Archive for June, 2013

The JICC Presents: East Jerusalem

June 30th, 2013

Over the past few years we’ve become one of the leading experts of community development work, especially in East Jerusalem. Last week we got to show this off in a number of forums:

First, on Monday, June 24 we presented the overall work of our East Jerusalem Desk, led by Ezadeen, to a group of researchers at the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies. These included (with links to relevant blog posts): working with neighborhood coalitions, the mental health forum, emergency response networks, paramedical professionals, MiniActive. Below is a response from Dr. Maya Choshen, researcher at the JIIS:

Dear Hagai,
The meeting with the JICC…was educational, encouraging and impressive…It is clear that a lot of heart and thought went into these projects; that is a wonderful combination…
I thought that nothing could top Cultural Competency (link) but the MiniActive program is no less impressive.
You contribute significantly to the quality of life [in Jerusalem], and all the words above can’t describe the joy and esteem I have for your work.

And if it couldn’t get better than that, on Thursday (June 27), Liana presented the MiniActive (click here for a more detailed description) project to the Jerusalem Municipality’s General Director. She, together with several other MiniActive volunteers, toured with him the streets of Wadi Joz. They showed him what each one had fixed on the street as part of the MiniActive project. This complete local ownership of the project, and pride in all its accomplishments, is one of the secrets to its success.

MiniActive and the Municipality CEO

MiniActive and the Municipality General Director

Later on that day, Liana, Ezadeen and Hagai presented MiniActive achievements to a course of Department Heads at the Municipality, in an 8-hour tour.

In the afternoon, there was a celebration of social change projects in East Jerusalem. Out of the 120 women there, at least 80 were participants in the MiniActive project. There, too, Liana presented MiniActive to a forum that included quite a few senior officials.

Municipal officials and MiniActive

Municipal officials and MiniActive

On Sunday (June 30) the MiniActive MVPs are out and about again – this time to the north – up to the Banias in the Golan Heights and back. Hopefully we’ll have some pictures to share soon.

Arabic Courses – Building a Bridge through Language – 2012-2013 year

June 25th, 2013

We’re just now winding up the 2012 – 2013 year of Arabic classes or Hebrew speakers at the JICC. After 10 years of offering the courses, this year we had a bumper crop – 100 students in 7 classes over 5 levels!

These courses are not something we take for granted. When we started, we offered a pilot Arabic course in the Morasha Community Center, where we were based at the time, in parallel to a Hebrew course that was taking place at the Beit Hanina Community Center. The two groups met from time to time, which is no small feat, since it was then the height of the second Intifada. The peak event was a joint meeting at the old Beit Hanina Community Center, which was just a stone’s throw from the Qalandia military checkpoint, on May 15, Naqba Day (Day of the Catastrophe, the day after Israel declared its independence). Our students received the warmest of receptions, while just a kilometer north of there were violent outbursts at the checkpoint.

After the pilot years, with our growing partnership with the Jerusalem Foundation, we held courses at the Hand in Hand School for Bilingual Education, who let us utilize their facilities. There was a beginner’s course and a (very small) intermediate course.

We’ve been hosting the courses at our current facility on Mt. Zion since we moved here at the end of 2006 (this is as far back as we’ve been documenting them on our blog). Since then, we’ve been growing from year to year, adding classes and levels, until we finally reached the 100 mark.

This year, too, we went back to the Hand in Hand School, this time on their new campus. They were looking for a group with Arabic advanced enough to engage in conversation with participants in their Hebrew class for Arabic speakers during the class breaks. (We tried it before with beginners; it wasn’t too successful) We were happy to expand the physical outreach of our classes. Thus, this year the 10 students in our most advanced class (level 5) studied at the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School for Bilingual Education, which is now located in the southern neighborhood of Pat, just a few hundred meters from Beit Safafa. In parallel, at the JICC building, the other 6 groups in levels 1-4, continued learning.

What makes our classes so special? First, the teachers. They’re the ones who make the classes so enjoyable and effective for the students. They don’t just teach from the book (although there is a book, and students do learn to read and write), they bring their whole selves into the classroom and teach Arabic as their own – teaching their culture, bringing their stories from home and from their families, learning through songs (on CD’s), making it fun. They go on tours of the Old City. When the Old City is blocked off and classes can’t be held at the JICC, classes meet in students’ homes.

