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Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Population of Palestine

Introduction

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimated the population of the State of Palestine, in the year 2020 AD, to be about 5.101 million, 60% of them (3,053 million people) in the West Bank, and 40% (2,048 million people) in the Gaza Strip. The estimated number of males at the end of 2020 AD in the State of Palestine was about 2.6 million males compared to 2.5 million females, with a sex ratio of 103.4. In the West Bank, the number of males reached 1.57 million, compared to 1.51 million females, with a sex ratio of 103.9, while the number of males in the Gaza Strip reached 1.05 million males compared to 1.03 million females, with a sex ratio of 102.7.

The population growth rate in 2020 was estimated at 2.5% compared to 2019 (2.2% in the West Bank, and 2.9% in Gaza Strip).

The number of Palestinians around the world at the end of 2020 was estimated at 13.7 million Palestinians around the world, 37.2% of them are residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 12% are residents of the State of Israel (1.6 million people).
The number of Palestinians in Arab countries reached about 6.2 million (44.9% of the total number of Palestinians), while the number of Palestinians in foreign countries reached about 738 thousand, representing 5.4% of the total number of Palestinians in the world.

The data of the Population, Housing and Establishments Census for 2017 indicated that 42.2% of the Palestinian population in the State of Palestine are refugees, as their number was estimated at 1.98 million refugees at that time, as their number in the West Bank reached about 741 thousand refugees, representing 26.3% of the total population of the West Bank. In the Gaza Strip, there are about 1.24 million refugees or 66.1% of the total population of the Gaza Strip.

According to the same census, Muslims made up 96.5% of the total population, and a minority of Christians was estimated at that time at 46,850 people, and other religions only 1,384 individuals.

The spoken languages by Palestinians and Israeli settlers ​​are Arabic and Hebrew. English is widely understood.

Population of palestine: growth
Source: . @Fanack

Age Groups

The Palestinian community in the State of Palestine is characterized by being a young society, as the percentage of individuals under the age of 15 years was estimated at 38.1% at the end of 2020 AD, with a clear difference between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as the percentage reached 36.1% in the West Bank compared to 41.3% in the Gaza Strip. Gaza. The percentage of youth (15-29 years) was estimated at 28.7% (28.8% in the West Bank and 28.5% in the Gaza Strip). The percentage of individuals aged (65 years and over) in the State of Palestine was estimated at 5.3%, with a difference between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where the percentage was 5.8% in the West Bank and 4.5% in the Gaza Strip.

The data indicate an increase in the median age in the State of Palestine during the years (2000-2020 AD), as the median age increased from 16.4 years in the year 2000 AD to 20.8 years in the year 2020 AD. When comparing the data between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip separately during the period (2000-2020AD), a difference in the median age is observed, as the age in the West Bank increased from 17.4 years in the year 2000 CE to 21.9 years in the year 2020 CE, while the median age increased in the Gaza Strip From 14.9 years in the year 2000 AD to 19.2 years in the year 2020 AD.

The average number of children who had previously given birth to women who had been married for the year according to the General Population Census 2017 (fertility rate) in Palestine was 4.4 births/woman, while this average in the West Bank was 4.3 births/woman, compared to 4.5 births/woman in Gaza Strip.

The survival expectation rate has increased by 6-8 years during the past two decades, as it increased for both males and females from 67.0 years in the year 1992 AD to 72.7 years for males and 75.0 years for females in the year 2017 AD, with expectations of an increase in this rate over the next several years.

Areas of Habitation

Regarding the distribution of the Palestinian population among the governorates, the data of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics indicate that the Hebron Governorate recorded the highest percentage of the population, reaching 15.0% of the total population in the State of Palestine, then the Gaza Governorate, which recorded a rate of 13.6%, while the percentage of the population in the Governorate reached Jerusalem 9.0%. The data also indicate that Jericho and Al Aghwar governorate recorded the lowest percentage of the population at the end of 2020 AD, reaching 1.0% of the total population in the State of Palestine.

