Variations in Construction

Traditionally the main material used in house construction in the occupied territories was either limestone or adobe. While limestone, taken from local quarries, is still favoured by more prosperous Palestinians and is required by law in most of Arab Jerusalem, cement has become the main material used in more recent construction. All cement is imported from Israel and most is processed locally. Production methods in construction tend to be labour intensive, often using unpaid family labour, capital short and, consequently, less industrialised and mechanised than in Israel. It has been estimated that building costs in the territories are about one half of costs in Israel.3
Table 3.1 shows the regional variations in the use of construction material in housing. It should be noted that West Bank and Gaza camps have been separated into a single category.

Table 3.1 Main material used in house construction by region
GazaWest BankArab JerusalemCamps
Cement/cement roof68532233
Cement/zinc or
asbestos roof
Stone/stone facing-43762

One significant aspect of these different building materials is that they also have dissimilar qualities in regard to the insulation they provide and the solidity of the construction they brace. Generally speaking, a house built primarily of stone (associated with Jerusalem) tends to have a more sound structure and can be expected to last longer than one built of cement with zinc or asbestos used as roofing material, a form of housing common in the camps.

There are also notable variations in the types of dwellings in which people live (table 3.2).

A terraced house, typical of camps in the occupied territories, is one that shares walls with an adjoining house. It is the preponderance of this style of housing which is largely responsible for the maze-like character of the refugee camps.

Table 3.2 Type of dwelling by region4
GazaWest BankArab JerusalemCamps
Independent small house22491726
Terraced house29131158
Mansion block apartment 13997
Apartment in large building2017393
Apartment in high rise building4312 
Apartment above workshop3311


al@mashriq                       950715