Archive for May, 2015

MiniActive Going International – at the GPSA Conference in Washington, DC

May 20th, 2015

We’ve always known that the MiniActive project was on to something special, and that the 1,000 women – and 150 teenage girls – who take part are doing an amazing job. And now we’re getting to share this knowledge with others around the world. Just last week, our own Hagai Agmon-Snir and Intisar Qaraeen took part in the GPSA (Global Partnership for Social Accountability) Partners Forum 2015 in Washington, DC, USA. They presented MiniActive as a case study for empowering Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and enabling the provision of municipal and other services. The GPSA was launched in 2012 by the World Bank, and seeks to help civil society organizations solve critical governance challenges. “Everyone who heard the story of MiniActive was very impressed,” said Hagai. “It was a great experience for both of us.” Click here to see the power point that they gave.

Intisar at podium, GPSA

Intisar at podium, GPSA

And indeed, MiniActive’s accomplishments in recent months are quite impressive. Work with the teenage girls has developed well. (More about the groups here.) In late February girls from the Jebel Mukaber High School for Girls took on a project to clean up and beautify the road that leads to their school. Unfortunately, during the summer months last year this street was also the site of unrest and violence, which left the street in not-a-very-good-state. The girls cleaned up the street and painted the electricity boxes and the fence that runs along the road. It now not only looks better, the girls and their schoolmates and families, feel much better about their environment.

Jebel Mukaber girls painting March 2015

Jebel Mukaber girls painting March 2015

Also as part of the program the girls’ groups are taking part in ceramics classes, provided by the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. As part of that course, which will finish at the end of May, girls from the Umm Tuba Junior High School for Girls are preparing a giant ceramic clock for the school. Girls from the Jebel Mukaber High School for Girls are decorating a wall with ceramic tiles, which will have representations of their hopes and dreams. This project will also be finished soon; stay tuned for pictures.

MiniActive Women – Continued Accomplishments and Community Building

Here’s a few updates from the largest project for Palestinians – and largest women’s project – in East Jerusalem:

First – we’re expanding! We recently opened several new groups in Ras el-Amud, and welcomed 100 new women to the project. A few statistics about the work: In March, there were 470 requests for repairs, 150 of which were taken care of; In April, there were 600 requests, 200 of which were taken care of. In addition, 25 compost bins were distributed. These included a safety net in Sur Baher, a handrail along the side of a steep road to help pedestrians, fixing potholes, electrical wires, placing safety mirrors on windy roads, and much more. Women from the Old City toured the neighborhood with the worker in charge of garbage collection in that area, and he promised to place another 10 garbage receptacles throughout the Palestinian areas of the Old City. In the beginning of March 20 women met with a representative of the water company. They discussed different difficulties Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem face with regards to water – bills, meters, etc. – and explored ways to solve problems.

Fixing potholes

Fixing potholes

We continue to develop the professional skills of the women, especially the group leaders. Monthly regional coordinator meetings (who are in charge of several groups in each neighborhood) discuss issues that the women are facing throughout the city – garbage collection, donations to families in need, how to deal with service providers’ sub-contractors (which is common in East Jerusalem), how to interact with the municipal hotline operators, and more. At the end of March there was a large event in honor of the MiniActive women. We thought – March includes International Mothers’ Day, Women’s Day, etc., it should also include a MiniActive Women’s Day. The even attracted more than 250 women, who enjoyed a comedy act, they shared handicrafts that different groups had made, and more.

Women browsing handicrafts women celebration day

Women browsing handicrafts women celebration day

Fifty-two MiniActive women participated in a tour of Haifa in March. They visited the Bahai Gardensand then the Beit Hagefen Arab-Jewish Cultural Center. Beit Hagefen operates different volunteer projects in Arab neighborhoods in Haifa, and this tour was by and large a learning tour. The Jerusalem women heard about a number of projects, such as projects for girls at-risk, an “alternative” youth club and a tour of the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood.

The MiniActive women have also been participating in a number of courses:

  • Hebrew – they’ve expanded to include both beginning (35 participants) and intermediate (70 participants) levels.
  • Computers – 16 participants in an introduction to computers course.
  • Lev Isha (Women’s Heart) – program promoting women’s health and nutrition, in cooperation with the Linda Joy Polling Cardiovascular Wellness Center at Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Kerem. Twenty MiniActive women participated.
  • Compost instructor – Twelve MiniActive women are participating in a course offered by the David Yellin Academic College of Education in instructing community members in using compost effectively.
  • Sports – Forty women are participating in a sports class, which meets twice weekly, that opened in April.

Learning Arabic through Culture

May 10th, 2015

Throughout this past year, students studying Arabic for communication at the JICC have been treated to a wide variety of cultural events, with the goal of enabling them to more fully understand Arabic cultures and experience.  Last week, on May 5, students enjoyed an evening with Palestinian director Sahera Dirbas, a Palestinian director, originally from Haifa, who currently lives in Jerusalem. Students saw the film, “Jerusalem Bride,” which tells about the complicated fabric of life of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem today – the poverty, unemployment, problems of young couples in finding work and housing, and the difficulty in building a family. After the film there was a 1 1/2 hour discussion with the director on these and other issues.

Jerusalem Bride

Jerusalem Bride

On April 15, one of our long-time teachers, Dr. Anwar Ben-Badis, took students on a tour of the Musrara neighborhood, focusing on the history of Arabic culture in the neighborhood and contrasting it with the neighboring sections of the Old City. (The neighborhoods of Talbiye, Katamon and Musrara are examples of neighborhoods that are today distinctly Jewish, in the heart of west Jerusalem. However, for the first few decades of the 20th century, prominent Arab families, largely Christian, lived in these areas.) Anwar led participants to a number of houses built with Arab architecture, and told the story of each house. Another stop on the tour was the “Under the Bridge” coffee house outside of the Damascus Gate. Operated by two brothers, they shared with the students their experiences of leaving their houses. One brother still carries the keys to his house.

