Is Jerusalem having fun yet?

If the vast majority of residents are happy here, why do so many leave the city?

Lady in park 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Lady in park 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Jerusalem marked its 43rd anniversary this week. For a city estimated to be at least 3015 years old, these “slightly” different figures might sound strange; but on the other hand, what’s a few thousand years here and there as long as we are assured that we’re happy?
Yes, happy. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics 90 percent of the secular population and 97% of haredim claim to be happy. And guess who else is happy here? The Arab residents. Statistically, 83% of them – 1% more than last year – are happy.
While the local, national and foreign press are busy reporting a barrage of bad news and horrifying reports – poverty, threats of war, delinquency, sex crimes and corruption – it turns out that we’re not feeling so bad. Whether it is because none of us ever bothers to read these depressing reports or because there’s a secret to life out here, the CBS is adamant about its findings: The residents of Jerusalem are happy, they like their lives here and they even think their lives have improved since last year.
But a few things remain puzzling. Ninety percent of the secular residents are happy – those same secular residents who do not miss an opportunity to declare how fed up they are with the city – and yet many plan to leave it (19,900 Jerusalemites left the city last year). And 89% of the young generation, aged 20 years and under are reported to be happy – the same youth who are considered the main reason behind their parents’ departure from here because they can’t really live a good life in Jerusalem.
Forty-two percent of the city’s residents are also claimed to be satisfied with the level of cleanliness in the capital’s streets – the same streets that are usually depicted as the closest thing we have to looking like a Third World nation.
And as if these figures were not enough to drive us completely mad, here is another one: 97% of the haredim living here are happy to do so. This writer can already anticipate readers’ reactions: “Well, of course haredim are happy to live here. Haven’t they made our lives miserable with their demonstrations, bins set on fire and segregated buses and all accesses to public venues? Of course! But besides that, they did lose the city to a secular mayor, they did have to watch quite a few of their leaders dragged off to court on suspicion of corruption, and they even lost their case to the American vice president, who took the construction projects in one of their neighborhoods (Ramat Shlomo) as a personal insult.
And we haven’t mentioned anything about the Arab residents’ happiness.Could it be that, after all, they do feel some affection toward theJewish residents in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan? Could it be that all theugly stories we have been told about a dangerous antagonism betweenJews and Arabs in neighborhoods like French Hill, Pisgat Ze’ev andNeveh Ya’acov were mere lies and propaganda? Otherwise, how else can weexplain that the CBS has found that 83% of the Arab residents are happywith their life in Jerusalem?
If this is the statistical reality, then who are the masses that aredissatisfied, suffering and even hate this city and their life here?Who represents the ever-growing numbers of residents who pack up theirhomes and take the high road to the center of the country?
So are we happy here or not?