JERUSALEM'S POPULATION THROUGHOUT THE 19th CENTURY-- JEWS THE LARGEST GROUP AS OF 1840, THE ABSOLUTE MAJORITY BY 1870, or As Early As 1854
Despite the pervasive Arab and pro-Arab propaganda of the 21st century, Arab Muslims were a minority in Jerusalem throughout the 19th century. How were the numbers reached? Various foreign travelers, pilgrims, and foreigners [diplomats, churchmen, etc.] resident in the Holy City counted the population as best they could, which was easier of course when the total population was much smaller than today. The Ottoman govt too counted population. Two problems with the Ottoman censuses is that 1) they counted only taxpayers and/or Ottoman subjects, when much of the population, particularly among the Jews, were not Ottoman subjects; 2) they did not count women.
Prof. Yehoshu`a Ben-Arieh (of Hebrew University) assembled various population counts and estimates made throughout the 19th century. He did not take into account, however (as it seems from his book), estimates/counts reported by Karl Marx [yes! that Karl Marx!], Gerardy Santine, and a Muslim/Arab writer, Nu`aman al-Qasatli. We have presented Karl Marx' population count in an earlier blog entry. We will present Santine and al-Qasatli's estimates, which roughly speaking confirm the others, in a later entry [and we will also present other counts and estimates that may turn up]. This entry will present Ben-Arieh's estimates based on counts, censuses, and estimates made in the 19th century. The advantage in Ben-Arieh's work is that he presents estimates for various times throughout the century.
The Population of Jerusalem by Communities (1800-1870) (approximate figures)
Year __ Jews __ Muslims ___ Christians __ All Non-Jews __ Total
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1800 __ 2,250 __ 4,000 ____ 2,750 ______ 6,750 ______ 9,000
1836 __ 3,250 __ 4,500 ____ 3,250 ______ 7,750 _____ 11,000
1840 __ 5,000 __ 4,650 ____ 3,350 ______ 8,000 _____ 13,000
1850 __ 6,000 __ 5,400 ____ 3,600 ______ 9,000 _____ 15,000
1860 __ 8,000 __ 6,000 ____ 4,000 ______10,000 _____18,000
1870 __11,000 __6,500 ____ 4,500 ______ 11,000 ____ 22,000
[Yehoshua Ben Arieh, Jeusalem in the 19th Century, Vol. 1, The Old City
(Jerusalem: Ben Zvi Institute, 1984; New York: St Martin's Press), p 279]
Note that the proportion of Jews is rising throughout the century due to both natural increase and Jewish immigration from far-flung parts of the Jewish Diaspora, from Baghdad and Brest-Litovsk, from Tbilisi, Tashkent, and Tarnopol, from Mogilev and Marrakesh.
Jews become the largest of the three groups as of 1840, and Jews achieve parity with the rest of the population in 1870. Now, since the Jews' proportion was constantly rising and they achieved parity in 1870, then that is the year when a Jewish majority began. This is supported by Nu`aman al-Qasatli, an Arab, who estimated a Jewish majority as of 1874.
Bear in mind that Jews were a majority precisely in the Old City of Jerusalem, which was the city until well into the 20th century. Ben-Arieh points out this Jewish majority in the Old City in 1900 [vol. I, p 400].
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UPDATING as of 21 December 2016
Since we posted this post in August 2005, we have received further information indicating a Jewish majority as of 1853, information which Ben-Arieh was apparently unaware of, unfortunately. Here are several links: