In a recently released survey conducted for the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS) in early January 2006, 77 per cent of the adult Jewish population in Israel agreed with the statement that "The State of Israel's national resilience is linked to the resilience of its capital city." That, notes co-author Maya Choshen (together with Israel Kimhi and Yair Assaf-Shapira) is the good news. And now for the bad news. According to monitoring by the JIIS, "recent years have witnessed the intensification of processes which threaten to impair the city's resilience and there is a real reason to fear for Jerusalem's ability to weather the difficulties facing it." In other words, while the overwhelming majority (93%) of the Jewish population in Jerusalem and in Israel perceive Jerusalem to be an "important national and religious symbol for Jews here and around the world," in reality the city faces challenges that might be too difficult to resolve. The results of the survey are included in a position paper originally presented by the JIIS at the 2006 Herzliya Conference and recently released as a monograph entitled, "Jerusalem as a component of Israel's National Strength." The writers noted the fact that, for the first time, the Herzliya Conference had placed the issue of Jerusalem on the public agenda. Yet their paper points inevitably towards very discouraging conclusions. The researchers outline the negative processes and trends that have plagued the city over the past decade, including the ever-growing erosion of the Jewish majority of the city from 75% in 1967 down to a current level of 66%, with an expected drop to 58% in 2020. They predict that by 2030, Jerusalem will have an Arab majority. The study points to the puzzling fact that while respondents in Israel and abroad seem to perceive Jerusalem as the most important place in Israel, only a tiny minority of immigrants actually care to establish their homes here. In agreement with previous surveys, respondents cite the cost of housing, the lack of employment opportunities, and the unattractive educational levels as reasons. Over the past 20 years, the city has lost more than 100,000 Jewish residents. At least half of them didn't move far and exchanged the city's congested traffic and high arnona rates for more suburban and urban locales such as Mevaseret Zion and the surrounding moshavim. But according to Choshen, the "other half," who did move far away, are the young, educated and better-established residents, "who could have made a contribution to the city's future." According to Choshen, most of them left for Tel Aviv. By tracking the data, one can see the trends toward demographic change, the three researchers explain. They further point to other indications that should raise concern. In Jerusalem, the public services sector remains the largest employer, employing some 50% of the local salaried workers, most of them at low wage levels. Jerusalem also suffers from a high dependency ratio, that is, a small number of households support large numbers of people. Finally, Jerusalem residents' per-capita income is low, especially when compared with the other large cities in Israel, and the population's socio-economic status continues to deteriorate rapidly. "This economic resilience indicator refers to Jerusalem's entire population," Kimhi explains to In Jerusalem. "But if we add the demographic breakdown, which you must do in such a heterogenous city that includes secular, national religious, haredi and Palestinian residents, we can understand the decisive influence it will have on Jerusalem's future economic status." Adding to the gloom, the survey cites the scope and impact of terrorist activity, noting that Jerusalem remains the preferred target for Palestinian terrorists. And so, despite Jerusalem's historical uniqueness, its wealth of cultural resources and its numerous religious sites, tourist activity has not returned to its pre-2000 peak, before the outbreak of the second intifada. "Jerusalem's importance to the citizens of Israel is great, but it may be asked if this importance is actually reflected in national priorities," the researchers write in their position paper and add, "We of the JIIS fear for the city's future and believe that the Israeli government has to do more to strengthen Jerusalem. Talks have to be translated into action and budgets. We therefore feel the need to sound the alarm bell regarding the city's social, economic and geopolitical status and the gap that exists between the heavenly Jerusalem and the earthly, real-life city. "The Jerusalem Municipality will not be able to bear the burden alone: Only active and real involvement on the part of the Israeli government - in the form of action, not words -- will be capable of generating a transformation, and the sooner the better." The authors do not hide behind imprecise conclusions or vague recommendations. "Part of the political solution may lie in a change in the traditional political position regarding the city's future," they write. They further present data that indicate that a majority of the Israeli Jewish public is willing to relinquish control over certain parts of Jerusalem in order to preserve the city's clear Jewish majority and status as Israel's capital. According to the survey's results, only 3.2% of the Jewish population would be willing to make concessions over the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall and only 5.4% of them would be willing to do so over the Jewish Quarter alone. But an average of 54.5% (32% of the religious respondents and 62% of the secular respondents) would be willing to make concessions over Arab neighborhoods. However, the writers also note that almost 37% of the total population are not willing to make any concessions anywhere within the current borders of the city. For Jerusalem to succeed, the report concludes, it requires a reconsideration of the city's borders; self-management based on a functional division of the city into large quarters and decentralization from the municipality; a change in the government's attitude; development of peace industries; continued calm with regard to security; and a strategic plan that would integrate political thinking with economic and social vision. They note that this is a long, complicated and expensive list. And that the Herzliya Conference took place nearly a year ago and little has happened since.

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