• Zondag, 17 Februari 2019
  • 12 Adar I, 5779

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Jerusalem, historical viewpoint

Woensdag, Januari 1, 1997 / Last Modified: Zaterdag, December 31, 2011

Jerusalem: the city’s development from a historical viewpoint

Following is a background paper dealing with historical developments of
issues connected to the development, building, land expropriation and
general data on the population of Jerusalem.


1. Jerusalem is the largest city in the State of Israel, in terms of area
and population. It is spread over 123 square kilometers (compared with 51
for Tel Aviv and 48 for Haifa). Before 1967, its area was 38 sq. km., and
East Jerusalem under Jordanian rule had an area of only six sq. km. A few
days after the unification of the city, its area was enlarged to 108 sq.
km. In 1993, the Minister of the Interior decided to enlarge the municipal
jurisdiction of the city westward, and 15 sq. km. were added from
territories within the Green Line.

2. Jerusalem’s population is 591,400, of whom 174,400 are Arabs (composed
of eight percent Christians and 92 percent Moslems). The Jewish population
is 417,000, and represents 71 percent of the total population. Ever since
1870, Jews have constituted a majority in Jerusalem. In the first
population census carried out by the British Mandatory authorities in 1922,
the city was found to have 62,000 people — 34,100 Jewish; 13,400 Moslem;
and 14,700 Christian. In the census carried out by Israel and Jordan in
1961, the population was 243,500, of whom 67.7 percent were Jewish. The
ratio between Moslems and Christians has grown in favor of the Moslems
since 1967 as a result of emigration by Christians to South America and the
United States. In 1967, there were 197,000 Jews in Jerusalem (or 74.2
percent) and 68,000 Arabs, (or 25.8 percent). Today, the ratio has changed
by 3.7 percent and become 71 percent Jews and 29 percent Arabs. It is
estimated that, by 2010, Jerusalem’s population will reach about 820,000,
one-third of whom will be Arab.

3. The population’s growth rate is influenced by natural growth and
migration; the growth rate among the Arab population is 34.8 births per
1,000 people, while that among the Jews is 28.5 per 1,000.

4. Since 1967, Jerusalem has been the central focus for migration by West
Bank Arabs, chiefly for economic reasons. During the period of Jordanian
rule, very few resources were invested in East Jerusalem, and many of its
residents migrated to the East Bank of the Jordan (i.e. to the Hashemite
Kingdom). In those days, the city had no political or economic importance.
Today, it is estimated that some 80 percent of the Arab residents of
Jerusalem migrated there from Hebron.

5. As the Arab migration to the city grew, the balance vis-a-vis
immigration in the Jewish sector tended to become negative, and has
stabilized only recently. The majority of those leaving have gone to new
peripheral neighborhoods in view of the cost of housing and employment
problems in Jerusalem.


1. The acquisition of land by Jews in Jerusalem began at the start of the
19th Century as part of a general concept of redeeming the land. With the
declaration of the State of Israel, about 37 sq. km. of Jerusalem’s area
were registered under Jewish ownership.

2. Widening the municipal boundaries in 1967 was based on security and
demographic considerations. The areas annexed to the city had served the
Jordanian Army, the Arab Legion, as military outposts. The lands of Neveh
Yaakov and Atarot, which were bought by Jews in the Twenties of this
century and abandoned in the 1948 fighting, were also annexed to the city.
To the south, Har Homa, where 76 percent of the land acquired before the
1948 War of Independence was bought by Jews, was also annexed to Jerusalem.

3. Enlarging the municipal boundaries augmented the city’s area by 64 sq.
km. — six sq. km. in East Jerusalem, formerly held by Jordan. In 17
separate orders, 24.8 sq. km. were expropriated under the Land Regulations
(1943) governing acquisition for public purposes. Of this area, 4.9 sq. km.
belonged to Jews, 0.5 sq. km. was state property (public domain), and 16.7
sq. km. were Arab-owned, or under unregistered ownership, since some of the
land had served as Jordanian Army outposts which seized or acquired them
from Arab landowners (Givat Hamivtar, Givat Hatahmoshet, French Hill, Gilo,
Ramot, Givat Hamatos), lands conquered by Israel and transferred to State


1. The central law granting wide, general authority to expropriate lands in
Israel is the Land Regulations (1943) governing the acquisition for public

2. The authority to expropriate also resides in the Planning and
Construction Law of 1965, and in a number of other legislative acts such as
the Water Law, the Antiquities Law, Construction and Evacuation
legislation, etc.

3. Expropriation constitutes the instrument enabling State authorities and
public and private bodies to carry out, rapidly, plans meant for the
benefit of the public. The authority to expropriate is vested in the
Minister of Finance or those authorized by him or her (the Israel Lands
Administration). The authority to expropriate is conditioned on payment of
compensation at a rate to be agreed between the claimant and the Minister
and, in the absence of such agreement, by a rate fixed in accordance with
instructions in the Regulation.

4. The claimant has the right to legal redress.

5. In addition to the above, the municipality is entitled to expropriate up
to 40 percent of land for which there are plans to build for public needs.

6. In everything connected with land expropriation in Jerusalem, care was

  1. Not to expropriate lands belonging to the church, or holy sites;
  2. No land was expropriated which had structures on it or on which Arabs
    lived (excluding the Jewish Quarter of the Old City);
  3. Lands were expropriated on which there had been camps or outposts of
    the Jordanian Army;
  4. Farm land was not expropriated;
  5. Compensation was offered to all owners of land;
  6. No one was removed from his land or his home.

7. With the unification of the city, an absurd situation was created
whereby the property of Arabs who had left the Western sector of the city
for the Eastern sector in 1948 (about 10,000 people) was transferred to the
Custodian of Absentee Property under the Law governing assets of absentees.
These were not entitled now, as residents of unified Jerusalem, to claim
compensation for their property, while Jews could ask for such
compensation. In 1973, an arrangement was devised according to which Arabs
could receive compensation for their property on the basis of its value in
1947. A small number indeed requested the compensation. Jews, too, were
compensated for their property in the eastern part of the city where public
structures were built, and here too the sum was calculated according to the
1968 price of the plot.


1. With the unification of the city, it became plain that there was no
master zoning plan for its eastern sector. The Arab population was not
familiar with the technique of urban planning which existed in West
Jerusalem — i.e. expropriation for public needs — which is the only way
through which infrastructure and services can be developed, such as
educational, health, religious and cultural services which the authorities
are bound to provide.

2. The main component in development is land registration: however, most of
the lands annexed to the city lacked registration, and the main markings of
plots were for farming purposes, something which did not permit urban
development. In order to develop the area, there was a need for re-drawing
plot markings, but because of the difficulty inherent in this, the
municipality did not rush to act.

3. In these conditions, it was not possible to approve building in zones
where there was no master plan or suitable infrastructure. The master plan
was a project taking many years, even in the more organized Jewish sector,
and much more so in the Arab sector.

4. In the first years after the unification of the city, almost no building
applications were submitted by the Arabs. Only when the city’s population
started to grow, and with it the need to obtain permits, did illegal
construction begin.

5. In the past 30 years, building proceeded mainly in Jewish neighborhoods.
The central reason is the gap in organizational methods and operations
between the two populations (and this goes beyond the aspect of policy).
The concentration of land, large building companies, entrepreneurs and
development corporations which bought up land in massive amounts, and
managerial focus, made possible concentrated construction. The Arab sector
refrained from such organization and even from cooperation with Israeli
factors for fear of being accused of collaboration.

6. Nevertheless, it is interesting to study the following data:

  1. In 1968, there were 5,340 structures in East Jerusalem (not including
    the Old City) and approximately another 3,440 adjacent to the municipal
    boundary. This made a total of 8,890 structures, 60 percent of them within
    the municipal jurisdiction. Between 1968 and 1995, 13,600 new structures
    were added and 40 percent of them (5,350 structures) were within the
    municipal jurisdiction. In other words, the number of Arab homes doubled,
    while the number of apartments grew even more, because more flats had now
    been added to each unit. In the years 1968 to 1982, the pace of growth
    within the area of municipal jurisdiction grew, and between 1982 and 1995
    the rate of growth also increased along the periphery. This pattern
    resembles that in the Jewish areas and arises from a shortage of land and
    the tendency to move out to the periphery.
  2. In the years 1971 to 1994, the Jerusalem Municipality approved the
    building of 9 million square meters, of which 13 percent, or 1.1 million
    sq.m. were in the Arab sector.
  3. Data gathered from tax records indicate that in 1967 there were 12,200
    apartments in the Arab sector, while in 1995 the number had reached 27,066,
    representing an increase of 122 percent. The growth in the Jewish sector in
    that period was 113 percent, from 57,500 flats to 122,780.
  4. The number of households in the Arab sector in 1967 was 12,588, while
    in 1995 it had risen to 31,000, an increase of 147 percent. These two sets
    of data indicate the pattern of development within the Arab population.
  5. The degree of density (space between homes) in the Arab sector is lower
    than that among the Jewish population, and measures 11 persons to a dunam
    (one-quarter of an acre), excluding the Old City and the Shuafat refugee
    camp. In comparison, there are 19 persons per dunam in the Jewish sector.
  6. Dense building in the Arab sector reaches 1.9 housing units per dunam,
    in contrast with 5.9 housing units in the Jewish sector.

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