Children bubbles Jerusalem
Children playing with bubbles on the Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Mall. Photo by Emil Salman
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Jerusalem is currently experiencing an economic boom, according to data released by the municipality and the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies yesterday in honor of Jerusalem Day, which began last night. But the city's long-standing problems - negative migration, poverty and a growing Haredi population, which historically adds to unemployment rolls - persist.

According to city hall, the number of people applying to open a business grew 30 percent last year, while the number of cultural events doubled and the number of tourists hit an all-time high. Some 2.8 million tourists visited the city last year, resulting in a 24 percent surge in overnight hotel stays.

"The city's residents sense the changes," said Mayor Nir Barkat. "Jerusalem is proving itself as a cultural capital, attracting young people and becoming relevant and connected to more and more communities in Israel and abroad."

Nevertheless, JIIS data showed that negative migration from the capital continued last year: Some 7,350 people (net ) left the city, half of them between the ages of 20 and 34. But about half of those who moved to the city last year were also in that age range.

The city's religious and Haredi population continued to grow, while its secular population continued to decline. In 2003-05, 23 percent of Jewish residents over age 20 defined themselves as secular, compared to 20 percent in 2007-09. During that same period, the proportion defining itself as Haredi rose from 26 to 29 percent.

The trend is particularly pronounced among the younger generation: Fully 62 percent of school children learn in Haredi schools, compared to only 38 percent in the state secular and state religious schools combined.

Jerusalem's employment rate is significantly lower than in other cities. Only 46 percent of people age 15 or older are in the labor force, compared to 57 percent for Israel as a whole. That is because Haredi men and Arab women both have low work force participation rates, and Jerusalem has large populations of both.

The city also boasts an exceptionally high birthrate. Among Jews, the rate was 4.1 children per woman in 2009, compared to just 2.8 for Israel as a whole. Among Arabs, the figure was 3.9. Compared to 1999, this represents an increase in the Jewish birthrate and a decline in the Arab one.

Jerusalem is Israel's largest city in terms of both area and population, with 789,000 residents.

The city's police department is planning to be out in force today to provide security for Jerusalem Day events. One of the biggest events will be a parade with flags and dancing staged by the religious Zionist community. This year, however, its route will be different: Because the municipality refused to halt the light rail for the day, the usual route down Jaffa Street is off limits.

Instead, therefore, the parade will go down Bar-Lev Street - not far from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which has been the scene of repeated clashes over the last two years due to Arab residents' opposition to Jews moving into the neighborhood. From Sheikh Jarrah, the parade will proceed to the Old City and the Western Wall.

Tens of thousands of teens, almost all from the religious Zionist community, are expected to participate.

"To my great regret, the religious Zionist community is the only one that celebrates Jerusalem Day in a significant way," said Deputy Mayor David Hadari, who is helping to organize the parade. "I'd be happy to see the entire Zionist public at these events."

The state ceremony to mark Jerusalem Day will take place at Ammunition Hill in the afternoon, while the Yakir Yerushalayim ("Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem" ) awards will be given out tonight.