The population density in Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza Strip) by the end of 2020 was 846.7 individuals / km2, (540.7 individuals / km2 in the West Bank, and 5590.4 individuals / km2 in the Gaza Strip). The Gaza Strip is considered one of the most densely populated areas in the world, estimated at more than 10 times the population density in the West Bank.

According to the general census in 2017 AD, the population of the Gaza Strip is distributed into 5 governorates, and Gaza accounts for 34.% of the total population of the Strip, followed by Khan Yunis by 19.6%, North Gaza with 19.4%, then the governorates of Deir al-Balah and Rafah with 14.4% and 12.4%. Straight.

While the population of the West Bank is distributed among 11 governorates, Hebron comes at the top with 25% of the total population of the West Bank, followed by Jerusalem with 14.7%, then Nablus with 13.7%, and Ramallah and Al-Bireh with 11.4%. Then the governorates of Jenin and Bethlehem with 10.9% and 7.6%, respectively. The rest of the West Bank population is distributed among the rest of the governorates.

The urban population in Palestine (West Bank and Gaza Strip) was 77% in 2017. The percentage of the population residing in the countryside is 15%, while their percentage in the camps is 8%.

Population of palestine
Source: . @Fanack

Refugees

Population of palestine

About half of all Palestinians are political refugees. The largest group of refugees was created in 1948-1949 as a result of the proclamation of the State of Israel and the ensuing war. The estimated 750,000 Palestinian refugees originated from Palestinian territories which became part of the State of Israel after 1948. The huge stream of refugees was generated both by the hostilities and by a campaign to ethnically cleanse the region of the Palestinians, devised first by the Jewish armed forces and then the Israeli army (see for the views of Israeli historian Ilan Pappé and others al-Nakba under Israel).

350,000 of the 750,000 Palestinian refugees ended up in the West Bank, the number of inhabitants thus almost doubling from 450,000 to 800,000, with refugees making up 44 percent of the population. Another 200,000 Palestinians fled to the Gaza Strip, thus more than tripling the population there from 80,000 to 280,000.

The data of the Population, Housing and Establishments Census for 2017 indicated that 42.2% of the Palestinian population in the State of Palestine are refugees, as their number was estimated at 1.98 million refugees at that time, as their number in the West Bank reached about 741 thousand refugees, representing 26.3% of the total population of the West Bank. In the Gaza Strip, there are about 1.24 million refugees or 66.1% of the total population of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians fled to safety in neighbouring regions. Refugees from Beisan (Beit Shean), Tabariya (Tiberias), Yafa (Jaffa), al-Lidd/Lydda (Lod), Ramla and Bir al-Sab (Beersheba) thus mostly ended up in the West Bank, which had fallen into the hands of Transjordan in the course of the war of 1948-1949. The refugees in the Gaza Strip, which came under Egyptian control, originated from the neighbouring region in the north, from Isdud (Ashdod) and al-Majdal Asqalan (Ashkelon), cities which had been tied to the Gaza Strip since ancient times.

Driving out the Palestinian population, the Jewish armed forces, and later the Israeli army, made no distinction between Muslims and Christians. An exception was the small Druze community in the north of Palestine, which was left in peace. Massacres took place, such as in the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin (Dayr Yasin) on 9 April 1948, to set in motion the stream of refugees.

Another explanation for the massive upheaval, apart from fear of violence, is that the Palestinian society was still very traditional in those days and that the maintaining of family honour was viewed as vital. Fear of violation of the honour of the women – and thus of the family’s honour – in a war situation also incited the Palestinians to flee elsewhere in family units.

See also: Palestinian Refugees


Bedouins

The Bedouins make up a separate category. Of the approximately 150,000 Bedouins living in Palestine, between 25,000 and 30,000 live in the West Bank, especially in the Jordan Valley. There is also a small Bedouin community in the Gaza Strip. The majority, however, live in the adjacent Naqab (Negev desert), which has been part of Israel since 1948.

