The capital bounces back

Jerusalem breaks tourism record and loses fewer residents.

king david hotel 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
king david hotel 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Good news for the capital on the eve of the 41st Jerusalem Day: More tourists are coming to the city and fewer residents are leaving it, research shows. Jerusalem hotels recorded more then 3.5 million overnight stays in 2007, breaking the record high of 2000. Following a disastrous slide in 2001-2002, tourism in the city has completed a steady and thorough climb back to peak levels. "Jerusalem is the center of business, culture and academics in the State of Israel," Mayor Uri Lupolianski said Thursday. "The rising number of tourists and visitors is bringing success to businesses, restaurants and cultural centers, and creates new opportunities." Other statistics, though not entirely positive, are generally encouraging. The tourism industry's positive performance may have contributed to a slight decline in poverty figures for Jerusalem, although the number of poor families in the capital - some 41 percent - remains one-and-a-half times the national average. Migration out of the city, which has been a constant concern for the past 20 years, has slowed recently, though more people are still leaving than coming. The number of residents leaving Jerusalem in 2006 was some 6,300 more than the number moving to the city. Yair Assaf-Shapira, a researcher for the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, which released the statistics, noted that the overall migration trend is no longer deepening, but is steadying and may even be returning toward equilibrium. In addition, more of those who are moving out of Jerusalem are relocating to towns and settlements in the city's vicinity, reinforcing the metropolitan capital area. "The impact of migration is both on the positive and negative side," Assaf-Shapira said. "Those people who are leaving are not paying local taxes and their jobs may not be in the city. But the metropolitan area may be strengthened with localities such as Beit Shemesh and Givat Ze'ev, which have a center of life around Jerusalem." The JIIS, in its report to be released on Friday, noted that Jerusalem's population, buoyed by birth rates, grew by about 13,000 people in 2007 - to some 746,000 - marking a 1.8% increase. Two-thirds of the capital's residents are Jewish, and the remaining third are Arab. The population of Jerusalem has been rising continually, Assaf-Shapira noted, adding that the Arab population is projected to rise compared to the Jewish population. The number of births among Arab residents declined from 4.3 per 1,000 people in 2000 to 4.0 in 2006, and the number of births among Jewish residents rose from 3.7 in 2000 to 3.9 in 2006.