Jerusalem, An Urban Mess

One of the world’s most well known cities, Jerusalem is home to nearly three-quarters of a million people. The national capital of Israel, one might expect to find a metropolis bursting with rich life, its residents fat and happy, living comfortable lives. But that’s not the case—in fact, it’s far from it.


Jerusalem is an urban mess of a city. Its growth (which has tripled in the last forty years) isn’t due to people wanting to come into the city. It’s due to the birth rate. The average birth rate for Muslim Arabs and Jews in the city is right around four births per women. Families are large, but they aren’t supported well.


Over half the city is living in poverty. Economic production is low, especially because the city brings in new residents that are elderly, students, or young people not working to their potential. It’s not going unnoticed, either. In 2009, more people chose to leave the city than move into it. And those that leave tend to see an increase in economic success.


The city is divided as well. As it sinks closer and closer to complete poverty, there are serious rifts between its different factions. Organizations like Project Interchange are striving to make a difference, though. An AJC educational institute, Project Interchange brings influential people and leaders from around the world to Israel in an attempt to promote understanding between them.


The program has seen some success, and has many notable alumni, such as Geza Tessenyi of ICLS, Emily Youssouf of NYCHA, and Zenyo Baran of the Hudson Institute and the Center for Eurasian Policy.


“The obstacles [women] face are enormous,” NYCHA’s Emily Youssouf said in an interview during her time with Project Interchange. “This is an experience I think anybody who comes to Israel should do because it shows another side.”


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