Report: 36% of families in Jerusalem are poor

Capital must tackle rising poverty even without gov't help, report says.

Jerusalem is the poorest of Israel's large cities and the municipality must tackle its growing rate of poverty, according to a report to be published Thursday by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, a nonprofit policy research center. Based on data collected from Jerusalem's social welfare services and the National Insurance Institute, researchers Dr. John Gal, a senior lecturer from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's School of Social Work and Social Welfare, and Dr. Idit Weiss, a senior lecturer at Tel Aviv University's School of Social Work, found that one-third of the capital's families, or 36 percent, live under the poverty line, compared to 20.6% in the rest of the country. Jerusalem's problems are exacerbated by the dominance of two distinct populations within its limits - haredi community and the Palestinian Arabs - who have low participation in the labor market or take home low wages but maintain large households, Gal told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday. "Poverty is not the sole responsibility of the local authorities," he noted. "However, even with the national government and nonprofit organizations dealing with the poverty issue, there is still a role for the local authorities to fill." The report's recommendations include a call for the Jerusalem Municipality to establish a central body responsible for addressing the problem of poverty and encouraging people to join the workforce. "[The local government] should ensure that people who are eligible for their benefits are really claiming them," said Gal. "It must create jobs or train people to enter the labor market. It also needs a greater role in dealing directly with people's acute needs." "Diverse strategies have been implemented in other places around the world," he continued, adding that in compiling the 72-page document, the two researchers spent time analyzing anti-poverty strategies implemented in other cities around the globe. For example, said Gal, local governments in Ireland run a Combat Poverty Agency. "Jerusalem can learn from these experiments and tackle the problem on a local level." Gal added that he was hopeful that the Jerusalem Municipality would take up the report's recommendations once it is officially published on Thursday. "Social services have started to make some changes, but tackling poverty has not yet been identified as a major goal," he said. "It must first be identified and then an infrastructure to deal with it must be created within the municipality."