The Jewish population of Yehudah and Shomron grew 3.9 percent in 2016 – more than double that of the overall country, the Yesha Council said in its annual population report Thursday. As of the end of 2016, there were 421,000 Israelis live in Yehudah, Shomron and the Jordan Valley, not including areas that are within the municipal boundaries of Yerushalayim.
The 2016 growth rate was similar to that of 2015, which was 4.0 percent. Over the past decade, the average annual growth rate in Yehudah and Shomron has been 4.7 percent, and the falloff in recent years has been due to artificial limits placed on the region by the various building freezes imposed by the government.
Unlike the stereotype of the Religious Zionist “settler type” that many people identify with Yehudah and Shomron, the population of the region is varied – with a third from the Religious Zionist community, another third classifying themselves as traditional or secular, and the rest from chareidi backgrounds. Residents of the region are also younger on average than those in the rest of Israel; 47 percent of Yehudah and Shomron residents are age 18 and under, compared to the Israeli national average of 27 percent of 18 and unders.
The largest town in Yehudah and Shomron is a chareidi one – Modiin Illit, followed by Beitar Illit. Those two are followed by Maaleh Adumim and Ariel; those four cities account for 183,000 of the residents of the region. Sixty percent of all residents live in settlement blocs, with the rest living in the smaller settlements dotted throughout the Arab population centers, the Jordan Valley, or desert areas. Beitar Illit, Modiin Illit and Ariel grew the most in 2016, with population increases of 5.6 percent, 5.3 percent and 2.5 percent respectively.
Commenting on the report, the Yesha Council said that “this year is the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, which led to the liberation of Yehudah and Shomron and the Jordan Valley. There is no greater birthday present than this report about the increase in population. This increase has turned Yehudah and Shomron into an indivisible part of the State of Israel. The numbers speak for themselves. Were it not for the building freezes that have plagued the region, there would certainly be more than half a million residents here.”