire were given the authority to govern themselves within the framework of the broader system, allowed these groups to retain autonomy and remain separate from other religious and national groups. Some Palestinian residents of the city prefer to use the term Maqdisi or Qudsi as a Palestinian demonym.
Historical population by religion
The tables below provide data on demographic change over time in Jerusalem, with an emphasis on the Jewish population. Readers should be aware that the boundaries of Jerusalem have changed many times over the years and that Jerusalem may also refer to a district or even a subdistrict under Ottoman, British, or Israeli administration, see e.g. Jerusalem District. Thus, year-to-year comparisons may not be valid due to the varying geographic areas covered by the population censuses.
In the Achaemenid Yehud Medinata (Judah Province) the population of Jerusalem is estimated at between 1,500 and 2,750.
1st century Judea
During the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 CE), the population of Jerusalem was estimated at 600,000 persons by Roman historian Tacitus, while Josephus estimated that there were as many as 1,100,000 who were killed in the war. Josephus also wrote that 97,000 Jews were sold as slaves. After the Roman victory over the Jews, as many as 115,880 dead bodies were carried out through one gate between the months of Nisan and Tammuz.
Modern estimates of Jerusalem's population during the final Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 (CE) are variously 70,398 by Wilkinson in 1974, 80,000 by Broshi in 1978, and 60,000-70,000 by Levine in 2002. According to Josephus, the populations of adult male scholarly sects were as follows: over 6,000 Pharisees, more than 4,000 Essenes and "a few" Sadducees. New Testament scholar Cousland notes that "recent estimates of the population of Jerusalem suggest something in the neighbourhood of a hundred thousand". A minimalist view is taken by Hillel Geva, who estimates from archaeological evidence that the population of Jerusalem before its 70 CE destruction was at most 20,000.
Henry Light, who visited Jerusalem in 1814, reported that Muslims comprised the largest portion of the 12,000 person population, but that Jews made the greatest single sect. In 1818, Robert Richardson, family doctor to the Earl of Belmore, estimated the number of Jews to be 10,000, twice the number of Muslims.
Between 1838 and 1876, conflicting estimates exist regarding whether Muslims or Jews constituted a "relative majority" (or plurality) in the city.
Writing in 1841, the biblical scholar Edward Robinson noted the conflicting demographic estimates regarding Jerusalem during the period, stating in reference to an 1839 estimate attributed to the Moses Montefiore: "As to the Jews, the enumeration in question was made out by themselves, in the expectation of receiving a certain amount of alms for every name returned. It is therefore obvious that they here had as strong a motive to exaggerate their number, as they often have in other circumstances to underrate it. Besides, this number of 7000 rests merely on report; Sir Moses himself has published nothing on the subject; nor could his agent in London afford me any information so late as Nov. 1840." In 1843, Reverend F.C. Ewald, a Christian traveler visiting Jerusalem, reported an influx of 150 Jews from Algiers. He wrote that there were now a large number of Jews from the coast of Africa who were forming a separate congregation.
Published in 1883, the PEF Survey of Palestine volume which covered the region noted that "The number of the Jews has of late increased at the rate of 1,000 to 1,500 per annum. Since 1875 the population of Jerusalem has rapidly increased. The number of Jews is now estimated at 15,000 to 20,000, and the population, including the inhabitants of the new suburbs, reaches a total of about 40,000 souls."
In 1881-82, a group of Jews arrived from Yemen as a result of messianic fervor, in the phase known as the First Aliyah. After living in the Old City for several years, they moved to the hills facing the City of David, where they lived in caves. In 1884, the community, numbering 200, moved to new stone houses built for them by a Jewish charity.
The Jewish population of Jerusalem, as for wider Palestine, increased further during the Third Aliyah of 1919-23 following the Balfour Declaration. Prior to this, a British survey in 1919 noted that most Jews in Jerusalem were largely Orthodox and that a minority were Zionists.
As of 24 May 2006, Jerusalem's population was 724,000 (about 10% of the total population of Israel), of which 65.0% were Jews (c. 40% of whom live in East Jerusalem), 32.0% Muslim (almost all of whom live in East Jerusalem) and 2% Christian. 35% of the city's population were children under age of 15. In 2005, the city had 18,600 newborns.
These official Israeli statistics refer to the expanded Israel municipality of Jerusalem. This includes not only the area of the pre-1967 Israeli and Jordanian municipalities, but also outlying Palestinian villages and neighbourhoods east of the city, which were not part of Jordanian East Jerusalem prior to 1967. Demographic data from 1967 to 2012 showed continues growth of Arab population, both in relative and absolute numbers, and the declining of Jewish population share in the overall population of the city. In 1967, Jews were 73.4% of city population, while in 2010 the Jewish population shrank to 64%. In the same period the Arab population increased from 26,5% in 1967 to 36% in 2010. In 1999, the Jewish total fertility rate was 3.8 children per woman, while the Palestinian rate was 4.4. This led to concerns that Arabs would eventually become a majority of the city's population.
Between 1999 and 2010, the demographic trends reversed themselves, with the Jewish fertility rate increasing and the Arab rate decreasing. In addition, the number of Jewish immigrants from abroad choosing to settle in Jerusalem steadily increased. By 2010, there was a higher Jewish than Arab growth rate. That year, the city's birth rate was placed at 4.2 children for Jewish mothers, compared with 3.9 children for Arab mothers. In addition, 2,250 Jewish immigrants from abroad settled in Jerusalem. The Jewish fertility rate is believed to be still currently increasing, while the Arab fertility rate remains on the decline.
In 2016, Jerusalem had a population of 882,700, of which Jews comprised 536,600 (60.8%), Muslims 319,800 (36.2%), Christians 15,800 (1.8%), and 10,300 unclassified (1.2%).
Demographic key dates
4500-3500 BCE: First settlement established near Gihon Spring (earliest archeological evidence)
c. 1000 BCE: According to the Bible, King David conquers Jerusalem and makes it the capital of the Kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 5:6-7:6). His son King Solomon builds the First Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount.
587-586 BCE: Conquest of Jerusalem by Babylonians; Nebuchadnezzar II fought Pharaoh Apries's attempt to invade Judah. Jerusalem mostly destroyed including the First Temple, and the city's prominent citizens deported to Babylon (Biblical sources only)
175 BCE: Antiochus IV Epiphanes accelerates Seleucid efforts to eradicate the Jewish religion, outlaws Sabbath and circumcision, sacks Jerusalem and erects an altar to Zeus in the Second Temple after plundering it.
136: Hadrian formally reestablishes the city as Aelia Capitolina, and forbids Jewish and Christian presence in the city. Restrictions over Christian presence in the city are relaxed two years later.
324-325: Emperor Constantine holds the First Council of Nicaea and confirms status of Jerusalem as a Christian patriarchate. A significant wave of Christian immigration to the city begins. The ban on Jews entering the city remains in force, but they are allowed to enter once a year to pray at the Western Wall on Tisha B'Av
614: Jerusalem falls to Jewish and Persian forces, specifically Khosrow II's Sasanian Empire until it is retaken in 629. This was a result of the Jewish revolt against Heraclius, a Jewish insurrection against the Byzantine Empire across the Levant. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is burned and much of the Christian population is massacred.
636-637: CaliphUmar conquers Jerusalem. According to Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Patriarch Sophronius and Umar are reported to have agreed the Pact of Umar, which guaranteed Christians freedom of religion but prohibited Jews from living in the city. The Armenian Apostolic Church began appointing its own bishop in Jerusalem in 638. A surviving Jewish chronicle from the Cairo Geniza however states that Umar permitted seventy Jewish families to settle in the city. The Jews requested to settle in the southern part of the city near the Temple Mount which was granted, evidence of this location of the Jewish quarter is provided in a Geniza letter dated 1064. Later Jewish texts from tenth and eleventh century also indicate the "King of Ishmael" allowing them to settle in the city.
1267: Nahmanides goes to Jerusalem and prays at the Western Wall. Reported to have found only two Jewish families in the city
1482: The visiting Dominican priest Felix Fabri described Jerusalem as "a collection of all manner of abominations". As "abominations" he listed Saracens, Greeks, Syrians, Jacobites, Abyssianians, Nestorians, Armenians, Gregorians, Maronites, Turcomans, Bedouins, Assassins, a sect possibly Druzes, Mamelukes, and "the most accursed of all", Jews. Only the Latin Christians "long with all their hearts for Christian princes to come and subject all the country to the authority of the Church of Rome".
