Blog Category: ‘Identity Groups and Conflicts’

MiniActive – Reaching for the Clouds

January 28th, 2017

We’ve no doubt how far and how high our MiniActive women can go. And now they’ve reached Mount Hermon!

MiniActive reaching for the clouds

MiniActive reaching for the clouds

We’ve described here and here some of the trips that we’ve organized for the MiniActive women as a way to say thanks to our network of 1,000 Palestinian women throughout East Jerusalem who work continuously on a volunteer basis to improve their environment, and have succeeded fantastically. You can see some of their 2016 successes and adventures in the vido they made:

 

This time, they went on a trip to Mount Hermon, in the north of the country. 55 MiniActive volunteers made the long trip, the first time they’ve ever gone there.

Starting at the bottom

Starting at the bottom

When they started out, it looked like any other winter day, with palm trees and grass.

Climbing higher

Climbing higher

And then they climbed higher.

As if in a winter wonderland

As if in a winter wonderland

Not what we’re used to seeing, even in Jerusalem!

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support of this program.

Here’s the Facebook post from the MiniActive Facebook page:

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2016 – What a Year!

January 25th, 2017

As we jump head-first into 2017, we wanted to take a minute to reflect on 2016, and what a year it’s been! Overall, a year of unprecedented growth and development, and we can’t wait to get started in 2017. Here are some highlights:

Cultural Competence

  • The Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference in May 2016, organized jointly by the JICC and the Jerusalem Foundation as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, was a turning point for the JICC. Attended by hundreds of professionals, from Jerusalem and throughout Israel, the conference presented strides that have been made over the past 10 years, and set the stage for the next step of meeting diverse residents’ diverse needs, in all areas of life.
  • Continued work in the health care system, in Jerusalem and as a model throughout Israel, training in-house coordinators and facilitators to increase sustainability and adaptability within individual institutions. For the first time, work included a national network of hospitals and clinics.
  • Expansive work in the Israel Police Force, reaching most police stations and present and future commanding officials, and continuing to expand training in 2017.
  • Groundbreaking work with the National Insurance Institute (NII), East Jerusalem branch, the first NII branch in the country to undergo a process of cultural competence.
  • In the Jerusalem Municipality, the entire Community Services Administration, which includes welfare, public health, immigrant absorption, and more, is undergoing training, as well as the Auditor’s Office which will be able to look at the entire Municipality’s operations through the prism of cultural competency and sensitivity.
  • Santé Israël, the first web site to make Israel’s health care system accessible to French speakers, celebrated its first birthday. 
Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker

Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker, Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference

Paramedical Professionals

Making healthcare practitioner exams accessible to Arab residents of east Jerusalem

2016 was an important year for us to take stock of the past four years of this program. Our conclusions show that:

  • The number of certified Arab paramedical professionals in East Jerusalem has grown significantly.
  • The program has enabled the JICC to more clearly map the situation of different paramedical professions in east Jerusalem, contributing to the knowledge of training in the Jerusalem area.
  • The awareness both among Palestinian institutes of higher education and health care institutions in east Jerusalem as well as Israeli Ministry of Health has been raised significantly.
  • A large window of opportunity for Arab women paramedical professionals to improve economic opportunities has been opened.

Nurses studying to pass their Israeli certification examinations

Talking Coexistence – Arabic Language Instruction

Both 2015 – 2016 and 2016 – 2017 broke enrollment records. In 2015-16 there were 180 students in 12 classes, over 5 levels. In 2016-2017, there are 240 students in 16 classes, also over 5 levels. We also held several cultural evenings to enrich students’ understanding of Arabic culture. Here’s a short video about the program:

Atta’a Assistance Center for the Rights of East Jerusalem Residents

The Atta’a Center has been in existence since 2004, and in 2015 it came under the aegis of the JICC. In 2016 we have seen:

  • 70% growth in number of requests
  • Ballooning of its Facebook page to over 7,100 ‘likes,’ and launching of its web site.
  • Publication of a widely-referenced booklet on the Ministry of Interior
  • Expansion of network of partners in action, both from NGO’s and advocacy groups as well as municipal and government agencies.

Atta’a Presenting workshops

MiniActive for Arab Residents of East Jerusalem

  • For the first time ever, MiniActive activities led to a change in policy. After months of campaigning, MiniActive led the way toward the addition of 3 million NIS to the annual municipal sanitation budget for east Jerusalem, and 16 million NIS for the purchase of additional equipment for sanitation. As a result of this work, the entire Municipality is focusing their attention on garbage collection throughout
  • In January 2016, MiniActive organized the first ever Arabic language Horticulture Therapy course in Jerusalem for special education teachers, in cooperation with the David Yellin Academic College of Education.
  • Bus stops in entire neighborhoods were repaired and replaced, thanks to MiniActive.
  • 210 women – including 50 youth – are studying Hebrew through a volunteer NGO to improve the effectivity of their activism. This is a record-breaking number, which broke last year’s record of 150 women.
  • In MiniActive Youth for the Environment, teenage girls learn leadership skills while participating in major environment-improving public art and other projects in neighborhoods throughout east Jerusalem.
  • MiniActive became a model for international work, hosting a delegation that works with the Roma population in the Czech Republic in November 2016.

Take a look at MiniActive’s own year in review. It’s pretty easy to understand, even if you don’t know Arabic:

Emergency Readiness Networks

In 2016 we expanded the network to include 14 communities throughout Jerusalem. In addition to training new volunteers, the program included training of existing networks to maintain ability to respond and increase sustainability.

Planning on map

Planning strategy on map

Multicultural Participatory Democracy

In 2016 we mentored community center staffs in Gilo, Kiryat Menachem, Givat Messuah, Baka’a and south Talpiot. For the first time, residents – especially the Ethiopian community in Kiryat Menachem and the highly diverse community of south Talpiot –felt that they were able to influence issues that affected their everyday lives. Training included using Facebook as a community-building tool key to increasing residents’ engagement in community processes.

Writing and submitting objections

Writing and submitting objections in Gilo

Promoting Tolerance in the Public Sphere

Since the summer of 2014 the JICC have been at the forefront of promoting tolerance in Jerusalem. 2016 accomplishments include:

  • A Different Day in Jerusalem celebrated Jerusalem’s diversity through 50 coordinated events, affecting tens of thousands of people on Jerusalem Day. It was the first time such a broad effort has been made to celebrate Jerusalem’s diversity.
  • JICC-mentored Speaking in the Square and other tolerance initiatives that came in their wake led to the redesigning of Zion Square, to be called Tolerance Square. The initiative’s Effective Dialogue methodology spread, and is now being presented in national frameworks.
  • 0202-Points of View from Jerusalem are now liked by nearly 80,000 people and reach some 150,000 people weekly on Facebook and the Internet. The network now includes pages that translate from Arabic to Hebrew, from Arabic to English and one which brings news from the Ultra-Orthodox world to the awareness of the general population.
  • The JICC was asked to be one of the leading organizations in the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations to Promote Tolerance, formed by the Center for Young Adults and the Municipality’s Young Authority.
  • The JICC is continuing to develop Tolerance Network Teams (TNT’s), a series of neighborhood-based and theme-based grassroots initiatives that seek to advance tolerance in Jerusalem.
Elhanan Miller Haaretz article

Haaretz article about A Different Day in Jerusalem

Window to Mount Zion

Since October 2015, Window to Mount Zion has bridged inter-religious and inter-community gaps that have festered between Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups for centuries. As a result of its activity over the past year:

  • In unheard-of cooperation, religious Jewish and Christian groups have issued joint statements condemning hate crimes on Mount Zion.
  • Christian ceremonies, which in the past have caused inter-religious tension, proceeded without incident.
  • The celebration of Christian and Jewish holidays that coincided simultaneously, which in the past had been the source of conflict and tension, also proceeded smoothly.
Window to Mount Zion volunteers

Window to Mount Zion volunteers

Asylum Seekers

The JICC, together with the Jerusalem Municipality, sponsor the only paid public servant in Israel to help asylum seekers, outside of Tel Aviv. We are also part of a consortium of organizations and agencies that seek to meet the needs of asylum seekers living in the city.

Tour of Nahlaot neighborhood

Families of asylum seekers on tour of Nahlaot neighborhood

Thank You!

Many many thanks go out to our partners in action and our donors. You can read about our activities in more detail either by clicking on the hyperlinks above, or by clicking here.

Looking forward to making 2017 even better!

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Attention, Read All About It! 0202 on Front Page of “In Jerusalem” Supplement of the Jerusalem Post!

January 22nd, 2017

We’ve introduced 0202 – Points of View from Jerusalem, which we’ve been mentoring since their inception in March 2015, several times, but there’s nothing like seeing it in print. This past Friday, they were featured on the front page of the Jerusalem Post‘s In Jerusalem section. Click here to read a .pdf version of the article.

0202 - Even on the front cover!

0202 – On the front cover!

Here’s the text:

A view from east to west
By ARIEL DOMINIQUE HENDELMAN
01/19/2017
The 0202 website provides translations of east Jerusalem and haredi media, for greater understanding of our fellow city dwellers.
Michal Shilor started 0202 for the same reason so many innovative projects have begun; she was looking for something that didn’t exist.

Shilor is a Jerusalem activist who became involved in dialogue circles in Zion Square during the summer of 2014.

“We were engaged in discussions with people from all over Jerusalem and I found myself answering questions about east Jerusalem with knowledge that wasn’t firsthand,” she recalls.

“I started asking questions about where I could find news coverage on east Jerusalem that wasn’t filtered through some Jewish source; not left- or right-wing. I wanted to know what an east Jerusalemite sees and how that affects what he does.”

Shilor connected with a team of seven like-minded people who believed in her vision. With the support of Search for Common Ground and the Jerusalem Intercultural Center, 0202 was born.

Shilor and her team worked on a pilot project for three weeks. They gathered approximately 150 Facebook pages from east Jerusalem, including mainstream news media, such as the Gaza-based Shahab news agency, as well as alternative news sources, community leaders, community centers, schools and parent organizations. In March 2015, the 0202 Facebook page was published.

“We are trying to show what is going on in east Jerusalem,” Shilor says. “The first day we put the page online, we got 1,000 likes. It was amazing to see that it filled a need. That gave us a lot of hope.”

With time, 0202 became more professional. They brought in editors. Shilor and her team found that they relied less on the experts they thought they would need because they became experts themselves.

The 0202 staff is a mix of Arabs and Jews, and currently includes 18 dedicated volunteers. Shilor believes the team is a model of how Jerusalemites can live and work together.

“It’s activist-based,” Shilor states. “It’s about showing that we have to see what the other side sees.”

A hurdle early on was in translating the language from the pages coming out of east Jerusalem; not Arabic into Hebrew, but the way things were written.

Every time there was a mention of the police, army or municipality, the word “occupation” would come up. Shilor and her team found themselves questioning whether their readers would stay with them if they continued to translate word-for-word.

“It’s really difficult to read that kind of language for people in west Jerusalem,” Shilor explains. “But we have always maintained that we translate word-forword.

It’s important to see the way things are written.”

In the fall of 2015, Shilor and her team opened an English version of the page with funding from the Leichtag Foundation. She points out that there is no difference between the English and Hebrew pages in terms of content. They wanted to reach the Anglos in Jerusalem. Last March, 0202 celebrated its first birthday.

It had an event where both Palestinians and Israelis came to speak about Jerusalem.

“On the page, we don’t want to tell you what to think, but in the event, we were able to bring guest speakers to supply more nuanced points of view,” Shilor says. “A hundred people came, Arabs and Jews.

It showed us the impact we’re having.”

Another way 0202 measures its impact is in the ability to create change on the ground. Last June, the head of the Association for Driving Instructors in east Jerusalem began posting about an issue in Arnona and East Talpiot. Signs prohibiting student driving on Saturdays were popping up.

“It was clearly racist,” Shilor says. “On Saturdays, only Palestinians have driving lessons. The signs were put up unofficially, but somebody allowed it to happen without having any sort of discussion with the people it would affect.”

0202 translated the posts and the issue reached the municipality. The signs were eventually taken down.

The fact that the 0202 page had journalist and activist followers brought about tangible change. This was gratifying for Shilor and her team.

“To see that something happened because we’re amplifying voices that people don’t hear in west Jerusalem showed us that what we’re doing has an effect,” she says.

There was a similar occurrence with uncollected garbage. Mini Active, a group of female Palestinian activists, posted photos of garbage every day for a year with the tag line, “We don’t want to live in filth.” 0202 translated their campaign every day, and within a few months, NIS 3 million had been transferred to the sanitation department of east Jerusalem. The garbage issue today is one of the biggest and most talked about, thanks to Mini Active’s posts and 0202’s translations.

