A strategic group on Ultra-Orthodox – non-Ultra-Orthodox relations in Jerusalem – May 24, 2009

A strategic group on Ultra-Orthodox – non-Ultra-Orthodox relations in Jerusalem – May 24, 2009

Today we convened once again for the meeting of Jewish Jerusalemite leaders that discuss and negotiate a strategic approach to relations between Ultra-Orthodox and non-Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem. The meeting took place at the office of the Municipality Engineer, with 15 participants – municipality council members, high-level Rabbis, and non-Ultra-Orthodox leaders and professionals.

The meeting focused mainly on housing issues in Jerusalem, and the feeling was that the group had an important breakthrough. In previous meetings we understood that demographic changes in different neighborhoods create most of the tensions. The main way out is to find proper solutions for expansion for both Ultra-Orthodox and non-Ultra-Orthodox populations, while minimizing co-living in the same neighborhoods. The religious autonomy required in Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, and the extremely different perspectives that the two groups hold on the character of the public sphere, require separation between the communities as much as possible. The main solution for the short term is the creation of 15,000 new apartments for each of the two populations, in different parts of the city. Obstacles for moving forward with this solution exist and important questions and issues were raised.

Yet, additional housing is only part of the solution. While the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods are very appealing to the Ultra-Orthodox Jews, many non-Ultra-Orthodox residents do not find their neighborhoods attractive, leading them to decide to leave the city. Frequently they sell their apartments to Ultra-Orthodox Jews and then again mixed neighborhoods – with their many tensions – are created. An integral part of the solution must be the effort to make these neighborhoods more attractive in terms of culture, improved services etc. The Ultra-Orthodox members of the group said, to the surprise of some other members, that they are willing to support such processes, in order to keep the non-Ultra-Orthodox residents in the city.

At the conclusion of the meeting the participants felt that we made an important step forward and they are now looking forward to our next steps.

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