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The Struggle for Hegemony in Jerusalem: Secular and Ultra-Orthodox Urban Politics

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The Struggle for Hegemony in Jerusalem: Secular and Ultra-Orthodox Urban Politics

By Shlomo Hasson, The Floersheimer Institute For Policy Studies (2001) Jerusalem

The purpose of this book is to describe the process of this political change as well as its consequence: a deficit in urban democracy.

The 1993 elections and all the more so the 1998 elections created a real local democratic deficit.

Local government in Jerusalem discriminates against the non-Haredi public in particular areas such as allocation of land and reductions in local taxation. It fails to maintain genuine dialogue with the representatives of local organizations, is deficient in reporting to the public, and fails to adequately fulfill the needs of non-Haredi groups.

There is a remarkable difference between the secular conception of the democratic process of elections and the way it is regarded by the Haredim. In the Haredi view, the individual’s participation in the elections is not conceived as the realization of a basic civil right to choose freely. On the contrary, participation in the elections is understood as the religious duty of the individual to obey the representatives of Halachic authority.

"Just as during severe illness," it is written in the daily Hamodia ("The Announcer"), "the patient needs the advice of a medical specialist who prescribes for him what medications to take and in what dosage… so in the issue of elections the Haredi Jew needs consultation and the guidance of an expert, so as not to be led astray by some campaign or other" (Hamodia, November 3, 1993).

In Jerusalem it has become clear that Haredi councilors care chiefly for the Haredi public and tend to ignore the needs of the general public.

The Change in the Political Power Structure in Jerusalem -- Ehud Olmert’s ascent to the mayoralty (1993) marked the beginning of a radical change in the stature of the Haredi parties in the Council. What was important was the political support the Haredi population had given Ehud Olmert in the mayoral elections. Because of this support, much political power was concentrated in religious and Haredi hands, well beyond their weight in the Council.

Beyond the existing situation of under-representation of the non-Haredi public, demographic data indicates that in the future there will be a Haredi majority in town. This projection is based on the numbers of pupils in the schools. Registered in Jerusalem in 1998/1999 were 162,000 pupils.

Haredi independent schools

Hebrew non-Haredi schools

Arab

Total

68,000

67,000

27,000

162,000

According to the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, these are the statistics for 2002/3. [This addition is meant to show the changes which have taken place -- Daat Emet.]

 

Haredi independent schools

Hebrew non-Haredi schools

Arab

Total

Kindergartens

16,840

10,140

3,470

30,450

Grades 1-6

31,330

23,870

21,270

76,470

Grades 7-12

27,980

30,420

14,490

52,890

Below is another chart which describes the change in the number of Jewish (kindergarten) pupils in Jerusalem between 1998 and 2006. (Statistics were taken from the Jerusalem Municipal website.) Currently (2006) only 15% of children learn in secular state education kindergartens.

 

1998/9

1999/00

2000/1

2001/2

2002/3

2003/4

2004/5

2005/6

2006/7

State-run

4877

4534

4452

4498

4567

4669

4576

4576

4161

State-run religious

4023

3772

3429

3356

3475

3708

3761

3761

3841

Haredi

16029

15989

15672

15619

16957

16519

17189

17577

17900

Total

26526

25734

24987

24903

25403

26241

26873

26939

27157

% of children in state-run kindergartens

18.3

17.6

17.8

18

18

17.7

17

17

15.2

A summary of changes in the distribution of pupils in the Jerusalem educational system by the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies: "Until 1997/8, there were more pupils in the Hebrew educational system (general and religious) than in the Haredi sector. In 1998/9 the number of pupils in state-run education was close to that in the Haredi sector, but from 199/2000 the number of pupils in Haredi education was greater than the number of pupils in state-run Hebrew educational systems."

Past experience shows that the Israeli Government has little interest in Jerusalem and its troubles. There is a wide gap between the concern for the “unity of the city and its integrity” and the caring for everyday life in it, for society and economics. There is need of strenuous social activity on the part of residents towards bringing about political and social changes. One should also call upon the government to give its attention to the condition of the municipality of Jerusalem and to its population. The government must address the deficiencies in local democracy in Jerusalem, the way the city is managed and the future implications of these. The government should take initiative regarding the social system of Jerusalem. It is suggested that the government act through the housing apparatuses towards diversifying the city population. In practice, one should set up neighborhoods for young couples of different cultural groups. One should also endeavor to improve the quality of life of the older and more established population in order to check growing rates of outmigration within this category in recent years. The government ought to enact a law instituting elections in Jerusalem on the basis of quarters and to take measures to transfer powers to the neighborhood administrations.

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