Israeli flags at the Western Wall in Jerusalem
Israeli flags at the Western Wall in JerusalemFlash 90

The Jewish majority in Israel’s capital city continues to shrink, a new report finds, with just slightly over 60% of Jerusalemites being Jewish.

According to a report published in Hebrew Wednesday by the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Studies ahead of Jerusalem Day, at the end of 2020, just 60.4% of residents of Jerusalem were Jewish.

There were a total of 952,000 residents of the capital at the end of 2020, the report said, of which 38% were Arabs and 62% were in the category of ‘Jews and others’.

The vast majority (96%) of Jerusalem’s Arab population in 2019 was Muslim, with just 12,900 Christian Arabs.

Some 97.5% of the city’s non-Arab population, listed as “Jews and others”, were Jewish in 2019, with just 2.5% of the “Jews and others” category listed as either non-Arab Christians (3,300) or without a listed religion (11,100).

Within the non-Arab population, two-thirds of Jerusalemites are religious – either haredi or Religious Zionist – with just one-third of the Jewish population identifying as non-religious – a far smaller proportion than in Israel generally.

Over one-third (36%) of Jerusalem’s Jews identify as haredim, with just under one-third (31%) identifying as non-haredi religious.

United Jerusalem – East and West

In 2019, a majority of Jerusalem’s 936,400 residents lived in areas liberated in 1967, with 581,100 people, or 62.1% of the total, compared to 355,300, or 37.9% of residents who lived in western Jerusalem.

Western Jerusalem’s residents were overwhelmingly Jewish in 2019 (98.65%), with just 4,800 Arab residents. The remainder of the city, often dubbed ‘east Jerusalem’, was 60.92% Arab in 2019, with 354,000 Arab residents, compared to 227,100 Jewish residents (39.08%).

The demographic balance of eastern Jerusalem has remained relatively stable over the past 40 years, though the Jewish proportion has declined somewhat since it peaked in the mid-1990s.

In 1983, 39.29% of the area’s population was Jewish, rising to 46.15% in 1996 before declining to 43.40% in 2005 and 40.72% in 2010.

Demographic Shift Citywide

However, the Jewish majority city-wide has fallen steadily since reunification after Six Day war in 1967, with the decline accelerating in recent years.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of residents were Jewish (or other non-Arab groups included in the data) after reunification in 1967, with that percentage falling to 70% in 1995.

Since then, the decline has increased, with the Jewish majority falling to 68% by 2000, 66% by 2005, 64% by 2010, and 63% by 2015, with the figure now standing at just 62%, the lowest since Israel’s establishment, and roughly at the level it stood on the eve of Israel’s establishment in 1948, before the city was divided.

The Arab population rose by a whopping 72% since 2000, increasing from 209,000 to 359,000 in 2019. The Jewish population, by contrast, grew by a total of just 28.7% over that same period.

The trend may be reversing, however, with Arab growth on the decline. While the Jewish total growth rate declined steadily since 1967 and through the 2000s, that decline reversed itself in the last decade.

From 1967 through 1980, the Jewish population grew by an annual average of 3.1%, compared to 4.0% for the Arab population of the city. From 1980 through 1990, the Jewish population actually expanded more rapidly than the Arab population, with 2.6% average annual growth compared to 2.5% for the Arab population.

But during the next two decades Arab growth significantly outstripped Jewish growth, fueled in part by an exodus of Jewish residents from the city. While the Arab growth rate averaged 3.6% per year in the 1990s, the Jewish rate plummeted to 1.7%. In the 2000s, the Arab rate fell to 3.1%, but the Jewish rate fell to 1.2%.

Over the last decade, however, the Jewish annual average growth rate rose to 1.5%, while the Arab rate dipped to 2.6%.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the 25,400 babies born in Jerusalem in 2019 were born to Jewish mothers – a greater proportion than the Jewish majority in the overall population of the city (62%).

However, the city experienced a net negative migration of 8,200 residents that year, with over 20,000 total leaving, with the vast majority of departing residents coming from the Jewish sector.