Visualizing Gaza

Gaza, 2005. For scale, see the airport runway in Gaza's southernmost tip.
Gaza, 2005. For scale, see the airport runway in Gaza’s southernmost tip. Israel dismantled its Gaza settlements in 2005. (Click to enlarge)

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:

Joplin, Missouri:


Cleveland, Ohio:


New York City:


Los Angeles, California


Little Rock, Arkansas:




Houston, Texas:


Sydney, Australia:


21 thoughts on “Visualizing Gaza

    1. Thank you.

      I remember how stunned I was when I first moved back east — from Oklahoma City to Connecticut. You could go for a joyride and easily visit three different states in the time it took to just get out of Oklahoma. I never got used to the congestion in the NE, the endless miles of people and concrete, the traffic. The shadowed canyons of NYC were depressing in the extreme. I couldn’t imagine living there.

      The down side to all the space we have out west, however, is when people assume we’ll always have that much space, we’ll always have that much open air, fresh water, forests, farmland, etc. It’s not infinite and we must never act as though it is.

          1. I didn’t recall where in Australia you are, but if you go to the link, it’s easy to focus the second map and see what the overlay looks like. I did throw in London, thinking it might mean something to you.

          2. You are right on both counts born in London. Live in Steak & Kidney (Sydney), indeed the street where I live is slap bang in the middle of the Gaza overlay. Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome. I’m going to have fun with that app. Have thought of lots of things to do with it, not the least of which was comparing Denver to Oklahoma City. Also a simple way to draw a line on a map and compare it to the scale of miles, or to other locations.

  1. Excellent analysis, PT. Your MAPfrappe find is a very interesting tool. I too looked over the Gaza strip on Google Earth, and had a couple of (random) thoughts about it.

    1. Compared to large first-world cities, its populated areas are low-rise and thus the comparison is diminished.
    2. As you also noted, there seem to be large areas that are desert or otherwise uninhabited.
    3. I wonder what the tunnels would look like if Google could see them.
    4. This has to be one of the saddest places on Earth.

    1. Excellent point about the high rises! The uninhabited areas, of course, just mean all those people are packed even tighter into the cities. Those cities must be like sardine cans. I can’t begin to imagine the living conditions. Especially now with all the rubble and destruction, no power, etc.

      I haven’t looked for one but I think a map of the tunnels would be interesting. Of course if their numbers and density aren’t sufficient to justify the horrible bombing, we’ll probably never see such maps.

      Sad. Hopeless. It’s bad enough in other parts of the world when people must live in poverty and squalor. But add to that the knowledge that your own government doesn’t care if you die, and the neighboring government rains hellfire on you, destroys your home, kills friends and family … and there’s no reason to think anything will ever be any different.

      Makes me very, very grateful for what I have …

  2. Wonder what the population was when partition took place. As I understand it, before the rockets and retaliation took place, a great many residents of Gaza crossed the border daily for jobs in Israel. So, unless that is incorrect, comparisons to imprisonment and concentration camp living are a stretch. Your graphics showing the size of the place are terrific–good idea.

    1. According to Wikipedia: “Comprehensive closures during the Second Intifada [begun in 2000] resulted in complete prohibitions on Palestinian movement into Israel and between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the situation remains the same today.” That sounds very close to imprisonment to me (and what gives Israel the right?). Now a lot of what remained of homes, businesses, power, etc. has been destroyed. So whatever the living conditions were before, they are worse now.

      I was delighted to find that app. It was exactly what I was looking for. Don’t know why I never thought to look for such a thing before. These days it seems there’s an app for almost everything.

  3. Thanks for checking out the movement situation. I’ve not yet decided exactly where I stand on this latest violence in the area. I completely agree with you that continued development of settlements on the West Bank by Israel is a betrayal of a long-line of U.S. leaders who demanded an end to this provocation. However, it seems unreasonable to suggest that a nation can tolerate rocket attacks on its cities by another nation (Hamas members are the “government” of Gaza) and not take strong military action in retaliation. When there is war, innocents will be killed and suffer. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all concerned would grow up and truly find peaceful solutions to the world’s problems?

    1. No, I wouldn’t expect any nation to tolerate rocket attacks. But why keep doing the things that provoke those attacks? If you oppress anyone long enough, and keep taking more and more of their land, eventually they will fight back any way they can. And why not? They’ve little left to lose — and are losing more of it every day.

      1. True about repression breeding violence. However, Palestinians on the West Bank are represented by the PLO and Hamas controls Gaza. They are not one nation. That’s a problem right now with “two nation solutions” to Israeli-Palestinian issues–there aren’t two nations involved, there are three.

        1. Fatah and Hamas, two factions of the Palestinian National Authority, are both claiming to represent the “state of Palestine,” the entity that was granted recognition as a “non-member state” by the UN General Assembly in 2012 (Resolution 67/19). That state consists of Gaza and the West Bank. The so called two-state solution would be Israel and Palestine (made up of Gaza and the West Bank). The single best explanation I’ve found to date is Wikipedia’s “Palestinian territories.”

  4. Thank you-thank you! I found your map while I was trying (unsuccessfully) to make my own. I live in Denver, so this is perfect for me! I also blog –
    Mine is based on my travels and is all about what we don’t know about Palestine and Israel. Thanks for your good work! I’ll be posting using your map.

    I’d also like to comment, in regard to the above conversations – although I reject all use of violence, I can understand the frustration of the people of Gaza. Hamas has refrained from rocket attacks since the last ceasefire two years ago and they have gained nothing. Israel still imposes the blockade on them – fishing, farm produce, building materials, even food is very limited (Israel was limiting food imports to 1200 calories/day per person). As long as Israel controls all their borders, including the sea, where they shoot at the fishermen, Gaza will never be able to thrive, or even survive.

    1. Hi, neighbor! The maps certainly show the size of things, don’t they? Feel free to use anything that would be useful to you.

      It’s sad the way Gaza is blockaded. I find it hard to believe Israelis care one iota whether it thrives or survives. They, or at least the Israeli government, seem determined to take over both Gaza and the West Bank and leave nothing for a Palestinian nation.

... and that's my two cents