Ahead of Jerusalem Day, Reports Highlight Extent of City's Poverty

Almost three in four Palestinian children living in East Jerusalem are classified as poor and the city is still the poorest in Israel, figures released by a human rights group and the Central Bureau of Statistics show.

The figures were compiled, separately, ahead of Jerusalem Day - which begins tonight and marks 43 years since the establishment of Israeli control over East Jerusalem in 1967.

"The figures show Jerusalem continues to be the poorest city in Israel," said Israel Kimhi, of the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies, yesterday. "Efforts to turn this around have so far failed."

A report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel cites severe discrimination and neglect in East Jerusalem, which is home to more than 300,000 Palestinians.

In all, nearly two-thirds of Palestinian families live in poverty, compared to nearly one third of Jewish families, according to the report, titled "Human Rights in East Jerusalem Fact and Figures 2010."

Some 95,000 East Jerusalem minors (around 74 percent ) live below the poverty line, compared to about 45 percent of minors in Jewish neighborhoods, the ACRI report says.

As for the city in general, more people are moving away from it than to it, fewer people are joining the work force and the number of children in ultra-Orthodox schools is growing, CBS figures say.

Jerusalem is Israel's largest city, with 774,000 residents - roughly 10 percent of Israel's population, the CBS report says. The residents are 63 percent Jews, 34 percent Muslims, 2 percent Christians and 1 percent are not classified by religion in the Interior Ministry.

Last year Jerusalem's population increased by some 14,000, mainly due to the city's high natural growth rate. However, the city's population diminished by 7,100 people during 2009, compared to 4,900 in 2008.

In 2008 the fertility rate of Arab and Jewish women became equal for the first time and was four children, compared to the national three-child average, according to the CBS.

Jerusalem is one of the few cities in the world in which women are more likely to work than men: Fifty percent of women are in the work force compared to 46 percent of men. In the rest of the country 57 percent of women work, compared to 62 percent of men.

The majority of Jerusalem's Jewish residents (64 percent ) believe relations between religious and secular people are not good, compared to 57 percent in the rest of Israel; 86 percent of Jerusalem's secular residents share this view compared to 49 percent of religious Jerusalemites.

The students who matriculated in Jerusalem in 2008 made up only 33 percent of the city's 12th graders, due to the large number of students in ultra-Orthodox schools, whose students do not take matriculation exams.

Of those who did take the exams, 64 percent passed, a little less than the 66 percent national average.

Municipal services worse in East

Municipal services are worse in East Jerusalem than in the West, according to the ACRI report. More than half of East Jerusalem's Palestinian residents have no suitable or legal connection to the water grid. The group also reported a shortage of 1,000 classrooms and noted that while West Jerusalem had 42 post offices, East Jerusalem had eight.

Israeli authorities demolished 80 Palestinian homes in 2009, leaving 300 people homeless, the report said. The houses were built without legal permits, but Palestinian residents complain these are rarely given.

"Unfortunately, despite the headlines East Jerusalem has been making this past year, the harsh reality of everyday life here remains unknown, ignored by both the authorities and the public," ACRI attorney Tali Nir said.

The Jerusalem Municipality said in response it was aware of the gaps between East and West Jerusalem and was taking action to reduce them.

It said it was spending more money on education in East Jerusalem than in the West and that sanitation had improved since Mayor Nir Barkat took office more than a year ago. It added it was promoting housing projects for the Arab community in the city.

Regarding the CBS figures, the Jerusalem municipality said "since taking office Mayor Barkat has made significant long term reforms in a bid to reduce the negative migration from Jerusalem and strengthen the Zionist, young productive population in the city."