Jerusalem and the Jewish People: Unity and Division – Interim Report

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification, the result of the Six-Day War. It has also been a decade since JPPI’s last major report on Jerusalem. Therefore, JPPI dedicated this year’s annual Israel-Diaspora Dialogue to an examination of Jerusalem’s status. Jerusalem is, of course, considered holy by the three monotheistic religions. However, JPPI’s 2017 Dialogue dealt with Jerusalem as understood, interpreted, and analyzed by Jewish stakeholders with an interest in the city’s future.

JPPI’s 2007 policy paper, A Strategic Plan for the Strengthening of Jerusalem as a Civilizational Capital of the Jewish People, argued that there was an urgent need to close the gap between the visions, perceptions, and ideals people have with respect to Jerusalem and the actual reality of the city. Ten years later, some elements of this argument stand.

In this short interim report, submitted to the Mayor of Jerusalem prior to the 50th Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day – we highlight some of the findings from the Dialogue we conducted with 39 groups in 19 Jewish communities in 7 countries around the globe. This is the fourth year of JPPI’s Israel-Diaspora Dialogue, and a comprehensive report on Jerusalem and the Jewish People will join the three previous reports: Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State (2014); Jewish Values and the Use of Force in Armed Conflict (2015); and Exploring the Jewish Spectrum in a Time of Fluid Identity (2016).

In all these Dialogues JPPI conducted discussion sessions in many dozens of Jewish communities worldwide – this year, 2017, included the many participants in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations annual mission to Israel. All Dialogue sessions included a survey and a structured discussion. We include in this report findings from a JPPI survey of Israeli opinions on Jerusalem. The interim report was presented to the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, prior to the fiftieth Jerusalem Day. The full report based on the sessions and the full data is slated to be published at the end of summer 2017. It will include much more information and a lot of data not included in this short summary, as well as a chapter of policy recommendations.

Some of the questions we put to participants were specific: Is it essential that Jerusalem have a clear Jewish majority? How important is it for the city to be Jewishly diverse? Would you support a division of Jerusalem in exchange for peace with the Palestinians? What role should Diaspora Jews play in determining Jerusalem’s future?

Our aim was to better understand the following:

  1. How connected Jews and Jewish leaders[1] around the world view Jerusalem’s current situation – culturally, demographically, and politically? Is it viewed as a thriving city or as one in trouble? Do they feel pride in how it is developing, or anxiety about its future?
  2. How important is Jerusalem to these Jews – especially Jews who do not live in Jerusalem, and, even more so, those who live outside Israel (visitors and tourists usually see only a small part of Jerusalem, and are not always familiar with the full complexity of the city) – and how invested they feel in its future?
  3. What is the vision of connected Jews and Jewish leaders for Jerusalem, and what are the policies and priorities they would support in the fulfillment of that vision?

[1] The survey of Jews worldwide represents the average views of a self-selected group of mostly Jewish leaders and highly engaged Jews who chose to take part in the dialogue. More on this issue in the appendix.