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Jerusalem_September 12, 2013-26 - CopyNote: “Palestinian” can describe both an Arab who lives in the West Bank and an Arab who lives in Israel.  Therefore, a Palestinian isn’t necessarily an Arab Israeli, however an Arab Israeli is a Palestinian.

  • Jerusalem is actually the second poorest city in Israel.  This is due to the fact that almost 1/3 of the city is Orthodox Jewish, 75% of which one might call “ultra Orthodox” (known as “Haredim”) meaning they adhere to a traditional form of Jewish law and reject modern secular culture, and many do not work for pay.  Rather, they attend Yeshiva, a school where they study ancient texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah, as a full time occupation.  They also are exempt from the army, which is considered a bit of a scandal because they are reaping the benefits of the socialist country’s resources without putting back into it in a quantitatively measurable way, including the payment of taxes.  This is one of the major current conflicts between the Orthodox Jews and secular Jews.
  • The Arab Israelis and Jews pay the same 25% tax in Jerusalem, however, the Arab Israelis, who make up about 30% of the city’s population, receive only 10% of the taxes benefits.  In practical terms this means, for example, in East Jerusalem, where most of the Arab Israelis live, it is quite run-down and trash-ridden because the trash is picked up only once a week, if that often, while it is collected multiple times a week in Jewish areas.
  • Everyone living in Israel or an Israeli occupied territory (Palestine) is required by law to carry an identity card (“Teudat Zehut”).  The cards vary based on an individual or family’s “status”, ethnicity, and history.  Those who live in Israel hold blue identity cards.  A blue identity card allows a person to pass between Israel and the West Bank without having to stop at the check point, generally.
  • There are two primary kinds of blue cards for Arab Israelis.  If a person or family received a blue identity card following the First Arab-Israeli War of 1948 (known as the War of Independence by Israeli Jews), then they have access to all the social benefits offered by the Israeli government as well as the right to vote in all elections.  A person who received a blue identity card after 1967 (when Israel took control of the West Bank from Jordan) does not have access to any social provisions from the state and is only allowed to vote in municipal elections.
  • As explained in the previous post, “Some Facts About the West Bank“, those who live in Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza Strip) hold green identity cards.  These indicate residency rather than citizenship.  If a person holds a green ID card this means that person is only allowed to cross through the big checkpoints going into Jerusalem.  These have machines which detects the type of access into Israel the Palestinian has.  Primarily, what time of day and for how long the person can be in Jerusalem.  For example, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. to 7 or 8 p.m. There are some exceptions, like for clergy.  As one of my friends living in Beit Sahour, a primarily Christian city in the West Bank near Bethlehem, explained, “Mine and some of the clergies have 00:00 – 00:00 (24 hours) but this does not mean that we are allowed to sleep in Israel or drive a car and so on….”
  • The Arab Israelis for the most part are poorer, commonly, because they tend to have the lowest jobs, both in status and pay, due to discrimination.  While they technically have equal access to education there aren’t many schools in their neighborhoods and the quality varies.
  • Arab Christians across the country have  somewhat better conditions than Arab Muslims.  Our guide’s take on it was, ‘They are the minority so they push themselves more.  They are known to be the leaders across the Middle East.’  He added, ‘They pass exams first,’ too.  This he attributes this to the missionary schools and the value of education found there.
  • Housing suburbs for Jerusalem have been built across the 1967 border between Israel and Palestine (the West Bank) since the end of The Six Day War, making them “settlements”, or, housing built by the occupier on the occupied land.  Such an act is illegal under international law, however, despite efforts by the U.N., Israel continues to build these settlements.  A handful of American activist groups have tried to bring this issue to light to get the U.S. to stop its ally, Israel, from continuing to build, but have not yet been successful.  Former President Jimmy Carter is one of the consistent voices in calling out the illegal behavior of Israel, as exhibited this September in an op ed piece in Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily newspaper. (http://www.haaretz.com/mobile/.premium-1.547086)
  • About 99% of the settlement residents are Jewish.  There is no law against Arab Israelis/Palestinians living there, but, while settlements are cheaper to live in than other areas of Jerusalem, have good infrastructure and have easy access to the city via public transit, it is hard to imagine Palestinians wanting to move into them.  They never feel quite accepted, I was told.  The few Arab Israelis who do live in settlements are primarily business people coming to the city for work.