Second the students – all use (or are exposed to) Arabic on an almost daily basis. They’re students, teachers, volunteers, activists, workers in the field, and more. Maybe one could be you? But act fast, places are filling up. We already have at least 25 already signed up for next year.

MiniActive – On the Move

June 14th, 2013

The MiniActive women are on the move again. With their ranks growing quickly reaching 1,000 (only a few months ago we counted 180) we’ve been looking for ways to reward our volunteers for their dedication and hard work. Below are just a few examples.

We then teamed up with a program that was seeking to teach residents of East Jerusalem about the environment. Some 50 of the MiniActive participants were more than happy to participate. As part of the program, in February the women had a special trip to the Ariel Sharon Park, Jaffa and an ecological farm outside Modi’in. The Ariel Sharon Park is built on the Hiriya garbage dump that received all the garbage from the Tel Aviv metropolitan area for nearly 50 years. Today the Ariel Sharon Park is not only where Israel’s central region’s garbage is sorted for recycling, it aims to be the ‘green lung’ of the central region, the largest in a planned chain of parks in the Tel Aviv area. After lunch and a stop at a historical mosque in Jaffa, the women visited an ecological farm outside of Modi’in. There they learned about the lifestyle of living as close as possible to nature, from growing their own herbs and vegetables to recycling grey water, composting, producing medicinal herbs, and more.

At the Ariel Sharon Park

At the Ariel Sharon Park

These women continue to be active, meeting with school principals and raising awareness among the general population.

Raising awareness

Raising awareness

Starting at the beginning of May, we’ve been holding a series of tours inside the walls of the Old City. These 3-hour tours each cover a separate section of the Old City, and utilize stories from Arab history and traditions to enrich the subject matter. These tours are not only fun, they also teach the women about parts of the city they may never have seen before. There are 10 – 15 women on each tour. Each time, different women participate. Thanks to Dr. Anwar for his dedicated service.

Inside the Old City

Inside the Old City

The women also recently took a trip to Haifa and Acre. In Haifa they visited the beautiful Bahai Gardens. In Acre they toured the ancient city, and enjoyed a boat ride.

At the Bahai Gardens in Haifa

At the Bahai Gardens in Haifa

Next week, a trip to the Banias.

The hundreds of participants in the different programs had a wonderful time. We hope to have many more of these kinds of opportunities to thank each and every one of our volunteers. They deserve it.

Paramedical Professional Training Program – Now Physical Therapy

June 10th, 2013

How sweet it is to see the fruits of your labors pay off, and to see a program expanding to fill critical needs. Thanks to assistance from the Hadassah Foundation and the Jerusalem Foundation (More recently the Leichtag Foundation has also joined us as a partner in this amazing program), this year we’ve expanded our training program for Palestinian graduates of paramedical professions to include students of physical therapy. One by one, we hope to develop courses for all paramedical professions, to enable graduates to pass the Israeli certification examinations, which are required to work legally in East Jerusalem.

We began the project last year, with seed funding from the Jerusalem Foundation (click here for links to posts one and two on the courses), and the results were fantastic – 26 of 39 nursing students passed the exam, and 8 of the 14 occupational therapy students passed the exam.

Nurses in the new course

Nurses in the new course

Given the dearth of paramedical professions across the board in East Jerusalem, our main goal was to develop courses in as many disciplines as possible. Our next discipline – physical therapy. Developing a course for physical therapy was more challenging than for nursing or occupational therapy, especially since there aren’t schools for physical therapy (like there are for occupational therapy and nursing) in Jerusalem. Working with an outside consultant and the Ministry of Health, we planned the curriculum. We gathered 16 participants for our pilot course. Weekly classes began at the beginning of June and will prepare participants for the exam that will be held in November 2013.

Another meeting of the nursing course

Another meeting of the nursing course

These 18 joined another group of 30 who began studying in March for the nursing exam that will take place in September. As for Occupational Therapy, we’ve just finished helping 4 people prepare independently for the June exam, and we’ll start a proper course in September, leading up to the December exam.
We wish all graduates and students the best of luck in their studies and exams.