The Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are in a way "Terra incognita" to the public but also to the government authorities. This is true despite the fact that Jerusalem holds a central place in the conflict and both sides – as well as the international community- are required to develop a policy for a long term solution as well as a solution for the current joint living environment.
This project deals with a broad range of aspects related to the Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and seeks to expose the social, economic and political characteristics in these areas, and to draw an overview regarding the population's needs and the main obstacles the inhabitants are faced with daily. The research method is based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis as well as field work and in depth interviews paired with data gathered from government authorities, research institutes and bodies that provide public services.
Roundtables and conferences are generously supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty, Jerusalem Office.
Thus far, the Jerusalem Institute has produced reports on seven neighborhoods: Beit Hanina, Wadi Joz, A-Tur, and Sur Baher, Issawiya, Jabal al-Mukabbar and Abu Tor.
Beit Hanina is located in the northern part of Jerusalem. It is the most populous neighborhood in East Jerusalem, with 35,000 residents. The socioeconomic status of Beit Hanina is relatively high compared with other neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, yet remains very low according to Israeli standards.
Wadi Joz is in the center of Jerusalem, next to the Old City, and has 15,000 residents. It is known for its commercial district, which includes numerous mechanics and other trade workshops.
A-Tur is centrally located in Jerusalem, adjacent to the Old City. It has 25,000 residents. It is the home of many historical and religious sites scattered throughout the neighborhood and its surroundings, as well as hospitals and hotels.
Sur Baher is situated at the southern edge of East Jerusalem. It has 19,000 residents, and it is organized in the style of a traditional village.
Issawyua is a Muslim village located north-east of Jerusalem, that became a neighborhood in the Jerusalem municipality in 1967. The neighborhood encompasses 2'028 acres and has 16,000 residents (not including undocumented residents coming to the neighborhood from beyond the security fence). Issawiya consists of 12 clans, all streaming from one family, that have emerged over generations.
Jabal Mukabar is located south of the Old City of Jerusalem, at the height of 795 meters above sea level. As of 2014, the neighborhood had 31,000 residents, all of whom are Muslim, and the majority of which belong to the Bedouin tribe "Bnei Aakaba". The neighborhood lies beyond the security fence.
Abo Tor is a neighborhood south of the Valley of Hinnom and east of Hebron Road. 13,000 Arab residents live in one section of the neighborhood, and 2,000 Jewish residents live in the second section. As a mixed neighborhood, Abu Tor represents a microcosm of the gaps between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem, in religion, nationality and political identity.
The full publications are available in Hebrew and Arabic, and can be accessed here. Below is a summary of their main findings.
Our study points to several fundamental problems which these four neighborhoods allshare and which reflect the general challenges that afflict the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem:
1. Housing and planning: The housing shortage and severe insufficiencies of city planning is one of the central problems in East Jerusalem, and its effect has been felt in every family. While the Arab population in East Jerusalem has increased by a factor of 4.4 since 1967, public housing construction during this period has produced only a few hundred housing units. Though plans are approved for housing projects, most are not implemented. Residents of A-Tur and Wadi Joz are critical of plans to construct national parks on neighborhood properties intended to serve as land reserves for new housing. In East Jerusalem neighborhoods, there is a major lack of planning for public areas like gardens and cultural centers.
2. Infrastructure: The infrastructure in East Jerusalem has been neglected over the years and is consequently in a poor condition. There is an urgent need to upgrade physical infrastructure such as the roads and sidewalks, sewage system, and water supply. The road system is failing and has numerous inadequacies including unsafe narrow sections, no sidewalks and even unpaved sections. Some areas have never been connected to the public sewage system. Only one third of houses in Sur Baher are properly connected, and A-Tur has many areas not connected to the public sewage lines, which flood each winter.
3. Social and municipal services: East Jerusalem suffers from an extreme shortage of classrooms. Sur Baher is short 30 classrooms, Wadi Joz has no public elementary school and A-Tur has no public girls’ high school. It is estimated that a total of at least 1,000 classrooms are missing in East Jerusalem. In addition, the entirety of East Jerusalem is served by only 3 welfare offices which struggle to provide adequate services for 316,000 residents. In West Jerusalem, there are 18 welfare offices that serve about 500,000 residents. In addition, municipal maintenance services like trash removal and street cleaning are very severely lacking in East Jerusalem.
4. Economic development, employment and entrepreneurship: Among East Jerusalem’s Arab population, 83% of children and 77% of families live below the poverty line. All four neighborhoods in this study are ranked by the Central Bureau of Statistics in the lowest fifth cluster of the socio-economic index. Assistance should be given to the public and private sector to harness its potential in areas such as tourism, trade, and high technology and to create more employment opportunities. An effort should also be made to provide educational tools and job training to Arab residents. In A-Tur, for example, due to the varied historical sites located in the neighborhood, there is a great economic potential that can contribute to the welfare of the residents, but it has not been exploited.
5. Implications of the security fence: The security fence, which separates East Jerusalem from the West Bank, has greatly affected the residents of East Jerusalem. It cut off East Jerusalem from its natural metropolitan area in the West Bank, which has a negative influence on the East Jerusalem economy. The security fence also has left some neighborhoods beyond the Jerusalem side of the fence that still remain part of the Jerusalem municipality; as a result, these neighborhoods have become a no-man’s land that do not receive municipal services.
6. Local leadership: Our research exposes the development and importance of a local leadership in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, who view it as their responsibility to help improve the lives of the residents. Relations between local grassroots leadership and the Jerusalem municipality are complex and involve both patterns of cooperation and coordination as well as tension and conflict. Despite the tensions, local leaders have shown a willingness to cooperate with the Jerusalem municipality to improve conditions in the neighborhoods. This cooperation provides a good opportunity for the municipality to work with local Arab leadership. In order to influence the reality on the ground, the Jerusalem Institute has worked with local community members and government officials in roundtable discussions and conferences that aim to address the main problems in East Jerusalem.