Plan to improve Jerusalem aims to attract non-Orthodox
Unless drastic change occurs, Jewish participation in city's labor force will drop to 43% in 2020.
The main recommendation of a program to rehabilitate Jerusalem is to increase the number of educated and employed Jewish residents in the capital by 100,000 by the year 2020. The program's planning stages are nearing completion. The plan will also recommend that the resources necessary to accomplish this goal be diverted from those provided to the ultra-Orthodox community.
The plan, known as Vision for Jerusalem, is being formulated by a large group of experts and public figures. It is sponsored by the Jerusalem Foundation and the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies.
Vision for Jerusalem will be presented as a rescue mission for the city at the United Jewish Communities General Assembly, which will convene in Jerusalem in two months.
The plan is based on the forecast that unless the capital's demographics undergo a drastic change, in 12 years the ultra-Orthodox population will constitute some 44 percent of Jerusalem's Jewish population (today it stands at approximately one-third). As a result, the rate of the Jewish population's participation in the city's labor force is expected to decline to only 43.3 percent. This trend has been on the rise in recent years, and has meant an increasing burden on the ever-diminishing working sector of the city's population to fund services for the entire population. As a result, economically better-off residents have been leaving the capital, moving elsewhere.
The group of experts, headed by the economist Professor Gur Ofer, recommends making Jerusalem more attractive to moderate Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews and encouraging these sectors by providing tax breaks and benefits. These incentives would not be made available to the entire population, only those in the labor force, which means they would not be extended to the ultra-Orthodox.
The program proposes basing the capital's development on a massive expansion of higher education in the city by significantly increasing the activities of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center, hi-tech industry and concomitant services.
The planners believe the program could increase the city's workforce by about 70,000 by 2020. To meet the needs of the target population, the plan proposes the construction of approximately 25,000 apartments within and near the present city limits. It also proposes renewing the city center and improving access to it, raising the level of education and upgrading Jerusalem's cultural offerings.
The plan recommends that the business sector fund the project together with the government and Diaspora Jewry, rather than relying on the municipality. Its implementation would also not be left to the city, but relegated to a special authority.