Israel’s Jerusalem should be expanded not shrunk

Yoran Ettinger

The willingness, of some Israeli politicians, to disengage from some Arab neighborhoods, in order to – supposedly – secure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem, reflects weakness of the mind and the spine. At a time of robust demographic Jewish momentum, disengagement would wreck the 66% Jewish majority, would severely undermine the personal security of Jerusalem’s Jewish population and would doom the Jewish capital to a deepening crisis.


The presumption that disengagement would be a quick-fix to demographic problems, ignores a solid, long-term Jewish demographic momentum: An impressive increase of the Jewish fertility rate and a quicker-than-expected plunge in the Arab fertility rate, in Jerusalem and between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

The American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG), which has exposed gross errors committed by Israel’s demographic establishment (e.g. inflating the number of Arabs in Judea & Samaria by 70%), has documented a convergence, for the first time since 1948, of Jewish and Arab fertility rates in Jerusalem: 3.9 children per woman in 2006, compared with 4.5 children per Arab woman in 2004. Moreover, the Jewish fertility rate in Greater Jerusalem is higher than the Arab rate: 4.0 in Jerusalem’s Western Suburbs and 4.7 beyond the “Green Line”. The Arab fertility rate has declined, also, due to urbanization and the substantial decrease in Arab teen-pregnancy.

While modern-orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews sustain a high fertility rate with minimal correlation to level of education and income, Arabs converge swiftly toward the average Jewish fertility rate, as their education and income levels rise. Jerusalem Jews are growing relatively-younger as Arabs are becoming relatively-older, while the demographic momentum affects the secular Jewish sector, including the Soviet Olim. In addition, the Arab death rate is approaching the Jewish rate (0.3 and 0.5 respectively), following a 40 year substantial rise in Arab life expectancy – enabled by Israel’s healthcare – which has expanded the ranks of elderly Arabs.

Demography constitutes a strategic asset and not a liability, enhancing Israel’s capabilities to overcome demographic, territorial and political challenges, in Jerusalem, toward 2025 and beyond. However, one should recognize that migration of Arabs and Jews to/from the city – and not birth rate – constitutes the single most potent threat to the Jewish majority in Jerusalem.


Those who have urged the Jewish State to disengage from Arab neighborhoods, have unwittingly accelerated Arab immigration to Jerusalem and to the “Green Line”. For instance, the “Separation” and “Wall/Fence” policies – which were supposed to improve security and protect Jewish demography, triggered the immigration TO Jerusalem (from Judea & Samaria) by over 50,000 Arabs bearing Israeli ID cards, as well as a larger number of illegal migrants. Minimizing the area of Jerusalem, facilitates increased Arab immigration and dims Jerusalem’s prospects for growth. Further “disengagements” would disengage the city from land reserves, which are essential for long-term urban development and for the safeguarding and expansion of the Jewish majority.

Migration – and not natural increase – has been the most critical factor, determining the Jewish-Arab demographic balance in Jerusalem, as well as between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Jewish emigration and Arab immigration have eroded the Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Without the internal migration factor – 0.4% Arab immigration and 0.7% Jewish emigration – there is a virtual tie between Jewish and Arab natural population increase (2.0%:2.5% respectively), including the Aliya factor (0.7%), which would sustain a 66% Jewish majority. Jerusalem’s Jewish majority would be bolstered by the expansion of the current low-scale annual 3,000 person Aliya to the Jewish capital. Furthermore, the transformation of net-Jewish-emigration into net-Jewish-immigration, via government policy, would appreciably enhance Jerusalem’s Jewish majority.


A prerequisite to the growth of the current Jewish majority, in Jerusalem, is the substantial growth of Jewish immigration, stimulated by significant employment and housing opportunities, which requires a dramatic expansion of infrastructures, which means more – and not less – land. Disengagement from Arab neighborhoods – which are surrounded by large sparse areas – would deny Jerusalem its land reserves, which are critical to the upgrading of its infrastructures and to the enhancement of the Jewish majority. The smaller the area of Jerusalem, the larger the Jewish emigration!

In 1950, Prime Minister Ben Gurion established Jewish neighborhoods on Jerusalem’s cease fire lines, in order to provide the city with development and security depth for the coming generations. He did it in defiance of brutal US pressure to internationalize Jerusalem, and thus he eliminated Jerusalem from the negotiation table! In 1967, Prime Minister Eshkol adopted Ben Gurion’s statesmanship, establishing Jerusalem’s satellite Jewish neighborhoods beyond the “Green Line”, while absorbing 80,000 Arabs and a relatively small area.

In 2007, in order to attract, to Jerusalem, business entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, educators and artists from Israel and throughout the globe, Israel should immediately initiate fast-track dramatic improvement of transportation infrastructures (international airport, fast train, fast roads internally and externally, completion of the “Begin Loop”), traditional and high tech industrial parks, telecommunications, electricity, water, education and housing infrastructures.

The implementation of such a crucial initiative necessitates a dramatic expansion of Jerusalem’s municipal lines. Expanding westward – or toward the inner city – would be grossly inadequate, due to topographic and geographic constraints. The eastward option – toward the largely sparse/empty area – is most suitable according to professional (transportation, employment, housing, migration) requirements.

The potential for Jerusalem’s expansion extends from east of Ma’aleh Adoumim to the Te’qoa’-Herodion bloc in the southeast, to the outskirts of Ofra and Beit El in the northeast, to Modi’in-Kiryat Sefer through Highway 443 in the northwest and Gush Etzion and Beitar Ilit in the southwest. The farther the Jewish neighborhoods from the inner city, the higher the Jewish fertility rate.

The geographic extension of Jerusalem – buttressed by the Jewish demographic momentum – would enable Jerusalem to absorb the 90,000-100,000 Arabs, whose fertility rate is gradually Israelized. Expanding Jerusalem would provide a land-platform to reduce Jewish emigration and maximize Jewish domestic immigration and Aliya, which would bolster the Jewish majority.

Engagement with – and not disengagement from – the relatively vast and sparsely-populated geography outside Jerusalem, would enable the Jewish capital to transform itself from a city of Jewish emigration, job shortage and economic stagnation into a capital of immigration, job creation and economic growth.

Disengagement from a large area in Jerusalem ignores the consequences of the “Gaza Disengagement” and the “Separation Policy.” Thus, it poses the most lethal security and demographic threat to Jerusalem since 1967!

October 26, 2007 | Comments Off on Israel’s Jerusalem should be expanded not shrunk

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