Last month, the Central Bureau of Statistics published its most recent social survey, according to which 90% of Jerusalem residents report that they are satisfied or very satisfied with their lives. This rate is similar to the national average (88%) and to the corresponding rate in Tel Aviv (91%) and higher than the corresponding rates in other large cities such as Haifa, Netanya, Holon and Rishon Lezion.
On the surface, this appears to be wonderful news for the united city, but a deeper look at the data reveals a more complex picture. One can see that unlike in other cities, like Kfar Saba, in which the residents are satisfied with the conditions in the area where they live, satisfied with their economic situation, and finally also satisfied with their lives, in Jerusalem there is a disconnect among these variables.
Most of the residents of Jerusalem are not satisfied with the conditions in the area where they live; only 37% of the residents indicated that they are satisfied with the cleanliness of the area where they live, 48% with the garbage collection, 37% with the green spaces, 44% with the state of the roads and sidewalks, and 37% with the public transport. With respect to the majority of these factors, Jerusalem ranks in bottom place among the major cities in Israel.
Also, only 58% of Jerusalem residents are satisfied with the economic situation, which is below the national level (62%) and the corresponding level in Tel Aviv (64%).
In light of the above, it is surprising to see that 90% of Jerusalem residents report that they are satisfied with their lives, and not only that, they are even remarkably optimistic: 62% of Jerusalem residents report that they believe that their lives will be better in the future, and 50% report that they believe that their economic situation will improve in the future. These levels are significantly higher than those in Tel Aviv, and above the national average, and in both these aspects Jerusalem is in second place among the 16 major cities.
An examination of the data for two additional cities in which similar trends were identified – Bnei Brak and Beit Shemesh – provides a possible explanation for this phenomenon. In both Beit Shemesh and Bnei Brak the residents expressed a low level of satisfaction with their living conditions, while at the same time both cities are ranked in the top places for the rate of residents’ satisfaction with their lives and the rate of their optimism with regard to their future.
The dominant feature that is common to Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and Beit Shemesh is the high percentage of haredi populations in the cities. And in fact, an analysis of the data for Jews in Jerusalem indicates a clear positive connection between the level of a residents’ religious observance and the two parameters of satisfaction with life and optimism.
Thus, while Jerusalem residents are not satisfied with their living conditions in the city they – especially the religiously observant among them – are satisfied with their lives in general and optimistic with regard to their future.
What philosophical conclusion may be derived from this insight? You are welcome to judge for yourself.