1924-1928: The Fourth Aliyah results in 82,000 Jewish immigrants entering the Mandatory Palestine region
1929-1939: The Fifth Aliyah results in 250,000 Jewish immigrants entering the Mandatory Palestine region
1947-1949: Palestine war led to displacement of Palestinian Arab and Jewish populations in the city and its division. All Jewish residents of the eastern part of the city were expelled by Arab forces and the entire Jewish Quarter was destroyed. Palestinian Arab villages such as Lifta, al-Maliha, Ayn Karim and Deir Yassin were depopulated.
1967: The Six-Day War results in East Jerusalem being captured by Israel and few weeks later expansion of the Israeli Jerusalem Municipality to East Jerusalem and some surrounding area. The Old City is captured by the IDF and the Moroccan Quarter, comprising 135 houses and the 12th-century Afdaliya or Sheikh Eid Mosque, is demolished, creating a plaza in front of the Western Wall. Israel declares Jerusalem unified and announces free access to holy sites of all religions.
^Wilkinson, "Ancient Jerusalem, Its Water Supply and Population", PEFQS 106, pp. 33-51 (1974).
^Estimating the Population of Ancient Jerusalem, Magen Broshi, BAR 4:02, Jun 1978
^"According to Levine, because the new area encompassed by the Third Wall was not densely populated, assuming that it contained half the population of the rest of the city, there were between 60,000 and 70,000 people living in Jerusalem.", Rocca, "Herod's Judaea: A Mediterranean State in the Classical World", p. 333 (2008). Mohr Siebeck.
^Cousland, "The Crowds in the Gospel of Matthew", p. 60 (2002). Brill.
^Hillel Geva (2013). "Jerusalem's Population in Antiquity: A Minimalist View". Tel Aviv. 41 (2): 131-160.
^Avraham Yaari, Igrot Eretz Yisrael, p. 98.(Tel Aviv, 1943)
^ abcdAmnon Cohen and Bernard Lewis (1978). Population and Revenue in the Towns of Palestine in the Sixteenth Century. Princeton University Press. pp. 14-15, 94. ISBN0-691-09375-X. The registers give counts of tax-paying households, bachelors, religious men, and disabled men. These figures show the estimated total population, following Cohen and Lewis by taking 6 as the average household size, which they call "conjectural" and note that other scholars have suggested averages between 5 and 7.
^Buckingham, James Silk (1821). Travels in Palestine through the countries of Bashan and Gilead, east of the River Jordan, including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala in the Decapolis. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown. During our stay here, I made the most accurate estimate that my means of information admitted, of the actual population of Jerusalem at the present moment. From this it appeared that the fixed residents, more than one half of whom are Mohammedans, are about eight thousand; but the continual arrival and departure of strangers, make the total number of those present in the city from ten to fifteen thousand generally, according to the season of the year. The proportion which the numbers of those of different sects bear to each other in this estimate, was not so easily ascertained. The answers which I received to enquiries on this point, were framed differently by the professors of every different faith. Each of these seemed anxious to magnify the number of those who believed his own dogmas, and to diminish that of the professors of other creeds. Their accounts were therefore so discordant, that no reliance could be placed on the accuracy of any of them. The Mohammedans are certainly the most numerous, and these consist of nearly equal portions of Osmanli Turks, from Asia Minor; descendents of pure Turks by blood, but Arabians by birth; a mixture of Turkish and Arab blood, by intermarriages; and pure Syrian Arabs, of an unmixed race. Of Europeans, there are only the few monks of the Catholic convent, and the still fewer Latin pilgrims who occasionally visit them. The Greeks are the most numerous of ail the Christians, and these are chiefly the clergy and devotees. The Armenians follow next in order, as to numbers, but their body is thought to exceed that of the Greeks in influence and in wealth. The inferior sects of Copts, Abyssinians, Syrians, Nestorians, Maronites, Chaldeans, &c. are scarcely perceptible in the crowd. And even the Jews are more remarkable from the striking peculiarity of their features and dress, than from their numbers, as contrasted with the other bodies.
^Fisk and King, 'Description of Jerusalem,' in The Christian Magazine, July 1824, page 220. Mendon Association, 1824. (The figures are preceded by the comment "the following estimate seems to us as probably correct as any one we have heard". The authors also note that, "some think the Jews more numerous than the Mussulmans.")
