Blog Category: ‘Kiryat Yovel’

Building Community Solidarity through Themed Playgrounds

September 16th, 2015

How would you like your local public playground? Aimed at big or little kids?  With a pirate theme or dinosaurs or space travel?

Can you really have a playground made to order? Well, yes. During the spring and summer months we were involved in community-building processes that aimed to do just that – build community by building a playground. We were approached by the Jerusalem Municipality to lead processes in Gilo, Ir Ganim, Givat Hamivtar and Shuafat. With funding from the Bloomberg Philanthropies, established by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, we set to work.

Jerusalem's diversity, building playgrounds

Jerusalem’s diversity, building playgrounds

The processes were led by the staff of the different community councils, alongside Municipality officials. Before meeting with the residents, these process leaders met to set joint project goals and ensure that everyone was on the same page. (Indeed, ‘informed decision-making’ is a key component of the principles of participatory democracy.) Different concepts were reviewed – what exactly are themed playgrounds, the rough budgets set aside for building the playgrounds, the timeline, safety standards, types of potential equipment, examples of themed playgrounds from around the world for inspiration, and more. We then set out to mentor the neighborhoods separately, as all residents in each community were invited to sessions that included brainstorming for different themes, coming to agreement on what residents wanted in a playground, and more. After both residents and community and planning professionals put their ideas on paper (illustrated in the pictures), suggestions were passed along to the landscape architects contracted to design the playgrounds.  In Gilo residents chose to establish a “Cub Park” (for example, trying to mimic characteristic movements of different animals in the park, such as, but not necessarily including, crawling like a snake, climbing like a monkey, jumping like a kangaroo, etc.). Residents in Givat Hamivtar chose “Man and his World;” in Ir Ganim, “Touching the Sky;” and in Shuafat, “Space Park.” The architects are now working on specific designs and are scheduled to present these designs to the neighborhoods very soon.

We came to this project as a result of our in-depth work with residents of Kiryat Hayovel and Kiryat Menachem / Ir Ganim in the Asbestonim Wadi, which runs between Kiryat Hayovel and Kiryat Menachem / Ir Ganim. We can’t wait to see how these new playgrounds turn out!

Plans on paper

Plans on paper

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Urban Park in the Wadi – Engaging Diverse Populations in Planning Processes in Kiryat Hayovel

January 25th, 2015

Today, Kiryat Hayovel is a neighborhood of contrasts. There are poor residents of North African descent, who were settled in the neighborhood in the 1950’s and 60’s in the tent camp (ma’abarah) and hurriedly-constructed asbestos huts. There are the young, academically-educated professional families who have been moving in, in search of affordable housing not far from the city center. There are the well-to-do who live in large, detached houses with magnificent views of the Jerusalem Hills. There are newer, struggling immigrants, who joined the many of the veteran immigrants in large Eastern European-style tenement housing. They are secular, traditional, religious, and ultra-Orthodox.

How can they come together to plan a neighborhood park?

And this wasn’t just any park. The idea was to discuss future planning for what is coined the “Asbestonim Wadi,” after the asbestos buildings that were used to house new immigrants, which that used to line the valley. The valley, which runs between the Kiryat Hayovel and Kiryat Menachem neighborhoods, today includes a large, worn-down play area, a community garden, a community theater initiative, as well as a large area that is undeveloped altogether.

Valley today, one of the last of the original buildings

Valley today, one of the last of the original buildings

In fact, they can, and they did. As part of our Deliberative Democracy in the neighborhoods program, supported by the UJA-Federation of New York, we facilitated a fascinating process of participatory democracy in the community, in cooperation with the community council staffs of both Kiryat Hayovel and Kiryat Menachem, municipal planning professionals and the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. The process included some 150 residents, of all ages, from all backgrounds. In a series of 10 meetings, participants received an overview of the history of the valley; they learned different principles of design and planning in outdoor venues; they mapped the area with aerial photographs, and gave suggestions and opinions on how the valley was to be planned and the roles it will play in residents lives. After each lecture there was a discussion on how the principles learned in the lecture can apply to the valley.

