With security issue taking a back seat for now in Jerusalem, the authorities of Israel’s political capital are facing new brand challenges fifty years since the city’s reunification.
Amid celebrations marking the 50-year reunification anniversary in early November, preserving the majority of the Jewish population of the city seems to be high on the authorities’ agenda, as they fear the Jews will become a minority in Jerusalem around mid-century.
Zeev Elkin, Minister of Jerusalem and Heritage Affairs and also Minister of Environmental Protection shared the latest updates on the ratio of Jews and non-Jews with a delegation of Romanian journalists visiting the city early this month.
According to the statistics provided by minister Zeev Elkin, there is a little more 60% Jewish population in Jerusalem and less than 40% of non-Jewish community. The ratio is considered concerning for the Jerusalem authorities, as the number was different in the past, it was a 75%-25% ration after the Six-Day war back in 1967.
“Of course, this became an issue of strategic policy for the Government because the Jewish state must keep in the Jewish majority,” minister Elkin told us.
In his view, one of the ministry’s biggest challenges is also to bring the Arabic population of the city to the welfare level of the Jewish population.
“Jerusalem had special celebrations of the reunification and on the last day the most important decision of the Government was to Ok financial support for the Arabic quarters of Jerusalem, in the field of the environment protection,” he stated, arguing that amid concerns on the Jewish population’s losing its majority in Jerusalem the most important cause of it is not the natural demographical process, but the illegal immigration to two quarters of the city.
“The issue of the wall security is passing the territory of Jerusalem municipality and there are two big Arabic quarters of Jerusalem that are outside our authority. In these two quarters we have 50,000 Jerusalem Arabs and 100, 000 Palestinians who came here without any kind of permission. The result is that we have 150,000 people overall, because they are living together, marry each other, by the law it is enough for one parent to be a Jerusalem-based Arab so that the entire family should receive the status of permanent residence. It is a big challenge for us because tomorrow there could be 200,000 or 300,000, half of million, and we need to solve this problem,” the minister pointed out, adding the quarters are outside the wall and are not under the Jerusalem municipality’s authority, a kind of “no man’s land”.
The minister said that a solution is to change the city’s municipal borders and to establish two Arabic municipality councils that should be part of the Israel sovereign territory, with a bill on the Knesset’s agenda in this respect. These Arabic councils are expected to also tackle the illegal immigration issue in these quarters.
As far as the security in Jerusalem is concerned, minister Zeev Elkin says the situation in the city is Ok now, “safer than in many European big cities”.
However, he underlined that there is still a problem prompted by the strange historical situation of the city, referring to the educational system in Jerusalem.
“The educational system in Jerusalem is Palestinian although is supported by the Israel government budget. Why? Because historically after the Six-Day war the population preferred to keep the Jordanian educational system as they were used to go to Jordanian schools, and have a Jordanian certificate. After the signing of the post war agreement, the Palestinian educational system replaced the Jordanian one and we decided not to intervene in that, but it was a big mistake. Because now you can see the generations in the past 20 years have been educated in the sense of hate against the state of Israel. Because of this conflict there are a lot of anti-Israeli content in the Palestinian educational system,” the minister explained, adding it came to a paradox situation that the Israeli gov’t is sponsoring an educational system that promotes anti-Israeli messages as well.
The minister argued it would be better for the Arabic population to learn after the Israeli curriculum because “they would have the possibility of continuing school at Israeli universities which enable them more work possibilities.”
According to the minister of Jerusalem, many Arabs are studying in Jerusalem but most of them are from the north not from Jerusalem. “It’s ridiculous, because we are interested that the Arab population from here to continue studies at the city’s universities. We try to solve the problem, but it’s not easy,” he concluded.