Western Wall in Jerusalem (illustration)
Western Wall in Jerusalem (illustration)Kobi Gideon/Flash 90

Figures released on Tuesday show a troubling trend, revealing that Israelis - and particularly young Israelis - have been abandoning the capital city of Jerusalem since well before the current terror wave, indicating the housing crisis may be to blame.

The Central Bureau of Statistics figures published by Yedioth Aharonoth on Tuesday show that in 2014 Jerusalem led the country in negative migration - a phenomenon in which the number of residents leaving is greater than the number of incoming residents.

The 2014 figures are from well before the beginning of the Arab terror wave that began last September, which has largely centered on the capital city in addition to Judea and Samaria. On the other hand they also come before an increased wave of immigration by Jews from France, which while focused on Netanya and other cities has also seen an increase in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem in 2014 recorded a staggering loss of 6,740 residents. While 10,351 new residents moved to the city, a full 17,091 residents left.

In a troubling caveat, most of those leaving were young, with 6,421 of them aged between 15-29. Only 4,393 of the new incoming residents were in that young age range, while 2,917 of the new residents were aged 30-64.

This feature of young Israelis leaving Jerusalem may indicate the housing crisis has been a key factor, as young couples simply cannot afford the steep costs of the capital, where a construction freeze has limited building in neighborhoods over the 1949 Armistice lines and consequently ratcheted up prices.

Recently at the municipal level there have been efforts to develop those parts of the city over the "Green Line" and strengthen the Jewish presence, and on Monday signs of a long awaited drop in housing prices were reported by the Bank of Israel, but it remains to be seen if the housing crisis in Jerusalem will be mitigated as construction remains stagnant in much of the city.

It is worth noting that regarding population, Jerusalem has a large religious and haredi community, which in general has a higher birth rate meaning the figures on migration do not necessarily mean the Jewish population in the city is dropping. However, the trend could eventually have that effect if the capital continues to fail in attracting young people.

Where is there positive migration?

While Jerusalem may have led the way in negative migration in 2014, it was far from the only one, as nearly every large city recorded a high number of residents leaving as compared to new incoming residents.

In Tel Aviv a loss of 930 residents was recorded, as 21,449 left and 20,519 entered the coastal city. In contrast to Jerusalem, most incoming residents were young, with 9,368 of them aged between 15-29. Most outgoing residents were older, as 11,387 of those leaving were aged 30-64.

The northern coastal city of Haifa also saw a negative migration of 1,147 residents, with 7,708 moving to the city even as 8,855 left.

Coming in second largest in terms of negative migration after Jerusalem was the southern coastal city of Ashdod, where the heavy rocket fire from Gaza terrorists in Operation Protective Edge during the summer of 2014 may possibly have constituted a factor.

The city lost 2,280 residents, as only 3,627 new residents came in and 5,907 moved out.

On the flip side, several cities managed to show a positive number in terms of migration, and leading the pack was Petah Tikva with a gain of 3,009 residents. While 6,086 left the city, 9,095 residents moved in.

Netanya also showed a positive migration of 684, as 4,985 left as opposed to 5,669 who moved to the coastal city. Ashkelon also showed positive migration with an increase of 1,537 residents, as did Rehovot with 1,475 more residents coming in than those leaving.

The report noted that figures from recent years have generally shown negative migration from large cities, and an increase in population recorded in more rural towns.