^Jerusalem Illustrated History Altas, Martin Gilbert, Jerusalem 1830-1850, p.37
^Sephardi entrepreneurs in Jerusalem: the Valero family 1800-1948 By Joseph B. Glass, Ruth Kark. p.174
^Kark, Ruth; Oren-Nordheim, Michal (2001). Jerusalem and Its Environs: Quarters, Neighborhoods, Villages, 1800-1948. Wayne State University Press. pp. 74, table on p.82-86. ISBN0-8143-2909-8. The beginning of construction outside the Jerusalem Old City in the mid-19th century was linked to the changing relations between the Ottoman government and the European powers. After the Crimean War, various rights and privileges were extended to non-Muslims who now enjoyed greater tolerance and more security of life and property. All of this directly influenced the expansion of Jerusalem beyond the city walls. From the mid-1850s to the early 1860s, several new buildings rose outside the walls, among them the mission house of the English consul, James Finn, in what came to be known as Abraham's Vineyard (Kerem Avraham), the Protestant school built by Bishop Samuel Gobat on Mount Zion; the Russian Compound; the Mishkenot Sha'ananim houses: and the Schneller Orphanage complex. These complexes were all built by foreigners, with funds from abroad, as semi-autonomous compounds encompassed by walls and with gates that were closed at night. Their appearance was European, and they stood out against the Middle-Eastern-style buildings of Palestine.
^Ludwig August Frankl (1858). Nach Jerusalem!: Palästina. Nies'sche Buchdruckerei (Carl B. Lorch). Die Gesammtzahl der Juden in der heiligen Stadt ist nach amtlicher Erhebung 5,700 Seelen; sie stellt somit den dritten Theil der Gesammtbevölkerung dar, welche 18,000 Seelen umfaßt, und überragt die christliche um das Doppelte. Jerusalem zählt 3000 Christen, darunter 1000 Lateiner und 2000 Griechen und Armenier. Von den Juden sind 1700 österreichische Unterthanen und in Schuß Genommene, während Desterreich nur 100 christliche Unterthanen, alle Secten zusammengenommen, in der heiligen Stadt zählt.
^Gold, Dore (2009). The Fight For Jerusalem. Regnery publishing. p. 120. ISBN978-1-59698-102-7. : Gold's source: "Report on the Commerce of Jerusalem in the Year 1863", May 1864, in the National Archives (UK), Foreign Office (FO) 195/808
^Ellen Clare Miller, Eastern Sketches - notes of scenery, schools and tent life in Syria and Palestine. Edinburgh: William Oliphant and Company. 1871. Page 126: 'It is difficult to obtain a correct estimate of the number of inhabitants of Jerusalem...'
^The New York Times, February 19, 1869 ; See also I. Harold Scharfman, The First Rabbi, Pangloss Press, 1988, page 524 which reports the figure as 3,100.
^Burns, Jabez. Help-Book for Travelers to The East. 1870. Page 75
^Hebrew Christian Mutual Aid Society. Almanack of 1869
^Scholch 1985, p. 486, Table 1 (families): Figures multiplied by 6 to estimate population, following Cohen and Lewis p.14-15
^Schaff's Seven Ecumenical Councils: First Nicaea: Canon VII: "Since custom and ancient tradition have prevailed that the Bishop of Aelia [i.e., Jerusalem] should be honored, let him, saving its due dignity to the Metropolis, have the next place of honor."; "It is very hard to determine just what was the "precedence" granted to the Bishop of Aelia, nor is it clear which is the "metropolis" referred to in the last clause. Most writers, including Hefele, Balsamon, Aristenus and Beveridge consider it to be Cæsarea; while Zonaras thinks Jerusalem to be intended, a view recently adopted and defended by Fuchs; others again suppose it is Antioch that is referred to."
^Sharkansky, Ira (1996). Governing Jerusalem: Again on the World's Agenda. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. p. 63.
^Hussey, J.M. 1961. The Byzantine World. New York, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, p. 25.
^Karen Armstrong. 1997. Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths. New York, New York: Ballantine Books, p. 229. ISBN0-345-39168-3
United Nations (1997). "The Status of Jerusalem". UNISPAL. Division for Palestinian Rights. Prepared for, and under the guidance of, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Archived from the original on November 25, 2001. Retrieved 2006.