Archive for October, 2008

Medical Interpretation Training – Alyn – October 30, 2008

October 30th, 2008

Today, the first ever medical interpretation training in Jerusalem has commenced (see report on YNET, in Hebrew). This training is part of our efforts, together with the Alyn Hospital’s management, to transform Alyn into a cultural competent hospital, probably the first of its kind in Israel. The work with Alyn is a component of the Jerusalem Cultural Competence in Health Project initiated by the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center and the Jerusalem Foundation. The three days training is offered to ten staff members of Alyn hospital and four national service volunteers from Hadassah Ein-Karem Hospital. The cultural competence program in Alyn also includes training to medical, para-medical and non-medical staff (a pilot training was held a month ago; improving the hospital setting and signage towards different identities; raising awareness about these issues in the hospital; and appointing staff who will be responsible for promoting cultural competency throughout the hospital. The cooperation of the Alyn management in the process is of great help.

Alyn Medical Interpretation Training November 2008

Alyn Medical Interpretation Training November 2008

The medical interpretation training encompasses theoretical lectures on translation and interpretation, presented by Prof. Miriam Schlesinger and Ms. Michal Schuster from the Bar-Ilan University, simulations, and language-specific training on medical terms and usage, in this case in Arabic, Russian and Amharic. The Alyn hospital currently formalizes regulations on how to effectively utilize its trained staff as interpreters.

Alyn Medical Interpretation Training November 2008

Alyn Medical Interpretation Training November 2008

Synagogue set on fire in Lod – October 30

October 30th, 2008

Unknown vandals hurled a Molotov cocktail into a synagogue in the city of Lod on October 29, 2008, sparking a small fire. No injuries were reported but the structure sustained a minor damage. While the police began its investigation the next day, the Mayor understood that such an event can spark Arab-Jewish riots in the city, and immediately called for a meeting with key officials and with members of the Lod Multicultural Forum. The Forum was initiated last year by Orit Yulzari, the Lod community worker, and is operated with the JICC’ day-to-day support. The Mayor has just recently, a few days ago, met the forum for the first time (read here about this meeting) and quickly realized that this group of committed community leaders can be pivotal in preventing events similar to the riots which broke out in Acre from happening in Lod. This was the first time for the forum to be summoned to help in such an event and the members were most helpful in delivering calming messages to their communities.

Arson in a Lod Synagogue

Arson in a Lod Synagogue

Later on the police arrested two Arab brothers who denied any connection to the case. The Lod Multicultural forum now has to ensure that peace remains in Lod in the coming days.

Community Dialogue Course – Third face-to-face-meeting

October 28th, 2008

On October 28, the third face-to-face national meeting of the community dialogue course took place. During the meeting the 20 course participants presented a written summary about the community dialogue tools that they have been investigating in the literature. This process continues the online discussion of the tools on the distant- learning platform of the course. The analysis, to be completed on the next meeting, serves to concertize the community dialogue approach and principles. Following this process, working in peer groups, the participants began to analyze their own community dialogue processes.

The Lod Multicultural Forum – Meeting with the Mayor – October 27, 2008

October 27th, 2008

Rarely does the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center agree to help creating community dialogue outside Jerusalem. The condition for such an involvement is the presence of local professional assets who can empower and facilitate the process. In Lod, Orit Yulzari, the municipality community worker, is supported by the JICC in creating a multicultural forum in the city. In the last two years, with our consultation, Orit succeeded to form a vivid group of local leaders and professionals from almost all the identities in the city: Muslims, Christians and Jews, all religious denominations -including Ultra-Orthodox, and almost all immigrant groups and ethnicities. On October 27, this group met for the first time with the Mayor, who was assigned to the post by the Ministry of Interior following the dismissal of the non-functional elected council. The forum members, who filled the Mayor’s chamber, updated him about the forum and suggested to make use of this asset in solving issues and tensions in the city. They also proposed to make Lod the first Cultural Competent City in Israel.

The Mayor, after meeting with the forum members, said how happy he was to see such an effective and diverse group in the city and asked if the forum would agree to meet with him monthly to discuss the many local issues related to identities and inter-cultural rifts. He asked Orit to write up a proposal for the forum’s work in the city and for its cooperation with the city council. He was especially interested in the Cultural Competent City idea and asked for a written proposal. Following an approval by the city council he would be happy to lead such a process.

The forum will soon discuss its meeting with the Mayor and based on this development decide upon its next steps.

Gishurim Annual Conference – October 27 2008

October 27th, 2008

On October 27, 2008, the Gishurim Program, which is a program to help Community Mediation Centers in Israel, had its annual conference. 300 participants from all around the country attended the conference, definitely the largest ever meeting of the community mediation centers in Israel.

Gishurim Conference Assembly 2008

Gishurim Conference Assembly 2008

The conference was implemented through the Open Space Technology and was facilitated by Daphna Barashi-Aizen, an organizational psychologist, and Tal Kligman, from the JICC. The conference focused on how community mediation centers can become more culturally competent in serving their diverse target audiences, and also in responding to the diversity amongst their staff and volunteers. Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir, the JICC director, gave the keynote presentation about the case study of cultural competence in the health system also in reference to the mediation centers. Following this presentation the participants discussed insights and initiatives in smaller groups. The summaries of the discussions were presented and follow-up initiatives were formalized for the coming year.

Setting Discussion Topics for the Open Space Sessions - the "Marketplace"

Setting Discussion Topics for the Open Space Sessions

A main discussion topic was the Acre riots and “the day after” – in all multicultural cities and communities in Israel. A few dozens activists and mediators came from Acre and helped the others to understand the background, the events and the probable consequences in Acre. Many other discussions touched upon the incorporation of new immigrants and different religious denominations into mediation centers. The discussions provided important insights for the activists in Acre as well as for those active in other places. The context of cultural competence offered an important framework for these discussions.

Open Space Discussion Group

Open Space Discussion Group

All discussions and follow-ups will be documented on the Gishurim website and through the help of the Gishurim program, some of the initiatives will be implemented. The Gishurim program is being operated by Mosaica and the Jerusalem Intercultural Center.

Acre Riots – October 10, 2008

October 10th, 2008

Two days after the eruption of the riots in Acre, which began on Yom Kippur, October 8, 2008 (read here, here and here), we felt it was essential to reassess the situation in Jerusalem. Here there aren’t really any mixed Palestinian/Arab-Jewish neighborhoods, so our hope is that the events in Acre will not stimulate events in the city. Nevertheless, a few weeks ago there were some incidents in Neve-Yaakov and Pisgat-Zeev, two Jewish neighborhoods in North-East Jerusalem where Palestinians have recently bought apartments. We will have to keep up our attention in these areas, and probably also in other sensitive places where Jerusalemites might encounter each other on Succot and Simkhat Torah.

At the same time, since we have a role in the region as a consultant for inter-cultural issues, we talked today with officials in the Acre Community Work Department about their next steps there. In Lod, where the JICC consults regularly to inter-cultural processes and issues, we suggested that the multi-cultural forum of lay-leaders that we helped create in the last two years, will meet on Sunday, analyze scenarios for the coming week and suggest proper response. This forum also works with the local police.

We all hope that the events will soon be over. Most important of all, we do not want these events to deteriorate, as happened in October 2000. Although the formal mandate of the JICC is in Jerusalem, we feel responsible to share our expertise with other mixed cities in Israel.

Distance Learning Inter-Cultural Community Dialogue Course

October 6th, 2008

As a part of the Gishurim Program, which is an Israeli program supporting Community Mediation Centers in Israel, an Inter-Cultural Community Dialogue Course is offered to 21 professionals and activists from all over the country. The Community Dialogue approach, developed by the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center, is taught by Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir (Director, JICC) and Dr. Orna Shemer (Department of Social Work, Hebrew University). The course is heavily based on a distance-learning platform, and the participants research, learn and discuss through the internet, which is a great way to improve learning, overcome geographical barriers and enhance internet skills that are nowadays very helpful in community work. In addition, there are face-to-face meetings that add another important learning opportunities.

The curriculum focuses on methodologies for deepening democracy in a community, creation of better community partnership and solidarity, defining a community public sphere which is more just, and defining the conditions for a flourishing multicultural community. The course that began in September 2008 is taught in five units of two weeks each.

The Gishurim program is jointly operatied by Mosaica and the Jerusalem Inter-Cultral Center.

Bridging the Gap – a training on Effective Activism

October 6th, 2008

“Bridging the gap” is a project of the Jerusalem Foundation that aims to connect Jewish youth of various religious denominations. Originally it was described as follows:

This program brings religious and secular youth together to overcome stereotypes and work together in the community. Operating in 10 neighborhoods the program encompasses religious, secular and traditional youth movements, from various points on the political spectrum. They meet for mediated workshops, to plan together community activities, and to commemorate and celebrate national holidays and memorial days. On a citywide level the program uses a wide variety of arts – poetry, theater, photography, music and more – as tools to advance understanding among the diverse groups. These young people come together with common goals of creating a community and bridging gaps in society.

In 2008, the Jerusalem Foundation asked the JICC to help redefine the project objectives. This process resulted in the decision to move gradually toward teaching youth of various religious denominations how to recognize and define social change challenges, and engage in effective programs that would actually make a difference. Protests are not enough. Creating awareness to a problem is not enough. Even the youth doing the work themselves is not enough. A real change on the ground, even just a small one, is the main measure of success. You can read more about the project in this report. A major success was achieved this year when one of the groups, using docu-activism, managed to convince the owners of a mall to improve its disabled accessibility. Feel free to read more about this exciting success (in English) or watch part of the movie the youth made (in Hebrew). The story was also published in the popular youth weekly “Rosh Echad“.

On October 5 and 6, 2008, the JICC hosted youth coordinators from three organizations – the staff of the “Bridging the Gap” project – for training in effective activism. Using case studies, examples and discussions, the young leaders found effective activism to be a most relevant tool for their intended projects in the upcoming year of activity.

Guest speakers were Naomi Tsur, the director of the Jerusalem branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, and Shmuli Bing, from BeMa’agaley Tsedek (Circles of Justice). Naomi has succeeded, using effective activism methods, in bringing about many changes and having a significant impact on environmental issues in Jerusalem. Shmuli recruited youth to a social change struggle that strived to improve working conditions and salaries of low-wage cleaning staff in their schools. In addition, “Bridging the Gap” projects from last year were analyzed, and insights were drawn with regard to best practices in multi-identity effective activism. By the end of the training we all felt that the youth coordinators were now much better equipped to engage their youth groups with activism. Time will tell….

Tsur Baher – educational issues – October 6, 2008

October 6th, 2008

Short background: Mr. Fouad Abu-Khammed, a businessman who was on the JICC board for many years, is one of the main lay-leaders of Tsur Baher – a Palestinian/Arab village in South-East Jerusalem. The JICC helped Abu-Khammed in establishing a connection between the lay-leaders’ education committee that he heads in the village, and Jerusalem municipality high officials. As a result, a unique process for improving the education system in Tsur Baher has been instigated, and a project coordinator, Carol Kasbari, was hired especially for this task. With the help of the Jerusalem Foundation and the Municipality Education Department, results are being seen on the ground. The JICC played a significant role in creating an enabling setting for the inter-cultural talks between the sides, which in Jerusalem are so often linked to global politics. At this point, the JICC serves as a consultant to the process and as an inter-cultural problem solver.

Today, we held one of the monthly meetings at the office of the head of the municipality Education Department. Representatives of the Tsur Baher lay-leadership, the Jerusalem Foundation, the municipality, and of course ourselves, heard Carol’s report on the achievements to date. Following a year and a half of discussions, many of which dealing with issues of inter-cultural communication and conflicts, today’s meeting revealed growing tendency for partnership and for understanding of the shared mission. Although many current solutions focus on “low hanging fruits”, these are very important, for example investment in laboratories and in classroom assistance. The strategic plan will have to tackle issues such as quality of teaching, violence and discipline. The role of the principals in leading the process was emphasized, but it is important to note that one of the original challenges in Tsur Baher was the lack of trust between these principals and the residents (although some of the principals reside in the village).

In November we will hold another meeting, and we’ll be able to see whether the positive attitude is still sustained in this important process.

Ramot Open Space initiative – October 5, 2008

October 5th, 2008

Ramot is a Jewish neighborhood that consists of ultra-orthodox, modern-orthodox (well, in Israel they are usually referred to as “national-religious”), conservative, reform and secular Jews. Ramot is known in the past twenty years for rifts between the ultra-orthodox groups and other religious denominations. Practically, the percentage of ultra-orthodox people rises and other denominations feel that they are losing their “turf”. The Ramot Community Council, which also serves as the local community center, mainly represents these “non-ultra-orthodox” groups.

The Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center was involved around the year 2000 in a high-rank negotiation process between the main ultra-orthodox leadership and the heads of the Community Council. The achievements of this process were limited, but it created some basic understandings. In 2008, the Ramot Community Council asked the JICC to help in creating a participatory community development process in the neighborhood. The selected model was Open Space Technology, a powerful way to engage passion and responsibility for action among large groups of residents, leaders, activists and professionals. To prepare for the Open Space event in December 2008 we formed a steering committee that includes all relevant stakeholders. The committee then discussed main questions for the event and ways to engage the community in the process.

On October 5, 2008, we held a meeting with the Board of the Community Council to expose them to the methodology and concept of the Open Space, and to emphasize their role as active partners. The board endorsed the process and raised important questions – mainly around best ways to engage as many residents as possible. Similarly to previous meetings, people expressed their concern that due to the demographic threat felt by non-ultra-orthodox residents, despair will cause many not to attend the event. As one participant pointed out, it might be hard for some to discuss “the quality of living in Ramot”, when they are not sure about “living in Ramot” for the long term. As we hoped, the board members were invited to the next meeting of the Open Space steering committee in November. This will enable them to take an active role in making the process successful.