A total of 448,72 Jews lived in towns and cities in Yehudah and Shomron at the end of 2018, figures released by the Yesha Council on Tuesday showed. The nearly half-million Jews are spread over 150 localities, and the number represents a 3-percent increase over the number of residents at the beginning of the year.
Over the past ten years, the rate of population growth in the region has averaged 4.3 percent a a year, more than double the 2-percent population increase for Israel in general.
However, the 2018 figures are a let-down compared to recent years; in 2017, the growth rate was 3.4 percent, and in fact the annual rate has gone down nearly every year since 2008, when the population of the region grew by 5.6 percent. The Yesha Council said that the reason for that was that “in recent years there has been a relative lack of building because of the building freeze, and as a result we have limited plans now. These statistics should be instructive to the next government, which we hope will allow more construction.”
The biggest town in Yehudah and Shomron is the chareidi city of Modi’in Ilit (Kiryat Sefer), followed by Beitar Ilit, Maaleh Adumim, and Ariel. Between them, the four cities have 195,771 residents, 43 percent of the Jewish population of the region. Twenty-two percent of residents, 95,890, live in about 120 local authorities, while the rest are spread in smaller villages and new communities, also known as “outposts.”
The fastest-growing local authority – a community that has fewer than 20,000 residents, the minimum required to qualify as a city – in 2018 was Alei Zahav, located in central Shomron, which grew by 22.6 percent. Other communities that grew significantly were Maaleh Amos in Gush Etzion (17 percent), Salit in the Jordan Valley (16.5 percent), Beit Ha’arava, located near the Dead Sea (15.9 percent), and Sansana in the Chevron Hills area (13.8 percent).
Among all localities, the number of residents who consider themselves secular, religious Zionist, and chareidi are about equal, with a third of the total identifying with one of the three categories.
Commenting on the report, Yesha Council head Hananel Dorani said that while the growth was welcome, “in recent years there has been relatively limited construction. There is a great demand, and we need more homes. Building more homes is the way to advance settlement and lower the cost of housing all over the country. We will continue working towards our goal – of having a million Jews living in Yehudah, Shomron, and the Jordan Valley.”