The think tank helping to shape Jerusalem’s reality

The Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research (JIPR) is an independent think tank founded in 1978 by then-mayor Teddy Kollek.

THE JIPR, nestled in the heart of Rehavia, was founded by legendary mayor Teddy Kollek. (photo credit: HEN LEOPOLD)
THE JIPR, nestled in the heart of Rehavia, was founded by legendary mayor Teddy Kollek.
(photo credit: HEN LEOPOLD)
In a quiet street in the heart of Rehavia is an institution that monitors and studies the city’s multiple facets, with a mixture of strict academic discipline and a love for the city shared by all of its scholars.
The Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research (JIPR) is an independent think tank founded in 1978 by then-mayor Teddy Kollek, in collaboration with the Jerusalem Foundation and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The institute conducts policy studies on Israel with a special emphasis on Jerusalem. It conducts research on innovation and environmental policy, studying different population groups, their interactions and impact on the city’s economy, culture and daily life. It studies topics from transportation to housing, focusing on the needs of the different sectors – haredim, Arabs, new olim and veteran residents, religious, pluralist – scrutinizing every topic and submitting the information to those who run the city: the municipality and the government.
An independent and apolitical research institute dedicated to the city, the institute contributes to decision-making, policy and planning processes through interdisciplinary policy-oriented research and innovative recommendations and proposals.
Since its founding, the JIPR has issued more than 400 publications, as well as some 20 books and annual reports, including the Annual Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem, a report on urban and regional planning. It also organizes conferences and events, most of them open to the public. Through its outreach, the JIPR is actively involved in social change and evolution.
“We are engaged in a policy of change,” explains JIPR CEO Lior Schillat. “NGOs and associations promote the focus of the public on issues, eventually through protest. We study cases, do research and come with conclusions and recommendations. That’s our job. Our research is always aimed at a specific address – the government or the municipality, and yes, they do listen to us.
Jerusalem is a typical state capital, like Washington, DC, or Berlin. Unlike London or Paris, it is not an economic and finance center but more a government and services affairs. Hence, its economic fragility in some aspects – like tourism, which has been severely hit by the coronavirus restrictions– while [the] public sector continued on only slightly impacted, like education, health, municipal and ministries, where salaries weren’t harmed.”
OVER THE years, a series of studies and publications examining the situation and needs of several Arab neighborhoods have been launched for the policymakers at both Safra Square and the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage. In that regard, the recent decision to map and regulate the ownership of plots in the east side of the city is a key step taken by the ministry and the municipality that will have a significant impact on development and construction there.
“We have determined that the state misses out NIS 2 billion by not doing this mapping and registration of plots. Residents who want to build on a plot cannot obtain mortgages, since that nobody knows whose property it is, hence they will not pay taxes on the property, and so on,” Schillat says. “Now the ministries of Justice, Jerusalem and Treasury joint staff, have decided to allocate NIS 50 million in order to do that mapping and registration.” Schillat estimates that soon we will see the first results of the change.
One issue often mentioned in the surveys is the quality of life in the city. Michal Korach launched research on the “quality of life” here, which is one of the reasons residents leave the city or move in. The most important quality of life elements for the general Jewish population include a clean environment, efficient public transportation, quality education, playgrounds and well-maintained parks, community and belonging.
MICHAL KORACH hones in on quality of life. MICHAL KORACH hones in on quality of life.
For the ultra-Orthodox population, the most important quality of life elements are: efficient public transportation, clean environment, a well-maintained environment with playgrounds and quality education in structurally sound facilities, and diversity of religious facilities (synagogues, yeshivas and mikvaot).
As for the Arab population, the most important elements are identity, suitable physical infrastructures, good street lighting, efficient public transportation, clean environment and centers for cultural and leisure activities.
JERUSALEM, THE capital of Israel, a religious center for billions across the world, and Israel’s largest and most diverse city, is fertile ground for civil society activity. Dr. Amnon Ramon, a researcher focusing on the Arab sector, including the city's Christian communities, says that like the rest of the residents, the coronavirus has seriously impacted the Arabs economically.
DR. AMNON RAMON focuses on the Arab sector.DR. AMNON RAMON focuses on the Arab sector.
“Not too much in the construction sector, which employs a large part of the Arab residents, including workers from the PA, but in all the services linked with tourism,” Ramon says. While things have been improving in recent years [following the 2019 government decision to invest NIS 2.5 billion in infrastructure in the east side of the city], many basic aspects of daily life are still below par.
Ramon regards the flagship project promoted by the municipality to develop the hi-tech industry there – such as the “Silicone Wadi” project in the Wadi Joz neighborhood – as a positive move that will provide more attractive jobs for the younger generation, but points out that the plan to move more high school students to the Israeli matriculation system is not growing quickly enough.
“When they finish their studies, they study Hebrew and join the Israeli academic colleges and the university, but in high schools they are still far behind,” he says. We are still in the preliminary steps of that project (which may be joined by additional projects in other Arab neighborhoods), but there is tension among the parties regarding who will invest the money necessary to launch the project, and to what extent certain parties might prevent Arab residents from joining.
Public transportation is a major issue.
“There are still eight different bus companies serving the Arab neighborhoods, and so far, with major financial and personal interests involved, we don’t see when the goal to turn them into one local company will be reached,” Ramon says.
The institute has conducted several studies regarding the Christian communities in Jerusalem; Ramon says that their situation is stable.
“They are a small minority represented by about 15 different churches, but they are part of the Arab society,” he says. “There is sometimes some tension, but basically their status is good and stable. For years, they were immigrating out of the country to seek better life conditions abroad, but now the situation in almost every country is problematic, so they are staying here. They number about 14,000 persons and their conditions are reasonable.”