Figures released ahead of Jerusalem Day by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and the Central Bureau of Statistics show a continuing small increase in the number of students attending secular and national religious schools for the third straight year, following an earlier 15-year decline. Most of the increase is in religious schools, which overtook secular schools in the number of registered students two years ago.
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There are currently 11,900 students in religious schools and 11,300 in secular ones. These two sectors comprise only 39% of the total number of Jewish students in the city − the remaining 61% belong to the Haredi ultra-Orthodox school system.
There was also a sharp rise in the negative demographic balance, with 10,450 new residents arriving last year but 19,200 leaving, resulting in an out-migration of 8,750 people − the largest loss in 20 years.
The birth rate has nonetheless pushed up the total population of Jerusalem by 12,400, to a total of 815,300.
About half of those leaving are secular and national religious, not ultra-Orthodox. The most popular destinations for relocating residents are Beit Shemesh, Tel Aviv and Modi’in Ilit. CBS data shows that 24.6 percent of departing people go to secular destinations, whereas 24 percent move to ultra-Orthodox communities. Among newcomers to the city there is a preponderance of young people from the Greater Tel Aviv area and from cities close to Jerusalem.
The Palestinian population of the city are not citizens of Israel, but rather residents with rights similar to that of citizens. However they are barred from voting in national elections. A Palestinian from Jerusalem who lives abroad for seven years or more loses his residency status, which is why Palestinian Jerusalemites do not generally leave the city.
Leftist organizations continue to highlight the difficult situation that East Jerusalem neighborhoods find themselves in, due to discriminatory policies. According to the non-governmental organization Ir Amim, the Jerusalem municipality devotes only 16 percent of its budget to East Jerusalem, even though 40 percent of the city’s residents live there.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel says that 75 percent of East Jerusalem’s residents and 82 percent of its children live below the poverty line, as calculated in Israel. Despite this, resources invested in the wellbeing of Palestinian residents are significantly smaller than in West Jerusalem.
The municipality refutes these claims, claiming that these figures are distorted and great efforts are being made to close gaps between the two sections, adding that half a billion shekels have been invested in developing transportation and infrastructure in East Jerusalem. Some 400 million shekels were invested in education and tens of millions in building community centers, post offices and family baby clinics.
“Attempts to hide from the public such vast investments, including targeted investments made in East Jerusalem, are motivated by political considerations that have nothing to do with the truth,” responded municipal officials.