The Bedouins are organized in tribes and have been living as semi-nomads since early times. In search of fodder for their herds, they roam the mountains in springtime, returning to the valleys later in the year to winter. Their characteristic black tents, made of goats’ wool, can also be seen elsewhere in the West Bank, even near the edges of the large cities.

However, the Bedouin way of life is under threat as a result of stringent restrictions on their freedom of movement imposed by the Israeli occupying forces in the Jordan Valley (and elsewhere) as their presence interferes with Israel’s plans for this region. Prompted by strategic and economic considerations, the construction of Jewish settlements has concentrated especially in the Jordan Valley since 1967. There is plenty of fertile arable land in the Jordan Valley, a good supply of water and favourable climatological conditions. As such, there is a much stronger economic basis for Jewish settlements here, and these have since seized a large portion of the available water supplies. The curtailment of access to large parts of the Jordan Valley, and a lack of water, thus pose a threat to the Bedouins’ economic subsistence, and to their unique way of life.

Minorities

Like most other Palestinians, the Bedouins are Arabs – they are sometimes even idealized as ‘pure’ Arabs. However, non-Arabs also frequently settled in the region encompassing present-day Palestine after the arrival of the Arabs in the 7th century. Moreover, it must be noted that Palestine was part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire for a period lasting four centuries – a multi-religious, multi-ethnic state with no interior borders. For centuries, Jerusalem and Hebron attracted many Jewish, Christian and Muslim pilgrims. Those who stayed often became fully integrated into the Palestinian society, their family name being all that remained of their foreign background.

Armenians

The presence of the Armenians dates back several centuries before the Arab conquest of Palestine, notably in the period after the King of Armenia converted to Christianity. Many Armenian refugees joined them in later times. They too are fully integrated into the Palestinian society. The Armenian Palestinians (or Palestinian Armenians) are Christians. In Jerusalem’s Old City, there is also a separate Armenian quarter besides Christian, Muslim, and Jewish quarters. Here, on wall placards and in a museum, visitors are reminded of the Ottoman Turkish genocide of the Armenian people in 1915. Today, the Armenian community still numbers about 10,000, most of whom live in Jerusalem.

Samaritans
The Samaritan presence also dates back to long before the Arab conquest. The approximately 700 members of this religious community regard themselves as descendants of the northern tribes of Biblical Israel (Israelites). They live in a region which they themselves call Samaria (hence their name). The Jews, on the other hand, are said to be descendants of the southern tribes (Judeans) of Judah or Judea. The Samaritans claim that they are the upholders of the true Hebrew belief. The Samaritans and Orthodox Jews diverge on several points regarding religious issues and they practice different rituals. The Samaritans speak Hebrew and Arabic and are concentrated in the region of Nablus, where Mount Gerizim (Jabal Jarizim), their most important holy site, is situated. According to tradition, it was here that Abraham was put to the test by God and almost offered his son Isaac (according to Jews and Christians, Ishmael according to Muslims) for sacrifice (Orthodox Jews claim that this took place on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem).

Religious Jews
Throughout the centuries – i.e. before the arrival of Zionist Jewish settlers at the end of the 19th century – small communities of religious Jews maintained a presence in Jerusalem and Hebron (and elsewhere in Palestine). In the first half of the 20th century, their position came under severe pressure as a result of the actions of Jewish settlers in Palestine, who were adherents of political Zionism (adherents of religious Zionism, which is closely tied to Jewish beliefs, rejected the secular ideology of political Zionism).

Religion

Population of palestine
Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem/al-Quds / Photo Shutterstock

The vast majority of the population in Palestine is Sunni Muslims, constituting 96.6 per cent of the total population – 95.3 per cent of the population in the West Bank and 98.4 per cent of the population in the Gaza Strip. There are 46,850 Christians, mostly in the West Bank, according to the results of the 2017 census.

Muslims
Palestinian Muslims are Sunni Muslims, adherents to the main branch within Islam. All Muslims are obliged to fulfil five acts, the so-called Five Pillars of Islam: the creed (alshahada) ‘There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger’; daily prayers, five times a day (al-salat); almsgiving (al-zakat); fasting during Ramadan (al-sawm); and the pilgrimage to Mecca (al-hajj). In addition to the Five Pillars, there is the duty to defend the community of believers (umma) against unbelievers and apostates in their own community (jihad).

Sunni religious leaders are not organized hierarchically. Moreover, there are loose ties between believers and religious leaders. Three different roles can be distinguished: the imam (worship leader), the qadi (judge) and the mufti (expounder of Islamic law). The qadi presides over issues related to family law, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. Most Palestinian Muslims adhere to the Hanafi school of law, one of the four existing schools of law within Islam. The mufti is authorized to issue fatwas (opinions), which serve to guide Muslims. In many cases, the higher religious echelons have spent many years reading theology at the leading al-Azhar University in Cairo (Egypt) – the Vatican of the Sunni world. Practising Muslims pay religious tax (khums) to religious dignitaries.

Christians

Before the arrival of Arab conquerors in the region in the first half of the 7th century, the majority of the local inhabitants were Christian. Holy sites such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, have led to the foundation of a wide variety of churches in this region since early times. The Roman (Catholic) and Eastern (Orthodox) Churches are divided, for example. These divisions usually arose as a result of strong theological differences and disputes. In the 12th century, the crusaders further sharpened these differences by offering the Roman Catholic Church leeway and displaying an openly hostile attitude towards the Eastern Church. Centuries later, with the Ottoman Turkish Empire weakening, emerging Western imperialist powers also contributed to the deteriorating relations by entering into special relationships with kindred Christian communities (the French with the Roman Catholics, the Russians with the Orthodox, the British and Prussians with Protestants). These divisions remain today and are manifest in crippling rivalries.

The number of Christian Palestinians in Palestine is currently estimated at 50,000, of whom 47,000 live in the West Bank and 3,000 in the Gaza Strip (the figure of 76,000 is also sometimes mentioned). As such they make up around 8 percent of the population of the West Bank and 0.7 percent of the population in Gaza (source: CIA World Factbook). Although the number of Christian Palestinians has remained more or less stable over the past decades, their proportion of the total population in the Palestinian Territories has strongly decreased, partly as a result of the relatively high migration numbers (in the early 1990s twice as many as Muslim Palestinians migrated), but especially as a result of far greater population growth within the Muslim community. The number of children in Muslim families was almost twice the number in Christian families in the period 1967-1996.

About 80 per cent of the Christian Palestinians live in an urban environment. In the West Bank, they are concentrated mostly in Jerusalem and its vicinity: Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Ramallah, Bir Zayt, Jifna, Ein Arik, Taybeh (al-Tayba). Until 1948, the atmosphere and composition of these cities were predominantly Christian. This has changed as a result of the influx of refugees and urbanization. Today, Christians make up a mere third of the inhabitants in cities such as Bethlehem and Ramallah.

There are fifteen recognized Christian Churches in Palestine. By far the largest in the Greek Orthodox Church (with 52 percent of the Christians), followed at a distance by the Roman Catholic Church (31 percent) and the much smaller Greek Catholic Church (Melkites; 6 percent) and the Protestant churches (Lutherans, Anglicans; 5 percent). There is also a small Armenian Church. The remaining church communities are small; their presence is related to the special position of Jerusalem and Bethlehem in Christianity.

Religious Laws
In Palestine, religious law courts (either Muslim or Christian) handle matters falling under the scope of family law, such as marriage, divorce, and succession. Marriage takes place in front of the imam or priest; civil marriage does not exist. Funerals are also organized by the mosque or church. In other words, regardless of someone’s religious beliefs, the mosque and the church are institutes that cannot be bypassed.

Today, it is almost impossible for Muslims and Christians from Palestine to visit Jerusalem or its holy sites. Only on important holidays are a limited number of permits issued by the Israeli occupying forces for a one-day visit, and these have to be applied for long in advance.