In the fall of 2015, the stabbing intifada tested the 0202 team’s abilities in a new way.

“That was our first big chance to prove ourselves, and we really managed to be an important source for people who wanted to know what was going on in Jerusalem and what people in east Jerusalem were saying about it.”

0202 hosted an event called “Why Is Jerusalem Burning?” that drew 150 people “We had posts from September that showed the coming violence,” Shilor recalls. “We took the opportunity to bring two speakers, one left- and one right-wing, to talk about why it was happening and why having access to what was coming out of east Jerusalem was so important. That was a major point for us to understand that we really have influence. One of the speakers was in charge of security at the Temple Mount, so he knows east Jerusalem very well and showed both sides of the spectrum.”

Shilor emphasizes that the common theme found in every post coming out of east Jerusalem is the mention of the “occupation,” even if the subject matter doesn’t directly relate.

“The mind-set in the media is, no matter the subject, we’re living in an occupied area,” she says, “but I have to say what’s most interesting is that Facebook doesn’t really show what’s happening in real life. Facebook in east Jerusalem is not a mirror image of street talk because of social pressure to say the right thing at the right time. When you look at the comments on posts, you’ll see much more diverse opinions than you’d see in a major post. You might see positive and negative comments, but posts will be negative across the board.”

0202 is currently focusing on trying to lessen the gap between how east Jerusalemites talk in the street, as represented in Facebook comments, and what is actually posted on a page. They’ve begun translating comments on posts, in order to showcase the disparity.

“It’s important to show how different the reactions are because there’s a lot of identity confusion in east Jerusalem,” Shilor explains.

0202 shows posts ranging from anger about settlers defacing al-Aksa Mosque, to what the children did in school that day. The message is that life is complex and east Jerusalemites are talking about all of it.

0202 is not attempting to provide a solution to the conflict. It is not in favor of or against one state or two.

Shilor believes that no matter what happens, Jerusalemites are living here together and need to understand each other.

“We need to understand what the other side thinks and how that affects their actions,” she says.

“One of the things we learned during the stabbing attacks was that it doesn’t really matter what the news says is happening. There were many instances where in west Jerusalem, we were sure that it was an attempted stabbing. But in east Jerusalem, they were sure that it was an innocent woman walking by, pulling her phone out of her pocket, and being killed in cold blood.
third of the people are sure that they’re being murdered in the streets while the other two-thirds are sure that they’re being stabbed to death in the same streets. It doesn’t matter what the objective truth is; what matters is that this is how we’re living. If both of us are that afraid, there should be discussion about the fear.”

In the spirit of communication, Shilor is now learning Arabic. She ardently believes that the simple act of talking to each other can bring about understanding.

Through her work with 0202, she has come to see that east and west Jerusalemites live in two separate worlds, both mentally and socioeconomically. 0202’s translations provide a meeting point somewhere between these two realities.

She plans to create a page for every sector of Jerusalem.

In September, they launched the haredi page, with the same process of culling news sources from a cross-section of ultra-Orthodox online and print media and providing accurate translations.

“If we’re going to talk about Jerusalem, it has to include all of its citizens: haredi, modern Orthodox and secular,” Shilor says.

“We want to pick something, work with the page until it steadies, and then open another. We want to create a complex look at Jerusalem so that people in and outside of Jerusalem can see. We decided that the first step would be the ultra-Orthodox world. That world is new for me. I wanted to learn about it and it looks like everyone else is interested as well.”

The haredi page has a smaller team: three people on staff and three advisers, all of whom are ultra-Orthodox themselves or were in the past.

“This page draws from Hebrew to Hebrew,” Shilor states. “It’s amazing that it’s still a whole other language.

You’ve got acronyms everywhere. They use the same letters and words, but I’ll have to read a post three times in order to understand it.”

Shilor has learned about ultra-Orthodoxy: haredim, hassidim and the hundreds of subsects within each. The first posts the page displayed, revolving around construction work on the light rail on Shabbat, showed that from the haredi point of view, mainstream Israeli society was blaming them for the halted construction. There have also been issues concerning education. In the Kiryat Hayovel schools, there is ongoing debate about religious and non-religious studies. There was also an issue regarding the mandatory quota that at least 30% of each seminary’s student body must be Sephardi girls. The posts showed concern that this was a maximum and not a minimum.

“There is an uproar about that and we really don’t hear about it outside the haredi world,” Shilor says. “We’re usually limited to what’s going on in the Knesset, but it is much bigger.”

0202 draws its haredi news from 80 different source pages, and it joined journalist WhatsApp groups that yield significant information.

What 0202 has done, in essence, is to strip away the bias that plagues today’s journalism. It reports the news from a plethora of sources, unfiltered. Of course when the team searches over 200 pages, some opinion is bound to seep into the selection process, but even that is addressed by choosing from only popular posts.

“If we use something minor that nobody is talking about, then we would be bringing our own opinions into it,” Shilor says. “It’s difficult because we have to include editor’s notes when we need to show a larger context to the picture. We do it with care and stay as neutral as possible.”

Shilor plans to translate the haredi page into English in the near future. In addition, 0202 is in the process of becoming a registered non-profit. The board is comprised of Palestinians and Jews, religious and secular. It’s important for the team to reflect Jerusalem in a real way, so that they can continue the work of holding a mirror up and providing a channel for understanding between disparate groups. Perhaps more importantly, 0202 provides an opportunity for identifying commonalities.

“From everything I’ve seen, each of these groups feels like they’re under occupation,” Shilor summarizes.

“They feel that everyone is against them – especially the municipality – and that their voices aren’t being heard. When you think that everyone is against you, it stands to reason that you would think everyone is doing better than you. There are a lot of similarities in terms of the feelings, even if the actions are different.

Understanding this will bring peace to Jerusalem.

“It’s about living in a way that we’re not afraid anymore, and not increasing the hate or the racism. It’s about making those small, human steps to promote tolerance over violence.”

www.facebook.com/0202updates

www.facebook.com/0202ultraorthodox

Many thanks to the Leichtag Foundation for their support of this project, and to the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation for their ongoing support of our efforts to promote tolerance in Jerusalem.

And here’s the Facebook post with pictures of the article:

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All Aboard the Tolerance Train!

January 19th, 2017

One of the main goals of our Grassroots Campaign for Tolerance is to bring tolerance activities into the public sphere. Today, together with the Citypass company that operates the Jerusalem light rail and the Ruach Nachon pre-army preparation program, the Jerusalem Municipality and religious and ultra-orthodox high school students, we helped them do just that.  The invitation to get out to the Municipality Hall Light Rail Station was put on Facebook:

Here’s a short video to give you a taste of what went on:

In addition to music, throughout the event participants handed out flyers that read, “Let’s open Jerusalem’s heart” in Hebrew and Arabic and spoke with passersby. Passages from the Koran and the Book of Psalms that speak about peace were hung, in Arabic and Hebrew, respectively.

Speaking with passersby on the street

Speaking with passersby on the street

Participants also posted messages with tolerant messaging on light rail cars.

Making the cars more tolerant

Making the cars more tolerant

The event raised the curiosity of passersby, including city council members as well as those who heard from inside the Municipality buildings, as well as those who joined in the festivities on the sidewalk. Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, City Council member from the Yerushalmim Party, was so excited she made this video (in Hebrew):

Together with the beautifully sunny winter’s day, the event spread a tolerant atmosphere throughout the entire area. If we continue, these and other events will be able to influence the entire city. Congratulations to Citypass, which recognize’s the light rail’s important role in maintaining a positive atmosphere in Jerusalem. This was the first of what is supposed to turn into a monthly event. We can’t wait ’till then!

Many thanks to the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation for their ongoing support for our efforts to promote tolerance in Jerusalem.

If you’re interested in seeing more of the event, here’s a longer video that Ruach Nachon posted:

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MiniActive Becoming an International Model

January 14th, 2017

The 1,000-strong MiniActive Network of Palestinian women is making a pretty big splash here in Jerusalem. Now they’ve become an international model for action.

Last month we hosted a delegation from an organization that works with the Domari population in Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic. A delegation of six visited the MiniActive project for 5 days. We gave them an introduction about the JICC as well as to MiniActive. Intisar explained how the MiniActive network was built – with clusters throughout Jerusalem, requests from the municipal hotline, and follow-up until the problems are fixed. A short movie was made for them and for the MiniActive members themselves:

On the second day they met with four of the regional MiniActive coordinators. Each one told about her specific work methods and how she works with the women in her group. On the third day they went on a tour of East Jerusalem neighborhoods. They also met with senior municipal officials – city council members, the director of City Beautification Division, and an adviser to the Mayor, who spoke about MiniActive’s unique relationship with municipal bodies, its benefits to the city, and its effectiveness in achieving improvements on-the-ground in East Jerusalem.

We used this opportunity to familiarize the delegation with our work in West Jerusalem as well. They were saw efforts in deliberative democracy, cultural competency, and in activism for tolerance. We introduced them to the 0202-View from East Jerusalem and they experienced Speaking in the Square first-hand as well.

We couldn’t let them leave Jerusalem without meeting up with the Domari population here. On the Thursday afternoon of their visit we arranged for them to meet with the Mukhtar of that community here.

It was a very good visit. We wish them well and the best of luck in using some of the principles of MiniActive to help their community in Brno. We’ll keep you posted!

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A Window to Arabic Culture – Arabic Language for Communication

January 10th, 2017

We always say that language are the window to a culture. Learn another language, and you can gain insight into what makes that culture tick.

That is one of the main reasons that we’ve been offering classes in Arabic for communication for more than the past 10 years. And a few years ago we began opening that window a little wider, offering our students opportunities to get to know Arab culture even better. In the past we’ve hosted some very interesting speakers – authors, teachers, poets, and more. And we’ve offered tours of the Old City, given like only someone who knows every street and alleyway can give. (You can read about those encounters here and here and here.)

Learning about civil society organization in Arab culture in Israel

Learning about civil society organization in Arab culture in Israel

This year we started something different. On January 1, we introduced levels 3,4 and 5 to civil society in Arab culture in Israel. Specifically, organizations that work to help Arab women and advance their rights in Israel. We hosted Ms. Samah Salymeh, who spoke about a number of these organizations, such as one for battered women, one for victims of rape, and more. She spoke about how these organizations work, especially given the challenges of traditional Arab society.

It was an important evening, and we’re very glad that she came.

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

 

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10 Days of Light – Spreading the Light of Tolerance

January 8th, 2017

2016 brought with it Christmas, Chanukah, and Novi God all at the same time, and this year, Jerusalem decided to celebrate together! And our Jerusalem Tolerance network, including its Facebook page with over 1,600 ‘likes’ and its e-mail list with over 450 members, spread the light.

Creating light in Zion Square and throughout Jerusalem

Creating light in Zion Square and throughout Jerusalem

In the past two years, Jerusalem has seen an ever-growing number of tolerance activities created by its residents, and the winter holidays gave us an even bigger and better opportunity to celebrate – and celebrate diversity.

Celebrating the Ethiopian Jewish Sigd holiday

Celebrating the Ethiopian Jewish Sigd holiday

So what did we have? During the final 10 days of 2016, Jerusalemites took it upon themselves to celebrate Russian, Ethiopian, Christian, and Jewish holidays – and even more!

There were celebrations of both western and eastern Christmas

There were celebrations of both western and eastern Christmas

In private homes, Jews hosted Christians for menorah-lighting, Muslims opened their homes to discuss their Jerusalemite narrative, Ultra-Orthodox Jews opened their homes to share their traditions, Ethiopians opened their homes to talk about the Sigd (which actually took place at the end of November, but who’s going to pass up a chance to celebrate?), and much more.

Chanukah in Meah Shearim

Chanukah in Meah Shearim

Tours invited Jerusalemites of all colors and religions to enter places that seem foreign to them on a daily basis. Several hundred Jerusalemites toured the Christian quarter of the Old City, the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah Shearim, and the Muslim and Armenian Quarters of the Old City with a local group of Palestinian and Jewish activist artists.

On tour in a diverse Jerusalem

On tour in a diverse Jerusalem

We saw cultural fusion taking place all over the city in local coffee shops and with a plethora of organizations. We saw movies about Ethiopian Israelis, and movies made by Palestinians and Israelis. We joined a musical jam between religious, secular, Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews at a local cooperative pub. We celebrated Novi God in several different venues that introduced us to the customs and food of Russian Israelis.

