The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, a research organization and think tank focusing on social issues in Israel's capital, just released this past weekend its annual yearbook of municipal statistics. Turns out 1/3 of Jerusalemites live under the poverty line, with a whopping 62% poverty rate among the city's Arab population and a 23% rate among Jews, concentrated largely (but no means entirely) in the ultra-Orthodox sector. Poverty was defined in the study as living on roughly $500 USD per month for a single and $1200 per month for a family of four. Of course, this is unacceptable, and it behooves every Jerusalem resident, and every world citizen who lives the City of Gold, to do their part to help our beloved city eradicate poverty and remain the beautiful and thriving metropolis we all know it to be.
Jerusalemite has a few ideas on how to get it done...
- Court wealthy foreign residents by building luxury neighborhoods that are used as vacation homes and left empty most of the year. That will doubtless pour millions into the city economy. Oh, wait.
- Cut innovative, business-friendly municipal programs. The recent undoing of Unwire Jerusalem, the city's free wireless Internet initiative, will certainly attract the business and investment Jerusalem needs to thrive economically. Oh, wait.
- Spend enough money to feed countless impoverished children on vacuuming the proverbial rug in preparation for a brief visit by a prominent foreign dignitary. Oh, wait. Sorry, little Moishele and little Abdallah, Jerusalemite knows you wanted dinner, but it was far more important that Mr. Bush not see any Beitar Yerushalayim graffiti. Everybody knows he's a Maccabi Tel Aviv fan, the scoundrel.
- Pour untold millions into a poorly-planned, oft-delayed pie-in-the-sky urban development project involving a train from downtown to...a northern suburb. Oh, wait. Didn't the Simpsons do an episode about this? Did Lionel Hutz sing a persuasive piano ditty to the city council? How do you say "monorail" in Hebrew?
- Build a bridge. Build a really, really big bridge. Make it some kind of weird shape. It won't combat poverty, but the poor can come and look at it and be awed long enough to forget their poverty for, like, a second or two - and in this age of trauma and strife, is not the value of a brief moment of awe far greater than pearls? Or dinner? Oh, wait.
- Put up cheery signs in impoverished neighborhoods, illustrated with images of the earthly delights that will forever dance just beyond the reach of economically disadvantaged and emblazoned with the slogan "Thanks for the patience." It worked for keeping everyone quiet about the light rail.
- Actually sever poverty-stricken areas from the city, to be eventually turned over to another country. It won't per se solve the problem of poverty, but a lot of it will become someone else's problem of poverty. Oh, wait.
Jerusalemite supposes we should all just pick a good charity, give, and hope for the best.