Mayor Nir Barkat.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat recently launched a campaign to increase government investment in the capital. Indeed, Jerusalem is one of the poorest cities in Israel. Just over a year ago, it fell from the fourth socioeconomic cluster to the third, along with Jaljulya, Kafr Kassem and Netivot, communities where neglect is high and infrastructure is poor – not the expected company for the capital and the largest city in Israel.
There are two large and poor populations here: the ultra-Orthodox, and the Arab residents of east Jerusalem. These groups have joined the labor market in recent years in significant numbers, largely as a result of investments in professional training and services which assist entry into the workforce. But that positive process also amplified a problem: Jerusalem’s chronic shortage of workplaces that provide professional opportunities for people in those communities to move up the socioeconomic ladder and achieve some measure of employment security.
Many campaigns to bring government ministries to the capital have been promoted over the years, including a call to transfer all governmental institutions to Jerusalem. That would benefit the city, but only provide a partial solution to the employment needs of its residents. To do that requires a few more steps.
A decision to keep heavy industry out of the holy city – made during the British Mandate period – has severely limited the number of quality jobs for those here who lack a high level of education. The solution is a major expansion of industrial zones in Jerusalem and a significant easing of restriction on heavy industry, including: expansion of the industrial zone in Talpiot southward toward Gilo and northward to Givat Hamatos; implementation of the plan for construction of an industrial zone in the E1 area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim; and expansion of the Atarot industrial zone.
THESE ARE areas in which the government has tried to build for years and failed due to international pressure. Instead of adding more residential buildings, it would be best to turn these areas into industrial zones. They could be defined as “Israeli-Palestinian” zones because many of the potential employees would come from among the residents of east Jerusalem.
Such employment growth in Jerusalem could lead to training more professional jobs for those without higher education. The industrial zones would significantly bolster municipal tax revenues, and each new factory would increase the range of available services in the city, both private and public.
Next, public transportation must be improved to connect the main employment areas of Talpiot, Har Hotzvim and Atarot with the city’s residential areas, so that all potential employees can reach them. Today, for example, Har Hotzvim – the “hi-tech industrial park” of Jerusalem – is largely accessible only to those who own private cars. That needs to change.
Another important step is to invest more in tourism. Jerusalem’s historical and religious importance exceeds that of most European capitals. Despite the fear of terrorism, this is a very safe city – safer than most large cities in Europe and the United States. Your chance of getting stabbed is greater in Portland, Oregon, than it is in Jerusalem.
And must we mention the need to clean the city? Few things could possibly discourage tourism and tarnish Jerusalem’s image more than heaps of stinking garbage at the entrances to the shuk at Mahaneh Yehuda and other world-famous attractions.
All these steps would greatly help to promote the city as a livable city and tourist destination to rival the capitals of Europe.
These measures would improve the economic status of Jerusalem and the lives of its residents. They require state investment, instead of a stingy campaigns. Let’s change Jerusalem from being a place where beggars must crowd the doorways in order to survive. Create wealth for the city and its residents, and Jerusalem will no longer need to depend on government for its survival.
The writer is an organizational consultant and employment expert who lives in Jerusalem.