Alia Tunisi, a school teacher, and one of her students at Jerusalem's Hand in Hand Arab-Jewish bilingual school..
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
The demographic growth of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem is more of a concern to world Jewry than the demographic growth of Arab residents in the city, according to a report released Sunday evening by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI).
The report, titled “Jerusalem and the Jewish People: Unity and Controversy,” is based on discussions from dozens of focus groups with Jews around the world in which more than 500 participants took part, most of them in Jewish community leadership roles, the policy planning think tank said.
Most of the participants as well as most Israelis, according to an additional survey conducted in Israel by the Institute, feel that Jerusalem is not developing “in the right direction.”
Jewish residents of the capital have the most positive view of the city, with 55% saying that is developing in the right direction, while only 41% of Jewish residents of other Israeli cities answered the same and a scant 29% of Diaspora Jews.
When asked the main reason for their negative view of Jerusalem’s perceived trajectory, 33% said it was due to the level of religious pluralism, 26% based on Jewish- Arab relations, 23% because of Jewish demographic trends and 18% for the economic situation.
Participants were also asked whether they agree with the statement: “The growth of the non-Jewish and ultra-Orthodox population is a positive development because it contributes to urban diversity.” Almost half, 49%, agreed with this statement regarding the growth of the non-Jewish population, but only 29% agreed when it came to the expansion of the ultra-Orthodox population.
Nevertheless, the study found a majority of world Jewry want Jerusalem to remain a Jewish city. Presented with the statement “I prefer that Jerusalem has a clear Jewish majority,” 32% somewhat agreed and 39% strongly agreed.
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“On the one hand they want it to be Jewish, but on other hand they are more worried by the presence of Haredim in Jerusalem,” JPPI senior fellow Shmuel Rosner told The Jerusalem Post
Leaders of Diaspora Jewry also said they believe Israel must consider their positions when shaping the political and cultural future of Jerusalem, the report said, though the numbers to illustrate this were not available in the partial report that was released. The full report is due to be released in the near future.
The study, titled “2017 Dialogue,” was held under the broader umbrella of the Institute’s Project on Pluralism and Democracy, supported by the William Davidson Foundation. The process of dialogue, which is a direct, unmediated study of attitudes that are highly relevant to the Jewish world, included 45 discussion groups in Jewish communities.
The dialogue took place from January through April 2017 in dozens of gatherings around the world.
Participants were asked to read a short background document and to participate in an event lasting 90 to 120 minutes.
Participants also filled out a detailed questionnaire, with the findings analyzed by the Institute’s experts.
Based on those findings, JPPI senior fellows Rosner and John Ruskay presented a series of recommendations to decision- makers in Israel and to the Jewish people.
These include: considering the influence of Jerusalem-based decisions on the connection of all Jews to the city; and governmental and non-governmental engagement with Haredi leadership in order to seek their assistance in making Jerusalem a place where all Jews can feel at home.
“Jewish leadership around the world must be more aware of and take into account the feelings of the Haredim. This important segment of the community cannot be expected to adapt itself to the rest of the community and will shape its agenda accordingly, without the parallel effort of the community to take into account the needs of the Haredi group,” Rosner and Ruskay said in their recommendations.
Avinoam Bar-Yosef, president of JPPI, called on the Israeli government to take the common concerns of Israeli and Diaspora Jewish leadership into account when formulating policy.
“First and foremost, the main concern of both Israeli and Diaspora Jews is that Jerusalem maintain a Jewish majority, which is currently threatened by the growth of the non-Jewish population. A second concern is the “Haredization” of the city, which imperils its original pluralistic character and its economic wellbeing,” said Bar-Yosef.
This is the fourth study its kind. The previous dialogues were: “The Jewish Dimension in an Era of Flexible Identity - The Attitudes of the Jews of the World, 2016,” Jewish Values and the Use of Force by Israel in Armed Conflict: World Jewry’s Attitudes, 2015,” and “Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State, 2014.”
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