The clash between secular and ultra-Orthodox Israelis in a Jerusalem neighborhood has made the latest cover of Time magazine.
“Forty-five years after the last decisive contest for the city,” Time reporter Karl Vick writes in the cover story of the magazine’s August 13 Europe, Asia and Africa edition, ”a new battle for Jerusalem is under way.”
The article focuses on growing tensions in the neighborhood of Kiryat Hayovel, where ultra-Orthodox residents are trying to increase their hold in the face of opposition from secular and national-religious residents. The clash has come to be seen as a symbol for the rest of the city — which, in turn, can be seen as a symbol for the rest of the country.
According to Vick, the proportion of secular and national-religious Israelis in Jerusalem has dropped to 31 percent, the same as the ultra-Orthodox — but ultra-Orthodox numbers are rapidly growing. The rest of the city’s residents are east Jerusalem Palestinians.
The article cites a demographic estimate that in 20 years one of every five Israelis will be ultra-Orthodox.
“Three generations ago, the ultra-Orthodox were all but extinct,” Vick writes. “Their Lazarus-like comeback either threatens the fabric of Israel or, as they see it, points the way to the nation’s salvation.”
The threat posed by the ultra-Orthodox birthrate is much discussed in Israel. But the varied and changing face of ultra-Orthodox society — which is not monolithic, and where there is increasing participation in the workforce and, to a much smaller extent, in the military — makes it impossible to predict the effect their growth will have on Israeli society in the long term.
But Jerusalem, with its large ultra-Orthodox population and the flight of its other residents, may well be approaching a tipping point, as Vick points out. The small victories of one secular activist in Kiryat Hayovel, he writes, “may prove to be small battles in a larger war that he and those like him are losing.”