Jerusalem, with the Temple Mount in the forefront
Jerusalem, with the Temple Mount in the forefront iStock

In advance of Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, next Sunday, the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research has published its annual report, the 36th of its kind, under the title, "Jerusalem in data, 2022," which presents a comprehensive picture of Israel's capital.

One of the most interesting findings of the report is that one in ten Israelis is a Jerusalemite. As such, the capital continues to retain its status as the largest city in the country by a significant margin. At the end of 2021, Jerusalem's population stood at 965,100 people, having grown by 1.5 percent from the previous year. However, the average growth rate across the country is somewhat higher, at 1.6 percent.

Furthermore, like most other large cities in Israel and across the developed world, Jerusalem has net negative migration, which in 2020 translated to a population decrease of 7,800 people. 38 percent of Jerusalemites who move to settle elsewhere don't go far, choosing to live in the region. And in 2021, the number of those leaving the city spiked, with a net negative migration of 10,900 people.

"The migration of Jerusalem residents to other communities not far away is characteristic of all large cities," says Yair Assaf-Shapiro, the Jerusalem Institute's head of statistics. "Tel Aviv experiences the same phenomenon, as do other major cities across the world. This is the natural development of the city, and that's why governments need to invest in infrastructure to enable people to continue to access the city efficiently, including public transportation, and also to create new employment opportunities and so forth."

Jerusalem also continues to be a very diverse city. In 2020, there were 570,100 Jews living in the capital, 61 percent of the city's population. Arabs constituted 39 percent of the city's population, with 353,800 Muslims and 12,900 Christians, for a total of 366,800. Also of note is the fact that the Jewish population of the capital has declined from being 74 percent of the total in 1967 to just 61 percent in 2020. In 1967 Arabs constituted just 26 percent of Jerusalem's population.

The analysis also examined the religious mix of the city. In 2021, there were 257,000 haredim living in Jerusalem, 45 percent of the Jewish population of the city (and 28 percent of the general population). Religious Jews constituted a further 23 percent (130,000 people) and those defining themselves as either traditional or secular numbered 166,000 people, or 29 percent of Jerusalem Jews. Just 3,500 Jerusalem residents identified as of no religion.

Despite the decrease in the relative size of the Jewish population to the Arab one, the Jewish population is still growing and in 2020 it was growing at a faster rate than the Arab population, with a larger gap between births and deaths (22.9 for Jews, 20.9 for Arabs). This is mainly due to an increasing birth rate in the haredi and religious sectors.

However, Jerusalem remains one of the country's poorest cities, with over half of its children living under the poverty line. In 2020, 38 percent of families, 43 percent of people, and 53 percent of children in the capital were defined as poor.

The completed report was presented to Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who said, "These data show that although everyone talks in scary terms of negative migration, the city of Jerusalem is still a strong, vibrant city; and although it is an ancient city, it is still a young city that is constantly renewing itself. On the other hand, some of the statistics here are more worrying, such as the poverty levels and the gaps between the various sectors, which appear to be worse than in other large cities. But Jerusalem is still a very strong city and there is no doubt that its very diversity ensures this, despite the challenges that this brings."

Minister for Housing, Construction, Jerusalem & Heritage Zeev Elkin commented, "We are establishing the city of Jerusalem as a city of growth, due also the large number of companies and workers who move there on a constant basis. The job of my ministry is to implement government decisions that work to strengthen the city, open up new avenues of employment, and generally improve the quality of life. Plans for the next five years have already been authorized with the aim of transforming Jerusalem into a biotech and start-up capital. We also have many other goals, but we also aim to achieve a blend of the ancient and the modern, the eternal city and the advanced city of the 21st century."

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion added, "Jerusalem is at a peak of change, with new residences being built all over the city to cater to current residents and new ones, and we also continue to attract businesses, especially in the hi-tech sector."

Dr. David Koren, director of the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, summarized the findings by stressing the "broad and in-depth picture of Jerusalem they provide. Here we have a central fund of information that will help the municipality and the national government to improve their decision-making processes, formulate effective policies for Jerusalem, and understand the various complexities that characterize the city, in order to improve the quality of life for all its residents."