A strategic group on Ultra-Orthodox – non-Ultra-Orthodox relations in Jerusalem – February 18, 2009

February 18, 2009

We reported in an earlier post that the JICC invited a group of Jewish leaders to begin a high-level process of discussions and negotiations on the future of Jerusalem. Since then the municipal elections took place, following which a group was quietly formed to look for agreed-upon strategies for Ultra-Orthodox and non-Ultra-Orthodox Jews to live together in the city.

It is interesting to note that at present the non-Ultra-Orthodox Jews who live in Jerusalem can only be defined by “what they are not”. In the past, the alternative to Ultra-Orthodox was “secular”, reflecting affiliations in the city. The “national-religious” and other traditional Jews were defined as “in-between”. Nowadays, the demographics of the non-Ultra-Orthodox group show that it can no longer be called “secular”. Yet, this group is perceived by many residents as hegemonic in Jerusalem. Also, in many ways, the anxiety of “Haredization” of the city is common to most of the non-Ultra-Orthodox residents – be them secular or religious.

On January 19, 2009, the group of high-level Jewish leaders met for the first time to begin the tough and hard dialogue on the future of the city, looking for shared strategies. the issue of affordable housing for all groups was raised as central. For the non-Ultra-Orthodox, the issue of culture was also prominent. It was claimed that for many Jerusalemites, the city is not attractive enough. The group agreed that Jerusalem needs to preserve its “conservative” character, while at the same time creating a vibrant cultural atmosphere.

Today, on February 18, the group met again to continue the learning process. Messages were deepened and it was agreed that towards the next meeting a document should be drafted for discussion.  Stay tuned for further reports as this important process unfolds.

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