Mount of Olives Jerusalem skyline panorama 390 R.
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
Jerusalem may grow to one million residents by the end of 2012 and could have an
Arab majority in a decade or two, according to statistics from the Interior
Ministry made available to The Jerusalem Post.
The list of registered
residents puts the number of Jerusalemites at 933,113 on December 31, 2011, an
increase of approximately 80,000 residents from a year earlier. If the
population continues to rise at the same rate, the country’s largest city, and
its poorest large city, will have more than one million people by the end of
In addition, the Interior Ministry statistics show that the Arab
population is increasing dramatically: While Arabs today make up 37.3 percent of
Jerusalemites, they account for 42% of those under 15.
Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio at the municipality, said the numbers pointed to the fact that the Arab sector was
growing so quickly that Jerusalem could lose its Jewish majority in a decade or
“Personally, I have no problem with an Arab mayor, but the people
who are so worried about the ‘Jewishness’ of Jerusalem need to understand that
if the city isn’t divided quickly, we’ll have an Arab mayor,” Margalit said.
“It’s preferable that they understand this as soon as possible, because the
demographic clock doesn’t stop, ever.”
The figures provided in the
Interior Ministry’s annual report are much higher than the numbers from the
census data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, which puts the population of
Jerusalem at 788,152.
Part of the reason for the gap is the ministry’s
list includes all people who have registered their address in Jerusalem,
including part-time foreign residents, a ministry spokeswoman said.
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CBS data is considered more accurate, and both the city and the government use
its numbers for official population data. But Margalit said the CBS
numbers underestimates the actual population, so that the government grants
given to the city on a per resident basis are lower than they should be. The
Interior Ministry numbers are an important warning to the city that is growing
too fast for infrastructure to keep pace, he said.
“It scares me because
I’m not sure that we’re able to administrate a city of a million residents,”
Margalit said. “We don’t have the tools and we don’t have the money. The fact is
that most of the residents of Jerusalem are poor. To administrate a city of a
million people when most are poor means you need a lot of assistance from the
government. I’m not sure the government is interested in giving the city the
assistance that it needs, because it has not done so far.”
receive a special grant from the government under the “Jerusalem Rule,” which
this year amounts to NIS 210 million.
Deputy Mayor David Hadari (National
Union), who holds the economic portfolio at city hall, researched how much money
the capital needs in an annual grant from the state to “get Jerusalem back on
its feet.” He put the figure at NIS 1 billion, but acknowledged that getting
that much would be highly unlikely.
While he dismissed the Interior
Ministry population figures as inaccurately high, Hadari stressed that
additional government support is critical. “The state needs to put its hand in
its pocket and give us money,” he said.
He said that the government
needed to take “emergency action” to help the city become more attractive to new
immigrants, workers and people who serve in the army, to bring more residents
and stave off an Arab majority.
“We need an emergency national plan so
that Jerusalem stays united and majority Jewish,” Hadari said.
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