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Foreign tourism on the rebound in Jerusalem

Last year saw double the number of international visitors to Israel’s capital city compared to the previous year.

Israeli soldiers from Netzah Yehuda Battalion and family members attend a swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 17, 2023. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90
Israeli soldiers from Netzah Yehuda Battalion and family members attend a swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 17, 2023. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90

Foreign tourists are flocking to Israel’s capital again, but the number of visitors has still not returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to a report released on Wednesday, a day ahead of Jerusalem Day.

The Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research’s 37th Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem presents a comprehensive picture of the city’s situation.

Last year saw double the number of international visitors compared to 2021, with room occupancy in city hotels at 55% in 2022 versus just 22% the previous year. However, in 2019, before the pandemic, occupancy stood at 72%.

Hotel revenues last year reached 2 billion shekels ($549 million), marking a 181% increase compared to 2021 but still well below 2019’s record of 2.5 billion shekels ($686 million).

Jerusalem in 2022 was the top destination in Israel for foreign visitors in terms of overnight stays at 34%, but was far less popular among Israelis, drawing only 8% of overnight stays compared with figures of 42% for Eilat, 11% for the Dead Sea and 8% for Tel Aviv

“After three challenging years of COVID-19, which devastated tourism to the city, it’s heartening to see Jerusalem gradually returning to the levels of activity we had before the outbreak of the pandemic,” said Dr. David Koren, CEO of the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research.

On Thursday, Jerusalem marked the 56th anniversary of its reunification in the 1967 Six-Day War with celebratory events being throughout the capital, including the annual flag march through the Old City.

“Jerusalem is in the midst of a revolutionary shift that is already making its mark: the city is prospering and growing, and its businesses and tourism are on the rise,” remarked Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion.

Other key findings

• Israel’s most populous city is approaching 1 million residents—in 2021 its population was 966,200, which was double that of Tel Aviv. More than 1.4 million people live in the greater Jerusalem area in 80 localities surrounding Israel’s capital.

• The median age of Jerusalemites at the end of last year was 24.2 years, compared to 30.1 for Israel at large. Children ages 0-14 represent 33% of the city’s population. The fertility rate of 3.9 last year was significantly higher than the general Israeli fertility rate of 3 and even higher compared to Tel Aviv (1.9) and Haifa (2.1). The birth rate for Jewish women in Jerusalem was 4.4, while for Arab women in the city, the figure was 3.1.

Women dance by the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, May 15, 2023. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

• In 2021, a total of 22,700 residents migrated from Jerusalem, but about half of that was to localities surrounding the city.

• There were low labor participation rates for haredi men and Arab women, but a sharp increase in labor force participation for Arab men, which reached 81% in 2022.

• The poverty rate in Jerusalem is significantly higher than overall in Israel with 39% of Jerusalem’s families (125,900) living below the poverty line last year and about half of Jerusalem’s children living below the poverty line (202,400).

• In 2022, a record number of 7,300 construction permits were issued in Jerusalem.

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