Some 300,000 Israelis left J'lem in last 15 years

Annual survey's findings represent stunning failure of municipality and gov't in stemming exodus of Jewish residents from capital.

jerusalem 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
jerusalem 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Nearly 300,000 Israelis have left Jerusalem over the last decade and a half, an annual survey released Thursday showed. The findings represent a stunning failure of Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and his two predecessors, Ehud Olmert and Teddy Kollek as well as past and present Israeli Governments to stem the ongoing exodus of Jewish residents from the capital who are moving to the suburbs and elsewhere for better quality of life, and make the city more attractive for others. 272,300 Jerusalem residents, mostly Jews, have left the city between 1990-2006, according to the 2006 Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem put out by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. The survey find that 17,300 Jews left Jerusalem in 2006, compared to 10,900 who moved to the city, leaving the overall annual migration level at 6,400, up from 5,800 the year before, and similar to numbers in recent years. About half of those who left the city moved to various Jerusalem suburbs, as well as nearby West Bank settlements, while the other half relocated to central Israel, the study finds. The statistics reflected an ongoing trend of Jewish migration from the city to the suburbs which began in the 1980's, and has continued unabated for the last quarter century, said senior institute researcher Dr. Maya Choshen. The primary reasons cited by people who have left the city in years past are better job opportunities and more affordable housing available outside the city. The number of predominantly Jewish residents who left the city in the last 16 years is equivalent to nearly 60 percent of the total Jewish population of the city today. Balanced out with people who came to the city over those years, the migration level stands at over 100,000, the statistical yearbook finds. The population of Jerusalem is 750,000, including nearly 500,000 Jews and more than 250,000 Arabs, with the ratio between the two populations remaining steady between 2004-2006 at 66 to 34 percent respectively. Choshen, who co-authored the annual survey, said the fact that the capital failed to attract more people than those that left over the last decade and half was equally if not more significant than the continuing exodus of residents. "The problem is that Jerusalem is not attractive enough for young people and the middle class," Choshen said. She added that the grandiose problem of making Jerusalem a desirable place to live could not be solved by the municipality alone, and needed to be resolved in tandem with the government. "The statistics unequivocally show that the government has not been successful in maintaining its policy on safeguarding the Jewish majority in the city," Choshen said. Since the city was reunited in 1967, when 74% of the city's population was Jewish, the Arab population has grown by 268% compared to 143% for Jews, the survey found. At the same time, the survey found that in 2006 some 2,500 new immigrants made the capital their home. The new immigrants who moved to Jerusalem, which represented 13 percent of the total number of immigrants to Israel the year before last, included 800 Americans, 570 French, and 340 from the fomer Soviet Union. In all, more than 60,000 immigrants who moved to Israel since 1990 have made Jerusalem their home, and now make up 13% of the city's Jewish population. The survey found that, for all its history, Jerusalem remains a very young city. The median age for Jerusalem residents at the end of 2006 was 23; among Jewish residents it was 25 and among the Arab population it was 19. A recent study carried out by prominent Hebrew University demographer Prof. Sergio Della Pergola predicts that if the situation - and Jerusalem's borders - remain unchanged, only 60 percent of Jerusalem's residents will be Jewish by 2020, with the remaining 40 percent Arab, while another survey found that the number of Jewish and Arabs living in the city will reach parity in a quarter century. A possible redrawing of the city's municipal borders in the coming years -- such as annexing the empty land between Jerusalem and the nearby West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim to the capital, and or ceding east Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians as part of a peace treaty - could be a major force to reverse such a trend, officials said.