Celebrating Novi God

Celebrating Novi God

We heard the sounds of the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus, made up of Jewish and Arab teens in Jerusalem, in a special Christmas Eve concert. We joined one-on-one discussions at the Hebrew University between Palestinians and Israelis. We met Ethiopians and learned about the culture, the food, and the music of Ethiopia and its integration in Jerusalem. We lit Chanukah candles with all different walks of life: Christian, transgender, right-wing, Muslim, Ashkenazi, Jewish, ultraorthodox, left-wing, Mizrachi, Russian, Ethiopian, and more… We even made it to the Knesset, in a special meeting with representatives from the three monotheistic faiths who share Jerusalem!

Here’s a video of the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus in concert:

These 10 Days of Light can perhaps be summed up in the very special Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony that was held on December 29 in Zion Square, Jerusalem’s major downtown public square. This event was a special joint effort between Speaking in the Square, the Yerushalmit Movement and Beit Midrash Rechov. In the center of town, open for everyone to see, candles were lit by pairs whom we don’t usually see together. Here’s the list of candle-lighters:

  • Efraim Zecharia, ultra-Orthodox, Assistant Principal at Chachmei Lev Yeshiva (one of the first ultra-Orthodox Yeshivot in Jerusalem to offer a full Israeli matriculation), a teacher at the religious Dror High School, together with Yiscah Smith, a religious transgender woman and an international speaker about living life authentically.
  • Yael Yechieli Persico – Director of Freedom of Religious and Pluralistic Judaism, Shatil, left-wing activist, together with Yehuda Ifrach, journalist at the right-leaning Makor Rishon newspaper and right-wing activist.
  • Anna Maria Segarmella, a Catholic nun from Italy, together with Peta Jones Pelech, Director of Educational Activities at the Elijah Interfaith Institute and initiator of “Praying together in Jerusalem.”
  • Pnina Pfeufer, left-wing political activist in “Darkenu;” also active in “ultra-Orthodox for Peace,” and freelance writer in the Jerusalem Post and ultra-Orthodox newspapers, together with Berry Rosenberg, an Israeli of Russian descent, one of the initiators of the Israeli Novi God and the Culture Brigade, and a member of “1.5 generation” of Russian Israelis.
  • Ahmed Maswadeh together with Oren Feld, the initiators of “Jerusalem Art,” an activist group of artists in Jerusalem who clean up abandoned areas, paint them, and create public space for dialogue.
  • Avishai Bar Ishai, right-wing activist, together with Shayna Abramson, Times of Israel blogger and left-wig activist.
  • Avi White, formerly ultra-Orthodox and an active member of the dialogue in Zion Square, together with Shmuel Drilman, ultra-Orthodox, communications expert, and an activist in promoting ultra-Orthodox-secular dialogue.

Here’s Jerusalem Art’s Facebook post of the event:

The candle-lighting was followed by discussion circles about tolerance in Jerusalem.

That is quite a list! We can’t wait to see and assist more of these activities in our ever-growing tolerant Jerusalem!

Ethiopian embroidery

Ethiopian embroidery

And here is our Facebook announcement post (in Hebrew) about (almost) all the events:

Many thanks to the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation for their support of our efforts to advance tolerance in Jerusalem!

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Atta’a – Rights Workshops throughout East Jerusalem

January 6th, 2017

Rights, laws and regulations – on health care, welfare, disability, residency status – a long list of rules, always in Hebrew, always changing.

Not all the changes are in residents’ favor. However, our job – or Atta’a’s job – is not to judge, but to explain. Explain how the new rules and regulations are different than what people were used to. How these changes can affect people’s everyday lives. And what can be done and to whom to turn to try and right injustices. Often, much can be cleared up with explanations in non-legal language, or with help in filling out forms and collecting documentation.

Daud, Atta'a Director, in a workshop

Daud, Atta’a Director, in a workshop

Toward that goal, Atta’a holds a range of public community workshops on a variety of subjects, to help explain these new rights and regulations. One such workshop was held on last Thursday, December 29 in the Shuafat Refugee Camp, and another was recently held at the new community center in Al-Thori (Abu Tor, on December 5). There have recently been changes regarding regulations of Israeli medical care, based on residency status. The new law requires any non-Israeli citizen who is married to someone with residency status to pay a one-time fee (nearly 8,000 NIS), plus several hundred shekels each month – per person – in order to qualify for medical insurance. For those who qualify for national health insurance coverage (citizens and permanent residents), monthly fees are figured as a percentage of one monthly paycheck, and come to 2-300 NIS per month. This also includes children. Co-payments are taken on a per-use basis.

Important information in the workshop

Important information in the workshop in A-Thori

There are many aspects to the law that are creating much confusion, and Atta’a is working with a number of NGO’s to clarify and help residents. For example, the sum asked of non-Israelis (including those from the West Bank and Gaza) married to those with resident status (nearly all the cases in East Jerusalem) is much higher than that asked by those married to Israeli citizens. This was brought to the attention of the courts, who froze the law, making the higher payments unnecessary until the law is un-frozen. But Atta’a has heard of many cases in which HMO’s still require these payments. Atta’a is working with another organization to establish a special cases committee, for those who are unable to pay the new law’s exorbitant fees, since all costs are per person and the average salary is 4-5,000 NIS per month.

Other times, issues require more intensive care. Atta’a’s volunteers, who are often also lawyers, are on hand when necessary to help residents through the process of clarifying a vast range of issues from a legal standpoint. And when relevant, the volunteers refer these cases to other groups or organizations.We hope and anticipate that this will make a difference in people’s lives.

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

 

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Santé Israël – Informing All New Immigrants

January 4th, 2017

On December 22, Santé Israël. went to the theater….to help immigrants, not only French-speaking.

They were part of the Olim in Jerusalem festival celebrating immigrants to Jerusalem from all over the world, which took place at the Jerusalem Theater. The Festival featured performances by Jerusalem’s Mikro Theater (Israelis of Russian descent) as well as Esther Rada, an Ethiopian-Israeli singer. It also included a wealth of family-friendly activities and an information fair.

Sante Israel at the Jerusalem Theater

Santé Israël at the Jerusalem Theater

Santé Israël.’s presence at the festival was important not only to provide information to the French-speaking immigrants who participated. They also met with other organizations and projects that help new immigrants, such as AACI’s Shira Pransky Project and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, and discussed different avenues for potential collaborations. Can’t wait to hear what transpires from this!

Many thanks to the to the Pharmadom Foundation and the Rashi Foundation for their continuing support of Santé Israël.

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Window to Mount Zion – Christmas and Chanukah on Mount Zion

December 31st, 2016

What do you do on Mount Zion when the weekly Saturday-night celebration, known as a Melave Malka, the first night of Chanukah, and Christmas Eve all fall on the same day? You celebrate, of course! With a little (actually a lot) of help from Window to Mount Zion.

Window to Mount Zion volunteers

Window to Mount Zion volunteers

It hasn’t always been this way. In the past the presence of different groups of Jews and Christians celebrating at the same time in the same space have caused tension and even violence. Thanks to the Window to Mount Zion project, over the past year and a half tensions have markedly decreased. Project volunteers work hand in hand with the major religious institutions on Mount Zion, (such as the Dormition Abbey, the Yeshiva of the Diaspora, those associated with David’s Tomb), as well as with the police and police volunteers. All of this cooperation has helped to enable a wide variety of holiday celebrations and events to take place in a unique way that respects everyone’s traditions.

Christmas Eve at the Dormition Abbey

Christmas Eve at the Dormition Abbey

Here’s a short clip of the midnight mass at the Dormition Abbey:

This was the second year that Window to Mount Zion volunteers came to the Christmas Eve service at the Dormition Abbey. After the success of last year, the Dormition Abbey actually called Window to Mount Zion to make sure they were going to be helping out again this year. Volunteers received the many guests who came for the midnight mass at the church and explained to them what was going on. Most of the guests were Israeli Jews who wanted a ‘far-away experience’ close to home, and who are interested in the different and diverse cultures in Jerusalem.

Celebrating at the Melave Malka as well

Celebrating at the Melave Malka as well

Window to Mount Zion volunteers were also part of the weekly Melave Malka festivities, which take place every Saturday night. They were there to explain and give background to the guests, and give a general helping hand.

We’re forever thankful to the Window to Mount Zion volunteers for their work. As a way of saying thanks, we brought them a lecture before the celebrations began. This time it was Yiscah Hareni, who spoke about the significance of Christmas.

Happy Holidays from Mount Zion in Jerusalem! May the Mount Zion model serve as an example for the rest of Jerusalem, and even the entire region.

And here’s the Facebook post in Hebrew about the event:

 

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