It’s been years since I was here in Jerusalem, actually the largest city in Israel, as well as its capital. I found it hot and rather humid in comparison to winter in Australia.
I took my first drive out to a village South of Jerusalem, called Tekoa, the hometown of the Prophet Amos. The GPS in the car took me a long way round through several Arab villages, something the Jews would never contemplate. But when I ended up in a dead end, it was a kind Palestinian who got in his car and led me to the correct route.
Arriving at a Tekoa, it was obviously a Jewish town, though it was surrounded by the West Bank. The comparison was clear: neat, tidy, trees, shade, no litter or rubbish, and the infrastructure quite Western. I felt sorry for the inhabitants of the West Bank, who had been unable to achieve the same facilities.
In fact Jerusalem ranks as Israel’s poorest city, and I suspect that the 36.5% who are Muslim figure in that number. Christians are just 1.8%. Strangely for a Western county, Jewish women produce an average of 4.3 children and the Arabs 3.3% (2017). In total 31% are religiously observant.
But here, something new is happening. A new Interior Ministry report shows a significant increase the numbers of the city’s Arab residents requesting Israeli citizenship, up 47% from 2015. most Arabs are “residents” not citizens. They are entitled to social services and rights like health, National Insurance and employment rights, but do not hold passports or citizenship.
Citizenship brings better jobs, use of Ben Gurion Airport and safeguards the rights of residents of Jerusalem. These new applicants often try to hide it from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas activists, but secretly many of them already have passports.
This trend reflects a recognition that maybe the Arab leadership are making many mistakes. Who would want to live in Syria, or Iraq? Israel is obviously better, and many Arabs must be asking what could be the cause of those very bitter fruits in their nations?