Poverty is increasing in east Jerusalem, especially among children, according to a new report released by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel this week. The National Insurance Institute found that 78% of residents and 84% of children lived under the poverty line in east Jerusalem in 2010. This is even higher than the poverty rate for 2006, when 64% of east Jerusalem and 73% of children lived under the poverty line.
The Welfare and Social Services ministry recently placed the poverty line at a monthly income of NIS 2,268 per person or NIS 5,807 for a family of four. The main reasons for poverty in east Jerusalem are the separation barrier, which inhibits a free flow of commercialism, cultural norms discouraging women to work, and poor education that prevents Arab students from learning Hebrew and continuing on to higher education, the report stated.
The hassle of dealing with a border crossing has dissuaded many Palestinians from villages in the “Jerusalem envelope” on the other side of the barrier from shopping in the city. According to the report, 18% of Palestinians in neighboring villages used to regularly patronize the souq in the Old City and the Salah a Din commercial area in the economic heart of east Jerusalem. After the construction of the barrier, that figure dropped to 4% of Palestinians who shop in east Jerusalem.
In east Jerusalem’s crumbling school system, students learn Hebrew as their third language after English and Arabic – and sometimes even their fourth language. During a school visit to a girls’ high school in 2010, MK Danny Danon (Likud), who used to head the Committee on the Rights of the Child, was shocked by the lack of students who were able to converse with him. The lack of Hebrew means that students aren’t able to get jobs in west Jerusalem, and are forced to menial labor such as the service industry or construction.
Additionally, the Jordanian/Palestinian Tawjhi matriculation exams do not enable Arab students to continue on to an Israeli university without completing at least a year of study for the Israeli matriculation exams. At a hearing about Jerusalem on Tuesday, mayor Nir Barkat pointed out that east Jerusalem suffers from a 40% drop out rate because the students see very little value in a high school diploma. The female students drop out because they are getting married early and the male students drop out because they go to work.
The cultural norms of east Jerusalem, which discourage women from working outside the home, make it difficult for families to pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty. Out of the Arab female population of working age, 85% of women do not work, even part time. Women are generally expected to stay home to raise the children, clean and cook, the report found. Even women who work part time have an expectation to fulfill all the household duties, putting them in an impossible conflict between personal and professional life.
The severe lack of daycare options in the eastern part of the city means that even if women wanted do they could not leave the house to work. According to the survey, in the 2011-2012 school year, 433 Arab children in east Jerusalem were enrolled in municipality nursery schools, despite the fact that there are approximately 15,000 nursery-school aged children.
Jerusalem Post .