In the summer of 2020, JIPR researcher Tehila Bigman set out to examine the nature of interactions in Jerusalem’s “mixed neighborhoods” – neighborhoods with a Jewish population in which groups that differ in terms of religious identification reside side by side. Residents from nine (mixed and separated) Jerusalem neighborhoods participated in the study. Through questionnaires, interviews, and observation, the researcher developed a picture of the residents’ perspective as well as their perception of the challenges and opportunities inherent in living in mixed neighborhoods.

The study found that in order to create living spaces that provide a sense of security for all residents, it is important to establish anchors of identity for each of the resident population groups, but it is not necessary to create separate residential neighborhoods. More than 90% of the residents stated that they would feel comfortable in their residential area as long as they could receive services adapted to their religious identification and feel they belong to a large enough group, and a smaller percentage indicated that it is important to them that the neighborhood’s character overlap with their own religious identification (67%) or that most of the population be like them (51%).

As to the anchors, when participants were asked “Which institutions or services are most important for you to have in the neighborhood?” – the most prevalent answers among Haredi respondents were a synagogue (96%) and a mikveh (75%); the most prevalent answers among religiously observant respondents were a synagogue (71%) and parks or playgrounds (59%); and the most prevalent answers among secular respondents were a shopping center (62%) and a library (57%). Each of the sectors ranked “a suitable education system” third.

Finally, the findings point to a significant gap between what residents perceive as personally beneficial and what they perceive as beneficial to Jerusalem. About 30% of the participants disagreed with the statement “Residing near people like me improves the quality of life for me / my children,” but as to benefits for the city – about half the participants (49%) agreed that the quality of life in Jerusalem would improve if people resided near others who differ from them.

In only a few decades, according to demographic forecasts, the sectorial division within Israel will resemble the current division within Jerusalem. Accordingly, Jerusalem can play a key role in providing models for the cooperative management of private and public spaces alike. If Jerusalem and Jerusalemites succeed in managing shared spaces constructively, they will be offering hope for cooperative management across Israel.

Translation: Merav Datan