Dr. Maya Choshen
Jerusalem has been blessed with extraordinary cultural diversity.  The social and cultural wealth of Jerusalem‘s residents serves the city’s beauty and unique character as well as also serving as a source of conflict and social strife.  Jerusalem’s intricate diversity is also expressed in the city’s educational institutions which are among the keystones of Jerusalem’s public life and identity.  Jerusalem boasts a host of unique and unusual schools of every kind and creed – state, state-religious, Ultra-Orthodox and Arab, which currently serve 217,200 students in the 2010/2011 school year.
Let it be noted that for the first time in 15 years all educational streams are run by a single organizing unit entitled: haminhal le-sheirutei hinukh, the Administration for Educational Services. The newly-created administration combines the former two administrations: the Jerusalem Educational Administration (Manhi) and the Administration for Ultra-Orthodox Education (Manhah). The Jerusalem Educational Administration oversees the education of 31,700 students in the state education system and 27,000 students in the state-religious system.  In addition to the 58,700 students in the Hebrew division of the administration, there are another 67,100 students who study in the administration’s Arab division. The Administration for Ultra-Orthodox Education oversees the education of 91,400 school-ages children.
Jerusalem‘s educational system is the largest in Israel.  It currently serves 217,200 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. These numbers do not include students studying in the private Arab educational system, an additional estimated 20,000.
The number of schoolchildren in Jerusalem rivals the entire population of Rishon LeZion, the fourth-largest city in Israel with 228,200 residents at the end of 2009, and exceeds the residential population of Ashdod, the fifth-largest city in Israel (206,400 residents).
The diverse communities, beliefs, practices and preferences of Jerusalem‘s residents and educational institutions, in addition to the sheer size of Jerusalem’s educational system, have proven a rather fertile ground for educational innovation of the highest order.  As such it has become a paradigm of excellence in the field of education and a model to be emulated throughout the rest of the country, a subject to which a future post will be dedicated.