Demographic history of Jerusalem

Arab and Jew at Arab bazaar, Old City of Jerusalem
Jewish Orthodox children in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem's population size and composition has shifted many times over its 5,000 year history. Since medieval times, the Old City of Jerusalem has been divided into Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian quarters.

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.[1] 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 2003, the total population of Jerusalem was 693,217, including 464,527 Jews and 228,690 "Arabs and others" (Choshen 1), that same year the population of the Old City was 3,965 Jews and 31,405 "Arabs and others" (Choshen 12).


Jerusalemites are of varied national, ethnic and religious denominations and include European, Middle Eastern and African Jews, Georgians, Armenians, and Muslim, Protestant, Greeks, Greek Orthodox Arabs, Syrian Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox Arabs, among others.[2] Many of these groups were once immigrants or pilgrims that have over time become near-indigenous populations and claim the importance of Jerusalem to their faith as their reason for moving to and being in the city.[2]

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).[2] 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.[3]

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.

Persian period

In the Achaemenid Yehud Medinata (Judah Province) the population of Jerusalem is estimated at between 1500 and 2750.[4]

1st century Judea

Jerusalem's population prior to the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 (CE) has been variously estimated to be around be 70,398 by Wilkinson in 1974, [5] 80,000 by Broshi in 1978,[6] and 60,000–70,000 by Levine in 2002.[7] 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.[8][9] New Testament scholar Cousland notes that "recent estimates of the population of Jerusalem suggest something in the neighbourhood of a hundred thousand".[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] Josephus also wrote that 97,000 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.[13]

Middle Ages

Year Jews Muslims Christians Total Original Source As quoted in
c. 1130 0 0 30,000 30,000 ? Runciman
1267 2* ? ? ? Nahmanides, Jewish Scholar
1471 250* ? ? ? ? Baron
1488 76* ? ? ? ? Baron
1489 200* ? ? ? ? Yaari, 1943[14]

* Indicates families.

Early Ottoman era

Year Jews Muslims Christians Total Original Source As quoted in
1525–6 1,194 3,704 714 5,612 Ottoman taxation registers* Cohen and Lewis[15]
1538–9 1,363 7,287 884 9,534 Ottoman taxation registers* Cohen and Lewis[15]
1553–4 1,958 12,154 1,956 16,068 Ottoman taxation registers* Cohen and Lewis[15]
1596–77 ? 8,740 252 ? Ottoman taxation registers* Cohen and Lewis[15]
1723 2,000 ? ? ? Van Egmont & Heyman, Christian travellers [16]

Modern era

Muslim "relative majority"

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.[17] In 1818, Robert Richardson estimated the number of Jews to be 10,000, twice the number of Muslims.[18][19]

Arab boys at Jerusalem YMCA, 1938.
Year Jews Muslims Christians Total Original Source As quoted in
1806 2,000 4,000 2,774 8,774 Ulrich Jasper Seetzen, Frisian explorer[20] Sharkansky, 1996[21][22]
1815 4,000-5,000 ? ? 26,000 William Turner[23] Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]
1817 3,000-4,000 13,000 3,250 19,750 Thomas R. Joliffe [24]
1821 >4,000 8,000 James Silk Buckingham [25]
1824 6,000 10,000 4,000 20,000 Fisk and King, Writers [26]
1832 4,000 13,000 3,560 20,560 Ferdinand de Géramb, French monk Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]

Muslim or Jewish "relative majority"

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."[27] 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.[28]

Between 1856 and 1880, Jewish immigration to Palestine more than doubled, with the majority settling in Jerusalem.[29] The majority of these immigrants were Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe, who subsisted on Halukka.[29]

In 1881–82, a group of Jews arrived from Yemen as a result of messianic fervor.[30][31] After living in the Old City for several years, they moved to the hills facing the City of David, where they lived in caves.[32] In 1884, the community, numbering 200, moved to new stone houses built for them by a Jewish charity.[33]

Year Jews Muslims Christians Total Original Source As quoted in
1838 3,000 4,500 3,500 11,500 Edward Robinson Edward Robinson, 1841[34]
1844 7,120 5,000 3,390 15,510 Dr. Ernst-Gustav Schultz, Prussian consul[35]
1846 7,515 6,100 3,558 17,173 Titus Tobler, Swiss explorer[36] Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]
1849 2,084 families ? ? ? Moses Montefiore census[37]
1850 13,860 ? ? ? Dr. Ascher, Anglo-Jewish Association
1850 630* 1,025* 738* 2,393* ? Alexander Scholch, 1985[38]
1851 5,580 12,286' 7,488 25,354 Official census (only Ottoman citizens)[39] Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]
1853 8,000 4,000 3,490 15,490 César Famin, French diplomat Famin[40]
1856 5,700 10,300 3,000 18,000 Ludwig August von Frankl, Austrian writer Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]
1857 7,000 ? ? 10-15,000 HaMaggid periodical Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]
1862 8,000 6,000 3,800 17,800 HaCarmel periodical Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]
1864 8,000 4,000 2,500 15,000 British Embassy Dore Gold, 2009[41]
1866 8,000 4,000 4,000 16,000 John Murray travel guidebook Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]
1867 ? ? ? 14,000 Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad, Chapter 52 [42]
1867 4–5,000 6,000 ? ? Ellen-Clare Miller, Missionary [43]
1869 3,200* n/a n/a n/a Rabbi H. J. Sneersohn New York Times[44]
1869 9,000 5,000 4,000 18,000 Hebrew Christian Mutual Aid Society [45][46]
1869 7,977 7,500 5,373 20,850 Liévin de Hamme, Franciscan missionary Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]
1871 4,000 13,000 7,000 20,560 Karl Baedeker travel guidebook Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]
1874 10,000 5,000 5,500 20,500 British consul in Jerusalem report to the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers [47]
1876 4,000 13,000 3,560 20,560 Bernhard Neumann [48] Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]

