Frequently Asked Questions

Why is there a need for an organization that focuses on Jerusalem?
While Jerusalem is only one of the issues at the crux of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, given its extraordinary complexity there is need for an organization that focuses specifically on Jerusalem affairs. Beyond the political significance of the city as a final status issue, Jerusalem is also related to two other core issues of the Conflict – borders and refugees – and serves as a microcosm of the Conflict as a whole. Moreover, the public discourse on Jerusalem within Israel is often characterized by a lack of knowledge and understanding, limited to clichés and slogans rather than data and nuanced analysis.  This absence of well-informed dialogue generates the need for a professional organization that can fill the information vacuum to enable an informed discussion on an issue of paramount importance.
Is Ir Amim a human rights organization?
Ir Amim is an organization that focuses on Jerusalem in the political context, in line with its mission to create a more equitable and sustainable city for all of its residents, Israeli and Palestinian; Jewish, Muslim and Christian. One of the organization’s major goals is to strengthen the viability of Jerusalem as a city that will be part of a negotiated solution, with West and East Jerusalem serving as the respective capitals of Israel and a Palestinian state.  While there are many points of intersection between Ir Amim’s work at the political and humanitarian levels, human rights is not Ir Amim’s primary field of concentration.
What does Ir Amim do?
Ir Amim is considered to be the watchdog on developments in Jerusalem that have a bearing both on daily life and the viability of a political resolution on the city.  The organization monitors developments and trends that have bearing on the city’s political future, analyzes their ramifications and makes them accessible to the general public, and policy makers, journalists and other opinion shapers both here and abroad, by publishing reports, policy papers and articles. This research and analysis serves as the foundation for legal and public policy initiatives aimed at improving the authorities’ management of key issues like the education system in East Jerusalem or challenging trends such as the privatization of national parks, a tool for consolidating settlers’ control of Palestinian neighborhoods in the Historic Basin.
As an Israeli NGO, a central driver in Ir Amim’s work is to raise the level of discourse on Jerusalem within the Israeli public through study tours, public events and maintaining a regular presence in the Israeli and international press. In addition, we offer lectures, house meetings and seminars to the general public and targeted audiences, and create multimedia projects for wide distribution.  Successful examples include “37% - Stories from East Jerusalem,” an online photo documentary personalizing the lives of East Jerusalem residents; and “Jerusalem Moments,” a project that offered young Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers a venue for creating short, personalized documentary films examining Jerusalem. Ir Amim also works with the Palestinian community to help strengthen civil society in East Jerusalem.
What is Ir Amim’s vision for Jerusalem’s future?
The spectrum of proposals outlining a future political agreement on Jerusalem is broad, ranging from physical partition of the city to joint Israeli-Palestinian sovereignty. Ir Amim does not advocate one specific solution, believing that any solution that gains the consent of both parties will be a good one so long as it enables East and West Jerusalem to function as viable, independent capitals.
What is Ir Amim’s position on the large Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem such as Gilo or Pisgat Ze’ev?
While any Israeli construction beyond the Green Line constitutes illegal settlement activity under international law, Ir Amim recognizes that the reality on the ground created by years of annexation is largely irreversible – an assessment that received official expression in the “Clinton Parameters,” principles for the division of sovereignty in Jerusalem presented in December 2000 by former US President Bill Clinton. Clinton’s plan states that sovereignty in Jerusalem will be divided along demographic lines, meaning that the large Israeli neighborhoods will largely remain under Israeli sovereignty and the Palestinian neighborhoods will be part of Al-Quds, the Palestinian capital. However – and despite the fact that this plan was received with tacit understanding by the Palestinian side as well – Ir Amim believes that these neighborhoods are part of a territory whose political future should be determined at the negotiating table, and therefore any attempt to further establish facts on the ground by expanding Israeli construction in these neighborhoods, or by building new neighborhoods, is unacceptable given their damaging political consequences.
Does Ir Amim see a difference between the large Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem such as Gilo and settlements such as Ma’ale Zeitim in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood?
Yes. Despite the fact that both Gilo and Ma’ale Zeitim strengthen the Israeli presence beyond the Green Line in East Jerusalem, and both are considered illegal under international law, each of them has a different effect both on Jerusalem’s political future and its present stability. The neighborhood of Gilo is one of the Israeli neighborhoods that are anticipated – both in the peace plan outlined by former US President Bill Clinton and in other diplomatic understandings – to remain part of Israeli Jerusalem in future agreements, and therefore it is not expected to obstruct a future agreement.
The settlement Ma’ale Zeitim, however, is one of a series of strategic private settlements promoted by radical right wing groups operating with the vigorous support of the State. Their aim is to intensify Jewish settlement in the hearts of Palestinian neighborhoods, mainly in the Old City and around the Historic Basin, as a way of undermining the possibility of a political solution that supports a division of sovereignty in a two capital city. Beyond the harm they cause to the peace process, these settlements are a constant source of provocation for the residents of Palestinian neighborhoods in which they are located and create friction that periodically erupts in severe waves of violence.
For whom are Ir Amim tours intended?
Though Ir Amim values all of its audiences, its tours were first intended to serve the Israeli general public.  As an Israeli NGO, we attribute great importance to encouraging an informed discussion about Jerusalem’s future within Israeli society.  For this reason, our tours are designed to expose as broad an Israeli audience as possible to the political reality in Jerusalem.
Along with our Hebrew tours, Ir Amim also conducts regular tours in English for our non-Hebrew-speaking audiences. We also tour targeted groups looking to expand their knowledge of Jerusalem, including mechinot (pre-army programs), Shnat Sherut (pre-army volunteer programs), student groups, missions from Jewish communities abroad; as well as journalists, diplomats and foreign emissaries requiring a professional analysis of developments on the ground and their political impact.
We attended a tour, we saw, we learned, we were impressed… what can we do now?
The main goal of Ir Amim’s tours is to impart knowledge, after which several things can happen: you can help expand Ir Amim’s impact by recommending our tours to friends and acquaintances; organize a house meeting for us to come and talk about issues tailored to your group’s needs; write “letters to the editor” following news reports related to political issues in Jerusalem; let your MKs know where you stand and what you expect from them; join us in our advocacy campaigns and social media discussions; and keep the conversation flowing within your own circles to stimulate a more informed discourse on Jerusalem’s future. You can also make a vital contribution to Ir Amim’s work by making a donation here.
Is Ir Amim opposed to construction of the Separation Barrier?
Ir Amim recognizes construction of the Separation Barrier as one of the most dramatic developments in Jerusalem since 1967. While Ir Amim refrains from presenting an unequivocal position in favor or against construction of the Barrier, it engages extensively in analyzing the political, security and humanitarian ramifications of the Barrier in the Jerusalem area.
Some people say that your activity is mainly geared to “inform” on Israel to the world…
Ir Amim’s primary target audience is the Israeli public. The organization makes all published materials, documents and reports accessible to the Israeli public, and offers study tours to the public free of charge. However, as Jerusalem is a central political issue in the Conflict, there is extensive international interest in Ir Amim’s work and many policy makers, journalist, academics, students and opinion shapers make use of Ir Amim’s professional knowledge to attain a better understanding of developments on the ground. In our view, the desired political solution will require maximum cooperation between all relevant players in the field, and we seek to have all parties operate on the basis of well-grounded information and solid familiarity with the reality on the ground.
Is Ir Amim associated with any political party? Is it a political organization?
Political, yes – partisan, no.  Ir Amim’s work is necessarily political because Jerusalem is an innately political issue. Within this context, Ir Amim supports a two-state solution and a peace agreement that outlines the division of sovereignty in Jerusalem in a way that is conducive to implementing the solution.  Ir Amim is not affiliated or associated with any political party inside or outside Israel.
Why do you only criticize Israel? Why don’t you also criticize the Palestinian side?
Ir Amim is an Israeli organization, which focuses on Israel’s interests. Consequently, the address for our political analysis is first and foremost the Israeli government. It is the Israeli government that is accountable to us, Israeli citizens, and it is the Israeli government that is charged with furthering Israeli interests. As the acting sovereign in East Jerusalem from 1967 until today, Israel’s conduct has much farther-reaching consequences than that of any other party in the region and is therefore the focus of Ir Amim’s attention, monitoring and analysis.
Who funds Ir Amim?
Support for Ir Amim comes from a diverse range of sources: Individual donors in Israel and abroad, American Jewish foundations, and private and governmental European entities. For the full list of supporters, click here