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Ethnic and Religous Geographic Population Distribution

In the United States, patterns in the geographic distribution of populations may be discerned.  These patterns often may be associated with history and economic interests.  For example, a plantation economy and legal slavery resulted in a large proportion of residents of African descent in the southern states.  Winds that tend to blow from West to East in the continental U.S. often leads to wealthier neighborhoods being located on the western sides of urban areas, with manufacturing and impoverished neighborhoods to the east.

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Love of the Land

Where Israelis live tends to reflect legal, economic, and political conditions and histories.

Climate (especially the availability of water) affects the size of populations.  Military events (e.g., battlefield results along with population flight) have shaped the locations of Arab settlements in the State of Israel.  Armistice lines have shaped the boundaries of the State of Israel.

Judaic religious law (halacha) forbids Jews to walk certain distances on the Sabbath, while observant Jews generally worship in synagogues that reflect their religious preferences—and, a variety of such preferences differentiate observant Jews from one another.  Thus, like-minded observant Jews often will live within walking distance of one another.  In the State of Israel, this has tended to produce neighborhoods, towns, and rural villages that sometimes are populated by people who are similar in religious practice (as it appears to outsiders, whether or not they consider themselves religiously homogeneous).

After 1948, when the State of Israel was established, planned towns called “Development Towns” began to be established.  The primary purpose of these towns was to house the many newly arriving Jewish immigrants.  Development towns, often located in the Israeli Periphery, became the homes for many Jews from the Middle East and North Africa (Mizrahim).  More recently (since the 1980s), some of the Development Towns have become home to concentrations of (largely Jewish) immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) as well as from Ethiopia.

More About....Development Towns

Development towns are not collectivist; property ownership, income, and expenses are individually held.  In them, the economic opportunities have tended to be fewer, and municipal infrastructure (e.g., schools, roads, housing stock, water & sewage, etc.) often has been less developed than in the Israeli Center.  Development towns sometimes have been placed near Israeli borders for security purposes (e.g., Kiryat Shemona, in the Upper Galilee, Shlomi, in the Western Galilee, and Sderot, near the Gaza Strip).

Israeli cities, like cities elsewhere, include neighborhoods that are differentiated by socio-economic status (SES).  In the State of Israel, low-SES urban neighborhoods are likely to be populated primarily by Mizrahi Jews, Jews (and non-Jewish) immigrants from the FSU, Jews from Ethiopia, and/or by Arab Israelis. 

The neighborhoods of some cities, such as Jerusalem and Akko/Acre, also may be differentiated as either predominantly Jewish or predominantly Arab.  The Jewish-Arab pattern of urban residential differentiation sometimes is associated with military conflicts.  In 1948-49, a significant number of the Arabs living in some of the cities that came to be included in the State of Israel remained in them during the war.  The Jews who now live in such cities and towns (e.g., in Akko) generally have not moved into those neighborhoods that predominantly are Arab.  Similarly, East Jerusalem was under Jordanian rule from 1948-1967.  Since it has come under Israeli rule, its population has remained predominantly Arab.

Map of Jerusalem Population Distribution by Religious Affiliation, 1990
Source:  Shachar, Arie, Editor in Chief.  1995.  The New Israel Atlas, p 56.  Tel Aviv-Jaffa: The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  Revised for this course by Alan F. Benjamin and Arielle Hesse, 2008.


Finally, a large proportion of the Palestinian/Arab citizens of the State of Israel tend to live in three regions

  • The Galilee (in numerous towns and villages, as well as, in Nazareth)
  • The “Triangle” (Um El-Fahm, and a number of nearby towns and villages)
  • The northern Negev (in the seven planned towns for the Bedouin—recognized settlements—as well as in unrecognized settlements)

Map of Non-Jewish Population in the North, 1993
Source:  Shachar, Arie, Editor in Chief.  1995.  The New Israel Atlas, p 72.  Tel Aviv-Jaffa: The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  Revised for this course by Alan F. Benjamin and Arielle Hesse, 2008. 

Map of Non-Jewish Population by Religion and Sub-district, 1988
Source:  Shachar, Arie, Editor in Chief.  1995.  The New Israel Atlas, p 34.  Tel Aviv-Jaffa: The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  Revised for this course by Alan F. Benjamin and Arielle Hesse, 2008.

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Government policies on Daylight Savings Time (DST) in Israel have changed over the 65 years of the state's history.  For many years, the Minister of Interior decided when to begin and end it, or whether to have DST that year at all. 

Ultra-orthodox (and some orthodox) Jews have wanted to match DST with the Judaic religious holiday calender, which moves back and forth by about a month in relation to the secular calendar.  Religious Jews often want DST to begin after Passover and end prior to Yom Kippur.

This was a problem in 2010, when an early Yom Kippur meant DST ended in mid-September.

In July of 2013, a new law was issued with the following DST schedule for the State of Israel:  "The legislation sets DST as beginning the Friday before the last Sunday of March and ending the last Sunday in October."  See http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Knesset-votes-to-extend-Daylight-Saving-Time-319157

Arabs in the Galilee include Muslims, Christians, and Druze.  In some locations, one of these groups lives in the same municipality as another, and occasionally both of the other groups.  Many villages, though, are populated primarily by a single one of the three groups.  

The Triangle, however, is primarily Muslim, and, most Bedouin are Muslim by religion (however, many practice and understand Islam differently than non-Bedouin).

Residential clusters among many of the Arab citizens of Israel also may be characterized by kinship (e.g., “clan”) lines.

In sum, then, a significant proportion of the Israeli population is distributed geographically, according to religion and ethnicity, as well as, by culture and social class.  Residential clustering may follow any one, or some combination of the following social groupings:

  • Religion:  E.g., Judaism, Islam, Christianity, & Druze
  • Ethnicity:  E.g., Jewish & Arab
  • Jewish ethnicity:  E.g., Ashkenazi Jews; Mizrahi Jews; Jews (and non-Jews) from the FSU; & Ethiopian Jews
  • Arab ethnicity:  E.g., Bedouin & Druze
  • Class & idealism:  E.g., socio-economic status; economic opportunity; & collectivism

Some geographic patterns that further differentiate the Israeli population include region, climate, size of municipality, proximity to borders, between urban and rural locations, and between the Israeli Center and Periphery.

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