Jews as absolute or relative majority

Year Jews Muslims Christians Total Original Source As quoted in
1882 9,000 7,000 5,000 21,000 Wilson Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]
1885 15,000 6,000 14,000 35,000 Goldmann Kark and Oren-Nordheim, 2001[22]
1893 >50% ? ? ~40,000 Albert Shaw, Writer Shaw, 1894 [49]
1896 28,112 8,560 8,748 45,420 Calendar of Palestine for the year 5656 Harrel and Stendel, 1974
1905 13,300 11,000 8,100 32,400 1905 Ottoman census (only Ottoman citizens) U.O.Schmelz[50]
1922 33,971 13,413 14,669 62,578 Census of Palestine (British) Harrel and Stendel, 1974
1931 51,200 19,900 19,300 90,053 Census of Palestine (British) Harrel and Stendel, 1974
1944 97,000 30,600 29,400 157,000 ? Harrel and Stendel, 1974
1967 195,700 54,963 12,646 263,307 Harrel, 1974

After Jerusalem Law

Year Jews Muslims Christians Total Original Source As quoted in
1980 292,300 ? ? 407,100 Jerusalem Municipality
1985 327,700 ? ? 457,700 Jerusalem Municipality
1987 340,000 121,000 14,000 475,000 Jerusalem Municipality
1990 378,200 131,800 14,400 524,400 Jerusalem Municipality
1995 417,100 182,700 14,100 617,000 Jerusalem Municipality
1996 421,200 ? ? 602,100 Jerusalem Municipality
2000 448,800 ? ? 657,500 Jerusalem Municipality
2004 464,500 ? ? 693,200 Jerusalem Municipality
2005 469,300 ? ? 706,400 Jerusalem Municipality
2007 489,480 ? ? 746,300 Jerusalem Municipality
2011 497,000 281,000 14,000 801,000 Israel Central Bureau of Statistics
Population of Jerusalem by religion.

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.[51]

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.[52][53] 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.[54]

Jerusalem had population of 801,000 in 2011, of which Jews compromised 497,000 (62%), Muslims 281,000 (35%), Christians 14,000 (around 2%) and 9,000 (1%) were not classified by religion.[55]

