"Researching the differences between mixed cities in democratic countries can help us understand how democratic values can be promoted and implemented on the local, state and global levels." This was the rationale behind a conference held in Jerusalem last month co-organized by the Adam Institute, the Jerusalem Foundation, JIIS and the Jerusalem YMCA.
Titled, "Living in a Mixed City – Challenges, Problems and Solutions," the conference addressed a host of issues that typically arise in cities with at least two ethnic groups – that is, at least two communities that speak different languages and practice different religions. JIIS researchers participated in many of the varied panel discussions that took place over the three-day event. Co-head of JIIS' Jerusalem research cluster Israel Kimhi, for example, outlined his thoughts on the planning aspects of mixed cities – how to accommodate social groups that live in different quarters, particularly if there is a potential for inter-ethnic conflict, and the implications of internal immigration trends – when one group starts moving into a neighborhood hitherto dominated by another group (in Jerusalem this is illustrated by ultra-orthodox moving into traditionally secular neighborhoods). Kimhi emphasized the role of the local authority in ensuring that the city enjoys "planning equality," and in preventing disputes and disorder; among the ways to achieve this is to carefully tailor the public transport system to suit the character of the city, allocate adequate land for the use of the different communities and plan well the "seam" areas between them.
Prof. Yitzhak Reiter, Lior Lehrs and Dr. Amnon Ramon took part in a session on "Religions, Faith and Secularism." Reiter and Lehrs discussed their recent research on the conflict between local Muslims and the authorities centering on the Great Mosque in Beersheba. The two approached this subject as a case study for broader research regarding holy and heritage sites of ethnic-religious-national minorities in the urban space, particularly areas of conflict. "One of the lessons we can learn from this and similar cases in the world is just how important and effective dialogue really is as a mechanism of conflict resolution." They suggest that a model of "transitional justice" might be the right model to turn to in such cases.
Ramon, speaking at the panel on “Christians in Jerusalem,” addressed the importance of Jerusalem for the Christian world. He noted that in 1948 Christians represented 19% of the city's population; today it is only 1.9 percent – and yet, he stressed, this group is still a powerful asset for Jerusalem. He strongly recommends that this group should be nurtured and supported, claiming that this would benefit the city as a whole.
Meanwhile, Dr. Maya Choshen, the Institute's other co-head of Jerusalem research, described the city as a complex and diverse urban "mosaic." There is no better example of a mixed city than Jerusalem, in fact, as seen in the breakdown of population figures into sectors: 36 percent of Jerusalem's population is Arab (compared to 10 percent in Haifa and just 4 percent in Tel Aviv) and there is a broad distribution within the Jewish population as well, between ultra-orthodox, orthodox, traditional and secular groups.