Palestinian youth 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Last month, a Home Front Command exercise was carried out in Israel. The
emergency systems were tested for their response to various scenarios in case
war breaks out. That same week, someone jokingly disseminated a message on the
Internet regarding an emergency exercise that would be carried out to test
responses for when peace breaks out. In this imaginary exercise, calming sirens
would be sounded and the general public would be required to respond to the
cheerful scenarios that may unfold in this new and unfamiliar
In Jerusalem, the idea of preparing for peace should not be a
topic of jokes. We are so preoccupied with the struggle over what the city would
look like following a permanent status agreement that we are ignoring the fact
that present-day Jerusalem is declining before our eyes, becoming a city in
which life would be difficult even when peace finally arrives.
Jerusalem, Palestinian children suffer from a severely underfunded
education system. As a result, most will not find employment that can
kind of social mobility.
Health issues – such as development checkups –
are often neglected, and health problems that should be addressed in
will become a future economic and social burden, even in times of
Chaos in the material aspects of life is sorely evident in east
Jerusalem, where things like dense construction around roads which
future expansion and collapsing sewage systems are creating an
reality on the ground. The poverty and neglect in east Jerusalem will
cause hardship for the Palestinians living there but will also affect
in west Jerusalem whether the city remains united or divided, because if
city remains united, the need to rectify these problems would affect the
for the western neighborhoods; if it is divided, poverty and neglect in
would quickly become fertile ground for crime and terror against the
Jews in the
west of the city.
In west Jerusalem, the nonharedi Jewish population is
dwindling. The city does not attract an economically strong population
people who are not haredim, as there a few job opportunities. It remains
attractive to the haredim for religious reasons, but they are
The deterioration of west Jerusalem is bad news for everyone: A
is home to large populations that are economically weak will be a
for all those still left in it.
DESPITE ALL these threats to the future
of the city, too often Jerusalem’s municipal decision-making process is
by considerations that contradict local interests and cater to global
One example is Jewish construction beyond the Green Line. The
Ramat Shlomo in north Jerusalem and in Gilo in the south made headlines
the world. Yet, anyone who has taken part in Israeli- Palestinian
on Jerusalem knows that in any reasonable scenario, these neighborhoods
remain on the Israeli side. Moreover the construction in these
of high importance to the Jewish sector in the city, since construction
haredim in the north and for non- Orthodox in the south decreases the
the haredi population to move into the secular neighborhoods in southern
Reducing this pressure would strengthen west Jerusalem and
this in turn, would benefit the residents in the east. Whether Jerusalem
united or divided, economic and employment cooperation between the two
the city keeps them intertwined and interdependent.
However, as Israel
refuses to differentiate between legitimizing the building in Gilo and
legitimizing the settling in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhoods,
Palestinians and the rest of the world do not make this distinction
world hears about Jews who enter homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood
its Palestinian inhabitants are evicted. The result: worldwide political
pressure to stop the construction in Gilo and Ramat Shlomo, the same
construction that can contribute to the prosperity of the city.
in response, toughens its stance on Palestinian construction in Silwan.
brings only harm to all the residents of Jerusalem Almost 800,000 people
Jerusalem, from a variety of religions, nationalities, religious
ethnic groups. When peace comes this diversity can turn into a wonderful
resource for anyone who is interested in visiting or living in Jerusalem
only we could save the city from its current decline.
For this to happen
the decision-making process on the municipal level must shift to a
professionalism dedicated to improving services for all the residents of
city, one that sets aside global considerations. A greater focus on
at the municipal level will make Jerusalem friendlier to its
paradoxically, focusing on its own population’s needs can help turn
even in the eyes of the world, from a political burden into a universal
resource.The writer is the director of the Jerusalem Intercultural
Center and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is published in conjunction with the Common Ground News Service and forms part of a special series on Jerusalem.