Demographic key dates


  1. Usiel Oskar Schmelz, in Ottoman Palestine, 1800-1914: studies in economic and social history, Gad G. Gilbar, Brill Archive, 1990
  2. 1 2 3
  3. Hecht, Richard (2000). To Rule Jerusalem. p. 189.
  4. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Ancient Israel
  5. Wilkinson, "Ancient Jerusalem, Its Water Supply and Population", PEFQS 106, pp. 33–51 (1974).
  6. Estimating the Population of Ancient Jerusalem, Magen Broshi, BAR 4:02, Jun 1978
  7. "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.
  8. Stern, Sacha (2011-04-21). Sects and Sectarianism in Jewish History. BRILL. ISBN 9004206485.
  9. Antiquities of the Jews, 17.42
  10. Cousland, "The Crowds in the Gospel of Matthew", p. 60 (2002). Brill.
  11. Hillel Geva (2013). "Jerusalem's Population in Antiquity: A Minimalist View". Tel Aviv. 41 (2): 131–160.
  12. Josephus (The Wars Of The Jews Book VI Ch 9 Sec 3)
  13. "Jerusalem". 1903-11-15. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  14. Avraham Yaari, Igrot Eretz Yisrael, p. 98.(Tel Aviv, 1943)
  15. 1 2 3 4 Amnon Cohen and Bernard Lewis (1978). Population and Revenue in the Towns of Palestine in the Sixteenth Century. Princeton University Press. pp. 14–15, 94. ISBN 0-691-09375-X. The registers give counts of tax-paying households, bachelors, religious men, and disabled men. We followed Cohen and Lewis on taking 6 as the average household size, even though they call it "conjectural" and note that other scholars have suggested averages between 5 and 7.
  16. Archived May 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. Light, Henry (1818). Travels in Egypt, Nubia, Holy Land, Mount Libanon and Cyprus, in the year 1814. Rodwell and Martin. p. 178. The population is said to be twelve thousand, of which the largest proportion is Mussulmen: the greatest of one sect are Jews: the rest are composed of Christians of the East, belonging either to the Armenian, Greek, Latin, or Coptish sects.
  18. Richardson, Robert (1822). Travels Along the Mediterranean and Parts Adjacent: In Company with the Earl of Belmore, During the Years 1816-17-18: Extending as Far as the Second Cataract of the Nile, Jerusalem, Damascus, Balbec, &c. ... T. Cadell. pp. 256–.
  20. Ulrich Jasper Seetzen (2007-09-27). "A Brief Account of the Countries Adjoining the Lake of Tiberias, the Jordan ...". Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  21. Sharkansky, Ira (1996). Governing Jerusalem: Again on the world's agenda. Wayne State University Press. p. 121. Retrieved 24 Dec 2010.
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Kark, Ruth; Oren-Nordheim, Michal (2001). Jerusalem and its environs: quarters, neighborhoods, villages, 1800-1948. Wayne State University Press. p. 28. ISBN 0-8143-2909-8. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  23. Turner, William (1820). Journal of a Tour in the Levant. John Murray. pp. 264–.
  24. Joliffe, Thomas R. (1822). Letters from Palestine: Description of a Tour Through Galilee and Judea. To which are Added Letters from Egypt.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.")
  27. Edward Robinson. "Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea: A Journal ...". Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  28. Jerusalem Illustrated History Altas, Martin Gilbert, Jerusalem 1830-1850, p.37
  29. 1 2 S. Zalman Abramov (1918-05-13). "Perpetual Dilemma: Jewish Religion in the Jewish State". Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  30. Tudor Parfitt (1997). The road to redemption: the Jews of the Yemen, 1900–1950. Brill's series in Jewish Studies, vol 17. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 53.
  31. Nini, Yehuda. The Jews of the Yemen, 1800-1914. Taylor & Francis. pp. 205–207. ISBN 978-3-7186-5041-5.
  32. Wisemon, Tamar (2008-02-28). "Streetwise: Yemenite steps - Magazine - Jerusalem Post". Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  33. Man, Nadav (9 January 2010). "Behind the lens of Hannah and Efraim Degani – part 7". Ynet.
  34. Edward Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea: a journal of travels in the year 1838, Volume 2, 1841, page 85
  35. "Jerusalem, eine Vorlesung". Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  36. "Bibliographica geographica Palaestinae: Zunächst kritische uebersicht ... - Titus Tobler - Google Books". 2006-10-16. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  37. "Montefiore Families". Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  38. Scholch, Alexander (1985). "The Demographic Development of Palestine". International Journal of Middle East Studies. 17 (4): 485–505. doi:10.1017/s0020743800029445. JSTOR 163415.
  39. Wolff, Press, "The Jewish Yishuv", pp 427-433, as quotes in Kark and Oren-Nordheim
  40. "Histoire de la rivalité et du protectorat des églises chrétiennes en Orient". Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  41. Gold, Dore. The Fight For Jerusalme. Regnery publishing. p. 120. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  42. Mark Twain, Chapter 52, Innocents Abroad'
  43. 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...'
  44. 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.
  45. Burns, Jabez. Help-Book for Travelers to The East. 1870. Page 75
  46. Hebrew Christian Mutual Aid Society. Almanack of 1869
  47. Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command (1874)
  48. Die heilige Stadt und deren Bewohner in ihren naturhistorischen, culturgeschichtlichen, socialen und medicinischen Verhältnissen Published by Der Verfasser, 512 pages
  49. Review Of Reviews. Volume IX. Jan-Jun, 1894. Albert Shaw, Editor. Page 98. "The present population of Jerusalem is not far from forty thousand, and more than half are Jews."
  50. Usiel Oskar Schmelz, in Ottoman Palestine, 1800-1914: studies in economic and social history, page 35, Gad G. Gilbar, Brill Archive, 1990
  51. "Jerusalem Day" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  52. "Jerusalem : Facts and Trends 2012" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  53. "Is Jerusalem Being "Judaized"? | Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs". 2003-03-01. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  54. "Press release : Population : End of 2011 (provisional data)" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  55. "Selected Data on the Occasion of Jerusalem Day" (PDF). Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. 16 May 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  56. "Kingdoms of the Levant - Israelites". Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  57. 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."
  58. [Sharkansky, Ira (1996). Governing Jerusalem: Again on the world's agenda. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. p. 63.]
  59. Hussey, J.M. 1961. The Byzantine World. New York, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, p. 25.
  60. Karen Armstrong. 1997. Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths. New York, New York: Ballantine Books, p. 229. ISBN 0-345-39168-3
  61. Heck, Gene W. Charlemagne, Muhammad, and the Arab roots of capitalism. p. 172.
  62. Bosworth, Clifford Edmund. 2007. "Historic Cities of the Islamic World
  63. "Mishkenot Sha'ananim". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
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