Monday, September 8, 2008

Jerusalem become Chareidi?/ Demographics

Haaretz reports:
As an old-time Jerusalemite, city council member Saar Netanel (Meretz) remembers when the city's northern areas, Ramat Eshkol and Maalot Dafna, were populated by "bohemians" - television people, writers such as Meir Shalev and Amos Oz, the newscaster David Witztum, Knesset members, judges - in short, the stars of the 1970s and '80s. "Now all that is mere romantic memories," he says.

They say Jerusalem is turning ultra-Orthodox - that the city is being "Haredized." Supporters of this theory point out that evidence of this process can be found in the rising strength of the ultra-Orthodox sector in the local government institutions, mainly since Uri Lupolianski took over as mayor of Jerusalem in 2003. People talk about the "invasion" of the ultra-Orthodox into neighborhoods that had been markedly secular in character until then.

But is there any concrete evidence that Jerusalem's real estate market is becoming Haredized, or is the phenomenon limited to certain areas? The answer turns out to be complicated. There is evidence of a moderate increase in demand by ultra-Orthodox families throughout the city, and a significant increase in demand by Haredi families in certain quarters of the capital.

The real figures may come as a surprise. Many Jerusalem neighborhoods are indeed increasingly characterized by an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle. But a study of the demographic changes in the city shows that, in relation to Jerusalem's entire Jewish population, the proportion of ultra-Orthodox has increased quite modestly in recent years.

Jerusalem today has 740,000 residents, 480,000 of whom are Jewish. Dr. Maya Choshen of The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies says that according to the institute's estimates, in 1995 the ultra-Orthodox constituted 29% of the city's Jewish population while in 2000, the figure was 30%. Today it's 32%, or some 196,000 people.

These figures illustrate that the increase of Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox population over the last 13 years was modest. By 2020, the proportion of Haredim out of the city's total Jewish population isn't likely to exceed 35%. [...]

The figures also belie another myth: that the secular are abandoning Jerusalem in droves, leaving the capital to the religious community. Yet the data shows that no small proportion of the people leaving Jerusalem are in fact Haredi.

The Haredim truly do face difficulties in the city. There's no future for them there, explains David Silbershlag, an ultra-Orthodox publicist and journalist. "They talk about negative immigration of the secular but everybody forgets that immigration has been negative among the ultra-Orthodox, too. A lot of them have moved to the satellite towns [around Jerusalem] such as Modi'in Illit, Beitan Illit, Elad and Beit Shemesh," Silbershlag says.

And because there aren't enough housing projects being built for the ultra-Orthodox community, some are even moving back to Tel Aviv. They're storming the Hadar neighborhood in Haifa, they're moving to Lod and will soon be moving to Ramle, too, Silbershlag adds.

The bottom line is that there is a demand for housing by the ultra-Orthodox throughout Jerusalem, and real growth in certain areas. [...]

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