Study and discussion meeting

Study and discussion meeting

“There was a crazy amount of positive energy at these meetings,” noted our Tal Kligman, who led the process for the JICC. “Everyone, from all walks of life, had ideas, and everyone wanted to contribute. When we planned the meetings, we expected to have 20 -30 residents at each of one. Instead 50 – 60 residents showed up each time!”

The participants enthusiasm spread to engage not only adults in the area, but the children as well. Teachers from the Guatemala Elementary School in Kiryat Menachem built a 3-lesson curriculum that asked the children what they wanted to see in the valley, and are also being taken into consideration in the planning.

Touring the Wadi

Touring the Wadi

The study and planning sessions have finished, so what’s the next stage? The Bezalel students built a model based on the principles agreed upon in the meetings, and feedback was received from the residents. The results of this process have now been passed on to the professional planners. We can’t wait to see how this turns out.

The Bezalel model

The Bezalel model

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Neighbors…. Haredi and non-Haredi in Kiryat Hayovel and Rehavia

May 30th, 2013

Neighbors. Neighbors can be a problem, even in the best of communities. But what happens when neighbors move in who are very different from you? Or when old-time neighbors’ families grow and grow, and seem to be taking over the very nature of your neighborhood? From the ‘other’ side – you’re just looking to living in a nice neighborhood with your family – what’s all the fuss about?

This has been the dynamic in two Jewish neighborhoods – Rehavia and Kiryat Hayovel – that we’ve been working in recently. Both are traditionally secular / national religious neighborhoods – in fact, they’re considered bastions of these populations in Jerusalem. Recently, Kiryat Hayovel has seen an influx of new Haredi residents. In Rehavia, there has always been a Haredi community, but in recent years more and more Haredi families were getting in the neighborhood, changing the demographics. In a city where the Haredi population is growing quickly and non-Haredi populations are feeling threatened, this can definitely cause tensions.

However, if one of our goals is to work to preserve a diverse Jerusalem, tensions are the last thing we need. So in an effort to assuage building tensions between the Haredi and non-Haredi residents of Rehavia and Kiryat Yovel, and thanks to the support of the Jerusalem Foundation and the UJA-Federation of New York, we’re working with 2 very special neighborhood forums.

In Rehavia, we’re working together with the local community council with a group of 20 Haredi and non-Haredi residents, many of them are the leaders of their communities. This includes a fascinating combination of young and older people, national religious, as well as Haredi and secular, men and women. By the end of the second meeting we’d come up with a Summary of Principles for working together. This of course doesn’t mean that individual – and sometimes far-reaching – issues have been solved. But right now we’re focusing on the ‘how we handle issues’, before we move on to the ‘what is the solution’. This includes sometimes basic statements, such as ‘live and let live’, ‘mutual respect’, ‘love of the neighborhood’ and an ’emphasis that we’re all one people’. But we all know that when tension threatens to boil over we need simple, basic principles to guide us through. This group has met twice, and will continue to meet. It has been decided to significantly expand this forum, so that broader agreements can be made and more people and groups can be represented.

In Kiryat Yovel the situation is a bit different. The entrance of Haredi families, even as a small percentage of the population, has raised numerous battle cries against the ‘Haredization’ of Kiryat Yovel, which arises in various forms from time to time. The group in Kiryat Yovel is still smaller – 8 people, all are main leaders – and thus far the two meetings have consist of ‘getting to know you’ conversations. Yet, because Haredi-non-Haredi relations are much terser than in Rehavia, the very existence of these meetings is of utmost importance. While Kiryat Yovel is a tougher nut to crack, we believe we’re on the right path, creating a safe haven for dialogue and conflict resolution. In the last meeting, two Neighborhood Council members hugged each other at the end. This was an unusual occurrence, since one was Haredi and the other was secular who is very active against the Haredization of the neighborhood. “Finally, here, I can give you a hug,” said the Haredi Council member. Another, a secular woman, requested that Haredi women come as well, so that she wouldn’t feel lonely. Currently there is no other place this could happen.

In both neighborhoods, there is energy  to continue the processes, and a feeling of hope that is very important for the future of these communities, as well as for Jerusalem.

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