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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Jerusalem’s Changing Demographics: An Overview from the Jerusalem Statistical Yearbook

Filed under: Jerusalem
Publication: Jerusalem Issue Briefs

Jerusalem’s Changing Demographics:  An Overview from the Jerusalem Statistical Yearbook
Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s Facts and Trends (Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research)

Institute for Contemporary Affairs

Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

Vol. 20, No. 13

  • The population of Jerusalem is double that of Tel Aviv’s and stands at 919,000, of whom 62 percent is Jewish and 38 percent Arab.
  • Jerusalem is the city with the largest Jewish population in Israel, the largest ultra-Orthodox population (one-quarter of all ultra-Orthodox in Israel), and the largest Arab population (20 percent of all Arabs in Israel).
  • The Arab population is growing at a faster rate, but since 2012, the birth rate among the Jewish population in Jerusalem is significantly higher than that of the Arab population.
  • The fertility rate (the average number of children a woman is expected to give birth to during her lifetime) of Jewish women in Jerusalem is 4.4 versus 3.1 of Arab women.
  • Jerusalem’s net migration continues to be negative (minus 6,000), although this rate of emigration is the smallest since 2012. Forty-four percent of those who leave are young people.

About 220,000 Jews currently live in “East Jerusalem,” which in reality lies north, south, and east of the city’s old jurisdiction, in areas added to the city in 1967. The proportion of Jews in these areas consists of 39 percent of the population there. However, since the 2000s, there has been a decline in the proportion of Jews in these territories, which in 1996 stood at 46 percent and today, decreased to 39 percent.

This data and many other trends are published in the “Jerusalem: Facts and Trends” report, which was published in preparation for “Jerusalem Day” by the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research. The data is based on the Jerusalem Statistical Yearbook, published by the Institute annually, edited by Michal Korach and Dr. Maya Choshen. The information in the paper is collected from various sources, the main ones being the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Jerusalem Municipality, and the National Insurance Institute.

At the end of 2018, 919,400 people lived in Jerusalem, twice the population of Tel Aviv. In 2018, 555,800 Jews (62 percent) and 349,600 Arabs (38 percent) lived in the city, 96 percent of whom were Muslims, and 4 percent Christians.

Jerusalem Municipality’s hotline center
Jerusalem Municipality’s hotline center (Jerusalem Municipality website)

The Jerusalem Center’s researcher Nadav Shragai comments that, as far as is known, in 2019, the ratio of Arabs to Jews in the city had changed, and the proportion of Jews decreased further to 61 percent (Jews) versus 39 percent (Arabs).

In the new Jerusalem Statistical Yearbook, population data on the large northern Arab neighborhoods beyond the security fence (Kafr Aqab and the Shuafat refugee camp area) rely on the Central Bureau of Statistics data, which lists a population of only 60,000 people.  However, the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Studies and the Ministry for Jerusalem Affairs both report that these two neighborhoods contain about 140,000 people, which brings the proportion of Jews within Jerusalem’s official borders to only 59 percent compared to 41 percent Arabs.

The latest figures are correct as of 2018. They show that Jerusalem is the city with the largest Jewish population in Israel, the largest ultra-Orthodox population, and the largest Arab population.

According to a population estimate conducted at the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of ultra-Orthodox in the city in 2018 was approximately 223,500 and constituted about a quarter (24%) of all the ultra-Orthodox in Israel. By comparison, in Bnei Brak, Israel’s largest ultra-Orthodox city, the population was 198,800. The population of Bnei Brak is smaller than the entire ultra-Orthodox population in Jerusalem.

The Arab population in Jerusalem, as mentioned, is also considerably larger than the Arab population in the largest cities in Israel, about 350,000 people compared to Nazareth (77,000 people), Rahat (69,000 people), and Umm al-Fahm (55,000 people).

The Jewish population of Jerusalem is diverse and complex in Israeli cities. The latest Central Bureau of Statistics social survey among 20+ year-olds shows that in 2016-2018, 21 percent of Jews in Jerusalem identified themselves as secular, 24 percent as traditional (religious and not-so-religious), 20 percent religious, and 36 percent ultra-Orthodox.

Jerusalem’s population constitutes about 10 percent of Israel’s population. The Jewish population constituted 8 percent of the Jewish population in Israel, and the Arab population constituted 20 percent of the Arab population in Israel.

Population Growth

During 2018, Jerusalem’s population increased by 18,100 (an increase of 2 percent). The Jewish population increased by 10,100 (1.8 percent), and the Arab population increased by 8,100 (2.4 percent). Examining the data in the last five years shows that the percentage of Arab population growth ranged from 2.4 to 2.7 percent, while that of the Jewish population was 1.5 – 2.2 percent.


In 2018, 25,200 babies were born to Jerusalem residents; 16,500 (66 percent) were born to Jewish families and 8,600 babies (34 percent) to Arab families. The Jerusalem population has a very high birthrate. In 2018, the birth rate in Jerusalem was 27.7 (births per thousand residents) and was higher than in Israel in general – 20.8.

The birthrate among the Jewish population in Jerusalem – 29.2 (births per thousand residents) was higher than that of the Arab population – 24.9. In Israel, in general, on the other hand, the birth rate of the Jewish population (20.1) was lower than that of the Arab population (23.3).

For many years (1967-2011), the birthrate of the Arab population in Jerusalem was higher than that of the Jewish population, but in 2012 the trend reversed, and for seven years, the birthrate of the Jewish population was higher than that of the Arab population. This is due to both an increase in the proportion of religious and ultra-Orthodox populations in the city, and they have increased their fertility rate. The decline in the birthrate among the Arab population is associated with an increase in the level of education and an increase in the labor force participation of women.

Fertility Rate

In 2018, the general fertility rate (the average number of children a woman is expected to give birth during her lifetime) in Jerusalem was 3.9 and was significantly higher than the fertility rate in Israel (3.1), Tel Aviv (2.0), and Haifa (2.3).

In 2018, the overall fertility rate of Jewish women in Jerusalem was 4.4, and it was higher than the general fertility rate among Arab women in Jerusalem – 3.1. The high fertility rate among Jewish women is mainly influenced by the relatively high general fertility rate among religious and ultra-Orthodox women.

Migration to and from Jerusalem

In 2018, 12,800 new residents moved to Jerusalem from other localities in the country, but meanwhile, 18,800 Jerusalem residents left. This means that Jerusalem’s net balance of migration versus emigration was negative and stood at minus 6,000. However, the 2017 balance of migration versus emigration was similar. In those two years, the city’s negative migration is the lowest recorded since 2008. In previous years it was already minus 10,000 and minus 9,000. Immigrants to and from Jerusalem are mainly Jewish, with a minority (4 percent) of Arabs.

Among those who left, what prominently stood out was the proportion of those leaving the city of Jerusalem to settle in the Jerusalem periphery (39 percent or 7,400 persons) and those who moved to the Tel Aviv suburbs (36 percent or 6,800). Those leaving are secular, but also there are many religious and ultra-Orthodox who have also left. The neighborhoods in Jerusalem that lost the largest number of residents were: Ramot Alon, Pisgat Ze’ev, Gilo, Geulah, Mea Shearim, and Katamon.

The Education System in Jerusalem

In the academic year (2018/2019), there were approximately 286,900 students in the Jerusalem educational system. The number of students in the Hebrew education system was 175,500, of whom 66,500 were enrolled in secular and religious public education, and 110,000 in ultra-Orthodox education. In Arab education, there were approximately 110,400 students,  93,000 of whom were in public education and about 17,400 students in private education.

Higher Education

In the year (2018/2019), 37,000 students studied in higher education institutions in Jerusalem, accounting for 16 percent of all students in Israel. Fifty-three percent of students in Jerusalem studied at the Hebrew University, 32 percent at seven academic colleges, and 15 percent at four colleges for education.