For J'lem's mixed Jewish areas, cooperation may be the thing
One of the most loaded questions about Jerusalem's future revolves around the exodus of the secular and Modern Orthodox communities from the city's neighborhoods.
In recent years, ultra-Orthodox communities gained control over a number of neighborhoods in the capital that were once bastions of the secular or Modern Orthodox.
Since the construction of the separation fence, we have also seen Arab families move into Jewish neighborhoods, particularly in the northern parts of the city where rents are relatively low.
A new study by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies offers a glimpse into the future of Jerusalem neighborhoods. According to its authors, most people in the capital are not Zionists, being either Arab or ultra-Orthodox. Furthermore, for the first time, there are signs that the city's secular middle class is moving to the suburbs.
The study points out that the rapid growth of the Haredi population is pushing the ultra-Orthodox communities into secular neighborhoods of the city.
The study, funded by the Jerusalem Association of Community Centers, seeks to understand if there is a need to alter the character of the community administrations, dispersed throughout the city, due to the expected demographic changes in these communities over the next decade or so.
The community administrations are a unique Jerusalem initiative to allow local people to manage their own affairs, and have been in operation for the past 14 years.
"The administrations were meant to serve as a tool in the hands of the residents so that they can have a real influence on all aspects of life inside the neighborhood, and on citywide issues, in social as well as urban-economic issues," said Zvika Chernikhovsky, director of the Jerusalem Association of Community Centers.
The report's authors recommend that the city's community administrations be rearranged, especially in neighborhoods where the ultra-Orthodox have settled in recent years.
For example, it is recommended that the community administration in Romema, where the ultra-Orthodox are now the majority, be unified with Givat Shaul nearby.
The authors, Israel Kimche and Maya Hushan, believe that only through a parallel administrative structure, Haredi and secular, will it be possible to prevent the massive exodus of secular and Modern Orthodox from the city's neighborhoods.
The report warns that the rapid growth of the Haredi population in the city may result in tensions with the secular communities in Jerusalem.
"The more the residents are given the opportunity to affect the events in their neighborhoods, the more they are satisfied and willing to work in favor of the community."
However, the city's Association of Community Centers regards the Haredi and Arab communities as insular and not tolerant of other communities. Secular and Modern Orthodox communities, on the other hand, are considered to be residents who are capable of benefiting together from urban and neighborhood-based services.
If the municipality will not allow the operation of two administrations in the same neighborhood, the study warns that the position of the ultra-Orthodox will become more dominant in mixed neighborhoods.
"In certain neighborhoods, if the municipality declares that the administration will shift from being secular to Haredi, the position of the ultra-Orthodox will become more dominant and the secular residents will simply leave," said a source involved in the community administrations project.
"The problem is that the Haredi leadership is interested in precisely this type of exodus: The municipality is expected to give in to Haredi pressure and argue there is no justification for holding parallel administrations in the same neighborhood."