Young, secular exodus spurring Jerusalem population loss

Reasons cited for leaving the capital included prohibitive housing costs, an increasingly intolerant religious presence, subpar municipal services, and relatively low wages.

February 12, 2017 18:46
1 minute read.
Jaffa Street in Jerusalem

People walk down Jaffa Street in Jerusalem on a Shabbat afternoon.. (photo credit: ONDREJ ŽVÁCEK/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)


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A 2016 Central Bureau of Statistics report found that Jerusalem continues to lead the country in reverse residential migration, with young secular families buoying the trend.

According to the report, while 10,351 religious residents moved into the capital last year, 17,091 less observant residents moved out, resulting in a net loss of 6,740 people.

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Ashdod and Haifa also reported losses of approximately 2,000 residents each.

Reasons cited for leaving the capital included prohibitive housing costs, an increasingly intolerant religious presence, subpar municipal services, and relatively low wages compared to Tel Aviv and other cities.

A small group of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox families also left, chiefly because of housing costs, which remain high due to a disproportionate number of so-called “ghost apartments,” inhabited by wealthy foreigners who tend to only visit during holidays, the report found.

Modi’in and Mevaseret Zion were the most popular communities for secular families who chose to stay near the capital.

Beit Shemesh, Beitar Illit and West Bank settlements were most popular for religious residents who left.


Cities with the highest growth rates included Petah Tikva, Kfar Saba, Hod Hasharon and Yavne.

In an effort to reverse the years-long trend of reverse migration, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat initiated the NIS 1.4 billion Jerusalem Gateway Project, which would create a sprawling business district at the city’s western entrance over the next several years.

Approved by the Construction Ministry in 2014, the district will include 24 buildings spread out over approximately 21.1 hectares near the central bus station, featuring 14 skyscrapers with at least 24 floors each, and nine more with 36 floors.

According to Barkat, the new business district – coupled with a high-speed rail from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, to be completed next year – will create 50,000 jobs.

Approximately half of the capital’s total population, including 82% of east Jerusalem residents, live below the poverty level, CBS and the National Insurance Institute found.

Comparatively, the poverty rate for the remainder of the country is 22%.

There are several factors for Jerusalem’s anemic economy, of which the primary one is high unemployment rates among the city’s ultra-Orthodox and Arab population, which constitute 30% and 36%, respectively, out of a population of 850,000.

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