On February 25 Anwar led students on a tour the Old City, concentrating on Sufi sights. The Sufi movement grew from within the Islamic world in the 8th and 9th centuries. Sufi philosophy, which continues to be a part of the Islamic religion today, holds that God is found in everything, and everyone has a personal connection to God. Today Sufis live simply, wearing wool garments (the word Suf means “wool” in Arabic). The  Sufi centers is Israel today are in Jerusalem, Acco and Jaffa. The tour took students to special Sufi gathering sights (zawai), which were built by rich Muslims, and are often found beside mosques. They served as hotels, bath houses, health clinics, and religious schools. One of the zawaii today serves as a branch of Al-Quds University. One of the former bath houses holds a theater today, and another, a gallery.

Sufi tour

Sufi tour

These tours were two examples of a range of cultural activities our Arabic students have been encountering over the course of the school year. Others included: a concert by the YMCA Jewish-Arab Youth Choir, lectures, poetry readings, and more. We are also holding cultural encounters with various Arab cultural figures, such as a poet, artists, musician, actors, etc.These events are helping to bring the Arabic language and culture alive, beyond the regular textbooks.

Concert at YMCA

Concert at YMCA

The JICC has been offering Arabic language for communication almost since its establishment, thanks to the ongoing support of the Jerusalem Foundation. Since September we’ve been teaching over 120 students in 8 classes, over 5 levels in weekly classes. They cover the entire spectrum of the population – young people and seniors, professionals and students – all seeking to be able to use Arabic to communicate with those they share the city with.

Arabic classes at concert

Arabic classes at concert

In addition to these activities that are offered for all students, participants also expand their knowledge of local Arabic language and culture in other ways.  Some of the students, who teach adults Hebrew, have Arab pupils. They have organized for the Jewish students studying Arabic to meet up with the Arab students studying Hebrew, for each to practice the ‘other’s language and to get to know each other as well.

It’s such a joy to come back every year to these courses, a staple of the JICC’s annual programming, which are constantly filled to capacity. Indeed, the national daily newspaper Ha’aretz recently published a lengthy article about the plethora of Arabic-language classes popping up in Jerusalem, mentioning us quite extensively.

Arabic Study article

Arabic study article

Working with Maccabi Health Services

May 5th, 2015

What if all Israeli kupot holim (HMO’s) were culturally competent, from the bottom up and from the top-down? What if every time you went to the doctor, he or she – and the administrative support staff – would be better able to meet your needs, speak in your native language (or have access to someone who could), understand where your coming from, culturally speaking?

Since the Israel Ministry of Health published its directive in 2011, requiring all health care institutions to become culturally competent, things have improved, but there’s still a ways to go. Slowly, one HMO at a time, we’re helping to rectify the situation. We’ve been working with Jerusalem-based clinics and hospitals since the beginning of the Cultural Competency project in 2008 (this is the earliest blog post on the project). Last year, we began working with the Leumit HMO on a national level, the first time we had worked with national management and not primary clinics. In late 2014, we also began working with the national level of Maccabi HMO.

Maccabi seminar

Maccabi seminar

We began with a 3-workshop introductory course that took place in December – January in Maccabi’s central instruction center in Tel Aviv. There were 25 participants, from all disciplines in the HMO – from nurses and physicians to administrators on different levels – from all over the country. During the course participants learned tools that will enable them to integrate principles of cultural competency into different aspects of the health organization. They also heard a lecture from Prof. Leon Epstein, one of the major researchers whose research serves as the basis for our cultural competency project , about the connection between society and culture on health an sickness.  Dr. Anat Jaffe, Head of the Endocrinology and Diabetes Unit at the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center and a founder of the Tene Briut organization, shared her experience providing culturally competent care to diabetes patients from the Ethiopian community. Participants also learned from a “Community Panel,” in which different cultures’ approaches to health and health care were presented (Haredi, Ethiopian, Muslim, French).

Maccabi panel full room

Maccabi panel full room

Each of the participants was asked to develop and implement a project in the district or clinic in which he or she worked that would advance cultural competency. Examples included: an information sheet directed at Haredi women on sexual assault; a “Your Health is in Your Hands” handout, which lists the different recommended tests; a clinic that is accessible to French speakers; encouraging Muslims to use physical therapy through quotes from the Prophet Muhammad; engaging a volunteer to help fill out forms for Russian or Arabic-speakers; a public awareness meeting on diabetes, adapted to the needs of Russian speakers, and more.

Last week, on April 29, we held a follow-up conference for these participants. The meeting included a tour of the ALYN Pediatric & Adolescent Rehabilitation Center in Jerusalem, the first hospital in the country to undergo the cultural competency process, with our mentorship. They saw first hand how they implement cultural competency principles on a daily basis. ALYN’s cultural competency coordinator also explained how the hospital and its staff copes with different social and political tensions in a culturally competent manner. (ALYN’s Director General Dr. Maurit Be’eri wrote about this here during last year’s Operation Protective Edge.) In addition, participants heard a fascinating lecture by the director of the municipal welfare office in a Haredi neighborhood, on how to create a community context, especially during times of crisis. Her office was at the center of a crisis in mid-2009 when a Haredi mother was accused of starving her child. Out of this crisis arose a process of culturally competent work that includes local rabbis, community leaders from the Eidah Haredit, and different public offices that enable the welfare services in this area to be culturally sensitive to the Haredi population. Participants also heard updates of their respective projects.