We’ve been hearing from the media that Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on earth. And it is. But not the most densely populated, as some have said. InfoPlease puts it in sixth place among countries. The Center for Israel & Jewish Affairs puts a more positive spin on things and rates it well below Paris, Athens, New York, Chicago, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, among other cities. Countries and cities. Apples and oranges. Suffice it to say, Gaza is very small and very crowded.
But how can I relate to this, I’ve wondered. How do I visualize the actual size of Gaza? I’ve compared Israel’s bombing of Gaza to shooting fish in a barrel. That’s the way it seems to me. I base that on photos I’ve seen of Gaza, and on places I’ve lived. I’ve no other way to judge.
I lived in Oklahoma City for more than 60 years and that’s what I can best relate to — its area, its population density, its traffic, neighborhoods, and open land.
Okla. City — 622 sq. mi., pop. 610,613 = 981 per sq. mi.
Gaza Strip — 139 sq. mi., pop. 1,816,000 = 13,065 per sq. mi.
That’s my own very rough calculation. OKC covers a huge area, much of it still open farmland; the last time I checked, only Jacksonville, Fla., was larger. The population density where you live is likely much different. Certainly in the Northeast it is. The Washington Post confirms the population density of Gaza is approximately 13,000 per square mile and says that is about the same as Boston.
Gaza is approximately 25 miles long and from 3.7 to 7.5 miles wide, according to Wikipedia. Using whatever points of reference you know, no matter where you live, you can understand what a small area that is. At its narrowest point, you could walk across it in an hour. I have to think its cities are actually like the suburbs here, with no obvious space between and only signs to tell you when you’ve left one and entered another. And yet Google Earth seems to show there are still open, seemingly rural areas of land.
How best to understand the size of Gaza (or anyplace else) compared to where you live? Surprise! There’s an app for that! (Can you tell this mapaholic is excited?) Check out the intriguing website MAPfrappe. On the first map, choose any place in the world and outline it by clicking and connecting several points along its border. Then go to the second map; there’s your outline floating in the center. Move and zoom to your home or anyplace else on the map to see how it compares. Here’s my rough outline of Gaza superimposed on the Denver metro:
If you click this link, you’ll find my outlined Gaza on the first map. Now go to the second map and zoom to your city or any other place you’re familiar with. The outline of Gaza will be superimposed there. (MAPfrappe explains that changing latitudes will distort the distances somewhat, but it’s a bit complicated and, I think, probably not that relevant for those who just want an approximation.)
For the benefit of some of my readers whose locations I know, here are a few of the comparisons I looked at:
New York City:
Los Angeles, California
Little Rock, Arkansas: