Archive for March, 2016

Just in Time for Springtime! Planning New Playgrounds in Gilo

March 31st, 2016

Just in time for springtime – we’re helping residents and professionals plan more playgrounds.

After the outstanding success on Afarsimon St., we, together with the Gilo Community Council staff, began an additional public process of planning public playgrounds in Gilo. This time, it’s on Harduf St.

Meeting in Gilo

Meeting in Gilo

Unlike the first playground, this time the initiative for the playground came from a Gilo resident, who complained to the local city planner about the noise that was coming from a neighboring playground. This began a long process in which the planner went through the appropriate channels in the Municipality while the resident recruited additional community members willing to fix the playground. On March 21, 18 residents, half of them children, as well as the Gilo Community Council staff and the regional planner from the Municipality, began planning a new playground. Residents raised ideas and discussed their needs, and drew up and prioritized design principles. The children actively participated in the discussion, in a most productive and inspiring way.

List of design principles

List of design principles

Examples of some of the principles:

  • Appropriate for ages birth – 12
  • Landscaping appropriate for senior citizens
  • Planning that prevents crowds gathering
  • Multi-purpose equipment (e.g. one piece of equipment that includes ropes and swings and bridges, etc.)
  • Hourglass clock to time turns on the different equipment
  • Expanding the playground instead of passageways
  • Planting to enable shaded areas
  • Soft, environmentally-friendly pavement

The list will be sent to the Municipality and will form the basis for its planning. The next meeting will take place with residents and Municipality representatives in the playground in order to present a number of alternatives and to reach agreement on the best planning for the playground.

It was a fascinating and effective meeting, and we are proud to be assisting the Gilo Community Council staff and residents in this process. Next month – a similar process on Shamir St.

 

We’ll Never get “Tired” of this Minion – Palestinian Teenagers for the Environment

March 30th, 2016

Did you know you could make a minion this from a stack of tires?

Well never get "tired" of this minion

Well never get “tired” of this minion

That would be our new group of Palestinian teenage girls, who are volunteering to improve for their neighborhoods and environments. Recently they held a number of activity days, recycling and re-purposing old materials into new. Here are some pictures of the process:

Chipping in to make surroundings nicer

Chipping in to make surroundings nicer

They not only don’t want to live in filth, they also want to live in a beautiful environment. They decorated old plastic bottles,

nice picture of youth working

Youth working

DVD’s, and more:

Painting discs

Painting discs

They made planters out of old plastic bottles:

Making painted bottle planters

Making painted bottle planters

They painted telephone cabinets

Painting telephone cabinets as well

Painting telephone cabinets as well

 

And even old rusty dumpsters. Here’s a picture of the dumpster before

Before - rusted old dumpster

Before – rusted old dumpster

And now you can see it after:

The dumpster after - what a joyous site!

The dumpster after – what a joyous site!

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continuing support of this program. Here’s the link to one of the Facebook posts in Arabic:

Window to Mt. Zion – Remembering Jerusalem’s Poor on Mount Zion

March 29th, 2016

The Window to Mount Zion project, which we’re implementing together with the Search for Common Ground Jerusalem Office thanks to a grant from the USIP, seeks to document important events from all three monotheistic faiths.

The 7th of Adar – March 17, 2016 – Moses’ date of birth and death – was the memorial service for Jerusalem’s poor. Because Moses’ place of death is not known, this date was chosen for the memorial service at the Sambusky Cemetery on the slopes of Mount Zion. The Sambusky Cemetery contains the graves of thousands of Jerusalem’s poor, who have been buried there over the past several centuries. These were Jews who could not afford to be buried at the Mount of Olives Cemetery. Thus, the poor from a variety of ethnicities were buried one alongside the other, in a place that has all but been forgotten. This is the second year in a row that the Reishit Jerusalem organization has been organizing a memorial service for Jerusalem’s poor each year on the 7th of Adar. It is also working to renew the cemetery.

Rabbi Ya'akov Nana

Rabbi Ya’akov Nana

This year, alongside Israel’s Chief Rabbi and Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Ya’akov Nana, the gabbai of the Sephardic synagogue on Mount Zion and a guard for the President’s Room there, also said a memorial prayer. His grandfather is buried in this cemetery, but he was there for the first time in his life in October 2015, as part of a tour of Mount Zion that the Window on Mount Zion project held as part of the Open House Jerusalem festival. Because this area was for years considered no-mans land, and in a dangerous area, his family was never able to say Kaddish, the memorial prayer. This year, Rabbi Nana was able to say Kaddish not only for his grandfather, but for all of Jerusalem’s poor.

Here’s a video of part of the tour (in Hebrew):

Window to Mt. Zion – Service in the Room of the Last Supper, in Preparation for Easter

March 27th, 2016

Combine one of the holiest and solemn times in the Christian calendar (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter) with one of the happiest and noisiest holidays on the Jewish calendar (Purim), at the only place holy to Christians, Jews, and Muslims (the area around David’s Tomb on Mt. Zion), and it could be a recipe for trouble.

But there was hardly any, thanks to the Israeli Police and volunteers from the Window on Mount Zion project.

Room of the Last Supper

Room of the Last Supper

Instead, hundreds of Christian pilgrims gathered in the Room of the Last Supper in the David’s Tomb complex to watch Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Franciscan, Custos of the Holy Land for the Vatican, perform a traditional foot-washing ceremony for 12 outstanding students from the Arabic-speaking Catholic community in Jerusalem. This is one of the five prayers that Christians are allowed to say in the Room of the Last Supper according to current agreements. The ceremony re-enacts Jesus’ actions before the Last Supper, when he is said to have washed the feet of his twelve disciples, which took place on the Thursday before Easter. The ceremony symbolizes modesty.

This year, Holy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, in the Catholic and Protestant calendars fell on the Jewish holiday of Purim. (Holy Thursday and Easter come much later on the Christian Orthodox calendars.). Purim in Jerusalem is celebrated a day after most others (called Shushan Purim), so the traditional reading of the Scroll of Esther (Megilat Esther) at the synagogue in the David’s Tomb complex was scheduled to take place shortly after the foot-washing ceremony. Since Purim is often accompanied by loud and joyous celebrations, there was indeed great potential for inter-religious tensions and clashes.

Police briefing Window on Mt. Zion Volunteers

Police briefing Window on Mt. Zion Volunteers

Because both were important events for each religion, Window on Mt. Zion volunteers were on hand to help the pilgrims and tourists who had come to Jerusalem from all over Jerusalem, Israel and throughout the world, giving them explanations and helping the police make sure that order was kept.

Franciscan monk procession

Traditional procession

The ceremony began with a traditional procession that began at the New Gate, through Zion Gate and ended at the Room of the Last Supper. The procession was accompanied by Kavasses, ceremonial guards that have been accompanying religious processionals since Ottoman times.

There were a few challenges, but the police, assisted by “Window” volunteers, did a superb job of keeping order. A small number of Jews demonstrated  against having the ceremony next to David’s Tomb. In addition, demonstrators played shofarot (traditional ram’s horns) through speakers in order to disrupt the ceremony. The police worked quickly to regain quiet. In the video below you can hear the shofarot outside, but inside the ceremony continued as planned.

The ceremony ended after about an hour, and that same speaker system this time blasted lively Purim songs. These songs actually created a lighter atmosphere and reminded us all that Jews and Christians were celebrating important holidays at the same location. A number of Jewish residents expressed regret that attempts were made to disrupt the Christian service, further adding to this atmosphere of peaceful coexistence. Shortly after the end of the foot-washing ceremony, Jews gathered in the synagogue at David’s Tomb for the reading of Megilat Esther.

Here’s a few minutes of the ceremony:

Ha’aretz Coverage of Zion Square-Tolerance Square Planning Meeting

March 25th, 2016

Speaking in the Square has made the national news again! On March 22, the Zion Square – Tolerance Square planning meeting, which we wrote about here, was covered by the Ha’aretz national newspaper in English. Click here to access the entire article.

Here are some excerpts from the article, written by Eetta Prince-Gibson:

“Imagine Zion Square in the future,” the facilitator asks the group. “What is happening in your ideal square?”
Seated at tables stocked with play dough, building blocks and Lego pieces, they shout out their answers.
“It’s filled with light and there are lots of children,” says a woman who appears to be in her 20s, in jeans and high boots.

“I hear a mishmash of languages. Yiddish, too,” says a young man in tight skinny striped pants.
“Fruit trees!” “Light and shade!” “Lots of different things happening all at once!” people call out.
“It’s a Hyde Park!” says a middle-aged-looking man in the black velvet kippah, white shirt and black pants garb of the ultra-Orthodox.

In early March, a group of 50 or so Jerusalemites of different ages, political affiliations and religious persuasions met to articulate their vision for Zion Square, the central square in downtown West Jerusalem. Uniting them is their deep commitment to the vision of Jerusalem as a thriving city that derives from its history, sanctity and modern creativity.

These activists, representing a large, loose coalition of organizations, ad hoc movements and individuals, have been meeting for informal dialogue every Thursday night in Zion Square for over a year and a half, since extremist right-wing violence began to spread through downtown Jerusalem during the days of the Israel-Gaza conflict in the summer of 2014.

In response to their activism, the Jerusalem municipality has determined that, as a major component of its call for a competition for a planned redesign of the square, Zion Square will be turned into “a place that promotes connections, tolerance and mutual respect.”

She goes on to describe the history of Zion Square, especially since the summer of 2014:

But by July 2014, during the heat of the Gaza war known as Operation Protective Edge, the square had been largely claimed by a right-wing extremist group, Lahava, which bills itself as the “organization for the prevention of assimilation in the Holy Land.” Dressed in black and yellow shirts, they would march repeatedly through the square, waving large flags, handing out stickers “don’t even think about a Jewish girl” in Hebrew and Arabic, and accosting anyone they perceived to be Arab, members of the LGBT community, or “leftists.”

“We realized we had to try to take back the square,” recalls Michal Shilor, 23, an activist in what was to become “Talking in the Square,” [translation of the group’s Hebrew name, Medabrim Bakikar, what we call Speaking in the Square] a group of volunteers operating with the support of the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation. “But we also realized that many of the kids in Lahava were alienated kids who were looking for something to belong to. So we decided to engage them.”

Facilitated by the Jerusalem Intercultural Center, “Talking in the Square” [Speaking in the Square] developed a routine, coming into the square on Thursday nights, a favorite night for Lahava activities, offering to engage Lahava activists – and anyone else who happened upon the square – in thoughtful dialogue. Gradually, over the year, and very much under the radar of the media, they became recognized as a permanent, and calming, feature.

Activity in the Square

Activity in the Square

But then came the murder of Shira Banki, a 16-year-old high school student at the Gay Pride Parade in late July 2015.

“We felt we were choking,” recalled Shira Katz-Vinkler, CEO of the Yerushalmim Movement. “Something so horrific was happening in Jerusalem and in all of Israeli society, and we knew we could not continue with ‘business as usual.’”

And somehow, Katz-Vinkler continues, “we all knew that the activity had to concentrate in Zion Square. Maybe it’s a way of expressing that ‘from Zion shall go forth Torah,’” she adds, citing a phrase from the books of Isaiah and Micha.

On August 1, thousands of Jerusalemites turned out in Zion Square to a vigil, headed by President Reuven Rivlin and with the participation of prominent rabbis from all the different religious streams, including the ultra-Orthodox, representatives of the LGBT support organization Jerusalem Open House, and others.

Recalls Weil, who had been at the Pride Parade, “I came to that vigil sad, broken. Yet, strangely, I came away feeling a sense of hope, based on the recognition that we can only heal if we all come together.”

After Banki died, the Yerushalmim Movement, together with Talking in the Square, spontaneously decided to observe the traditional seven-day mourning period in the square. They have continued to be there, every Thursday night, ever since, in an effort to rebrand the square as tolerant turf.

Fast forward to February 2016. The Jerusalem Municipality issued a competition to re-design Zion Square. The Mayor was persuaded to dedicate the square to dialogue and tolerance, and any design must include elements that promote these concepts. The article continues:

“The design of the square will be a real challenge,” says Roi Lavee, an architect employed by the municipality as a planner for the city center. “On the one hand, we want the square to be comfortable for everyone – Arabs, Jews, religious, secular, young, old. It is also a commercial space, and we want it to be a space that gives expression to the arts and creativity. It’s a huge project – but I believe that Jerusalem is up for it.”

Stay tuned for more developments on the planning and design of Zion Square. Here’s the post to the article via Facebook:

More Success for MiniActive – Bus Stop Benches in Shuafat

March 22nd, 2016

It should be simple, going to take the bus. You go to the bus stop, have a seat, and wait for the bus to arrive. Right?

Not necessarily, if you live in East Jerusalem. For many, this is a regular sight at the bus stop.

Common state of bus stops

Common state of bus stops

For almost two years the MiniActive women have been registering complaints about these benches with the municipality, which is responsible for them. Together with MiniActive, we finally turned to the person in charge of bus stops at the Municipality. She suggested that the contractor in charge of performing the work tour the problematic bus stops, together with the MiniActive women. The tour took place on Sunday, March 13, and by Friday, March 18, all of the bus stops had been fixed!

Fixing a bench in Shuafat

Fixing a bench in Shuafat

 

Parts have already been ordered to begin fixing benches in Beit Hanina. We expect there to be tours to additional East Jerusalem neighborhoods soon.

Finally, a bench to sit on

Finally, a bench to sit on

Congratulations to MiniActive on their perseverance that is finally paying off. Let’s hope the Municipality keeps up the pace.

Fixing things right with heavy machinery

Fixing things right with heavy machinery

Here’s the cross-post from 0202-A View from East Jerusalem, which translated the original post from the MiniActive Facebook page:

Window to Mt. Zion – New Torah Scroll at David’s Tomb – Documenting Events for Jews as well as Christians and Muslims

March 20th, 2016

Window to Mt. Zion seeks to document all groups’ activities on Mt. Zion – Jewish, Christian, Muslim – and to help make sure they take place safely. Thus, they were present on March 16, 7 Adar (acknowledged as Moses’ birthday), when a new Torah scroll was placed in the synagogue at David’s Tomb. It was the first Ashkenazi Torah Scroll to be place at David’s Tomb.

Celebrating Worldwide Shema-Saying at the Tomb of David

Celebrating Worldwide Shema-Saying at the Tomb of David

The event started at Jaffa Gate, as a parade of people made their way to the foot of Mt. Zion. There, hundreds of people joined in joyous “Worldwide Shema-Saying” ceremony, even in the pouring rain. Rabbi Dov Lior, the Rabbi of Kiryat Arba, and Rabbi Reuven Elbaz, a member of the Torah Scholars’ Council (Shas leadership) and the Rabbi of the Or haim Yeshiva, both spoke and led the prayers. Here’s a video from that ceremony:

The crowd then proceeded to accompany the Torah scroll to David’s Tomb. There, the police and the organizers went to great lengths to keep the festivities orderly, to prevent overcrowding and to make sure the keep the participants safe. The scroll was placed in the ark in David’s Tomb, amongst a great deal of dancing and singing. ‘Window on Mount Zion’ volunteers were there to document it:

Charming Pictures of the MiniActive Garden

March 19th, 2016

We’ve been following here and here the development of MiniActive’s horticulture therapy course taking place in Beit Hanina.

The beautiful garden

The beautiful garden

Participants are learning themselves, as well as practicing with the kids.

The beautiful garden

The beautiful garden

It’s quite amazing seeing how the garden is shaping up.

The beautiful garden

The beautiful garden

It’s such a pleasure to present these beautiful pictures!

Flowers, flowers everywhere

Flowers, flowers everywhere

More of the building in progress:

Beginning the landscaping

Beginning the landscaping

These accomplishments were cross-posted on the English 0202 – A View from East Jerusalem‘s Facebook page:

And here’s the post from MiniActive’s Facebook page:

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their ongoing support of this project.

Santé Israël – Creating Both Real-life and Virtual Community

March 18th, 2016

Santé Israël isn’t just a web site – albeit an incredibly rich, information-laden web site – anymore. It is also creating real-life community. We’ve already rolled out the web site and Facebook page, and the next step is to create a real-life community surrounding the virtual one for French-speaking immigrants – one that will better enable access to Israel’s health care system and improve the community’s health care.

Since the beginning of March we’ve been bringing the electronic information to the people. We began in Bayit Vegan. Sante’s coordinator, Marie Avigad, introduced the web site to a group of 15 – 20 women. The women were very enthusiastic and interested in the web site, for themselves as well as for friends and relatives here, as well as those in France. They asked about different aspects relating to Israeli health care – prescriptions, referrals, hospital and outpatient coverage, payment for ambulance, emergency medicine hubs, medical interpretation, what the site tells about the different HMO’s.

Sante in Har Homa

Sante in Har Homa

The hit of the evening – an information sheet about how to prepare for a trip to the doctor, as well as the link to the WAZE social GPS app that is embedded in the site. Thus, a patient can be guided to the nearest clinic / hospital via WAZE, via the site. At the end of the evening, the women asked how to put a shortcut to the site on their cellphone screens so they always have it handy.

Our next stop was Har Homa. There, the evening included not only an introduction to Sante Israel, but also a lecture by nutritionist Yael Sayag-Shofen from the Maccabi HMO, who spoke about the myths of nutrition, or how to promote good health thanks to a truly balanced diet.

Yael Sayag-Shofen, nutritionist

Yael Sayag-Shofen, nutritionist

This project has been made possible thanks to the Pharmadom Foundation, which works under the auspices of the Foundation of French Judaism (FSJU) and the Rashi Foundation.

MiniActive – Replicating the Model in Lod

March 17th, 2016

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…

We’re proud to announce that, after more than 3 years of generating amazing grassroots change in East Jerusalem (read here for more about our accomplishments), activists from Lod asked us to bring MiniActive to the central city of Lod.

First meeting of MiniActive Lod

First meeting of MiniActive Lod

Their first meeting was held this week, in which our coordinator Intisar, explained the background and methodology of the program. She’ll be on hand to mentor them as they get started.

Initial introductions

Initial introductions

Congratulations MiniActive Lod, and good luck!

The presentation

The presentation

Here’s the Facebook post in Arabic:

And also translated into English: