Arabs in the Old City during last year’s Ramadan.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Figures and statistics reflect the reality on the ground. In Jerusalem, every number can have national and international significance and impact.
One statistic closely watched for years now is the balance between the numbers of Jews and the number of Arabs living in the city. In November 1948, a few months after independence was declared, the number of Jews (in the Israeli part of the divided city) was 83,000, including more than 10,000 soldiers and staff of the recently born IDF stationed in the city.
Researchers at the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research say that between 1948 and 1967 the Jewish population on the Israeli side expanded much more rapidly than the population growth on the Jordanian side, as authorities there preferred to develop the city of Amman.
Following the Six Day War, the total population of the city climbed to 266,000 (November 1967) and passed 865,700 by the end of 2015. In physical terms, the area of the city, which on June 5, 1967 was 38.1 square kilometers, jumped to 108 square kilometers two weeks later and today encompasses 125.1 square kilometers.
Over the past five decades, the Arab population increased more quickly than the Jewish population. There were 197,700 Jewish residents in 1967 and 542,000 in 2015. In the same period, the number of Arabs jumped from 68,000 to 323,700. In terms of percentages, the Jewish population grew by 174% while the Arab population grew by 372%. The percentage of Jews in the city, 74% in 1967, dropped to 63% at the end of 2015.
The goal of Israeli governments to maintain a 75% to 25% population balance of Jews to Arabs hasn’t been achieved. Jewish politicians from the Right, such as city council member Arieh King (United Jerusalem) attribute this to the policy of the government and mayor, who have frozen housing construction in the city almost totally under the pressure of the American administrations.
However, contradictory figures regarding the exact number of Arab residents in the city complicate the issue of demography between the two sides. According to a recent survey done by Hagihon Company Ltd. (the Jerusalem area’s water and wastewater utility) for water-related purposes, the number of Arab residents living in two of the city’s neighborhoods beyond the security fence might be much larger than thought until now. However, according to the findings of the Jerusalem Institute, these might be the same residents included in the database of the Arab neighborhoods inside the city’s area already taken into account in the statistics.
IAF flyover Jerusalem
One fact agreed upon by all sides is that the anarchy prevailing in these neighborhoods (where Israeli authorities refrain from asserting full control for a variety of reasons) has reached such a level that nobody can tell how many people live there, who they are or where they come from.
One of the results of the population changes is the spectacular growth in the Arab stream of education in the city. In 2015 it became the largest of Jerusalem’s major streams. The total number of pupils from pre-school to 12th grade in the city in all streams (Arabs and Jews) is 267,800, by far the largest in the whole country.
Overtaking the haredi stream, the Arab stream of education is now the largest component, with 105,200 pupils, followed by the haredi stream with 98,700. There are also 64,000 pupils in the public system (religious and secular together). One of the major reasons powering the change is not necessarily that there are so many more Arab children in the city, but that Arab parents are increasingly moving their children to the public system, for financial reasons and to give their children better opportunities to learn Hebrew and pass the Israeli matriculation test. This opens doors for them in Israeli universities and broadens their employment prospects.
The above figures do not take into account totally private education institutions in the Arab and haredi sectors, estimated to service an additional 21,000 students on the Arab side and an unknown number in the haredi sector (studying in Yiddish and not financed by the state.) Moreover, there is a novelty in this field. Since 2015, a public haredi stream has been initiated, combining haredi studies with a matriculation curriculum. This new trend has already attracted more than 300 pupils.
As a statistical side note, 2015 was the peak year for the opening of files on sexual crimes in the area, accounting for 45 of the 1,920 general crime files and investigations. Ramot stood out as the neighborhood in which the police opened the most files for sexual crimes, followed by Mekor Baruch.