Blog Category: ‘Jewish-Palestinian/Arab’

The Writing is (not) on the Wall

April 14th, 2017

It’s not nice to wake up during the Passover holiday to ugly graffiti:

Hate graffiti on the Railway Park in southern Jerusalem

Hate graffiti on the Railway Park in southern Jerusalem

Especially if it’s racist graffiti that says, ““Arabs, go home,” and “We want revenge.” It also had “Kahane was right,” Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the outlawed Kach movement that called to expel Arabs from Israel and the Palestinian territories, who was assassinated in Manhattan in 2012.

Fortunately, a group of activists, part of our network of activists for tolerance that include residents, city council members and the Municipality, were quick to act. They called the Municipal hotline, and within a few hours the graffiti was cleaned.

Working hard to blot out racism

Working hard to blot out racism

But they didn’t stop there. They replaced the graffiti with other signs, full of love and acceptance.

We love our neighbors, in Hebrew

We love our neighbors, in Hebrew

Here’s an independent post of what happened. The incident was even reported in both the English and Hebrew YNET web sites, which are associated with the most widely read national daily newspaper, Yediot Acharonot.

Hebrew article in Yediot Acharonot

Hebrew article in Yediot Acharonot national newspaper

We were doubly interested in this process, since we’ve been helping residents and activists along the Railway Park initiate community-building activities along the park almost since its opening. Coupled with this cooperative work to promote tolerance, we’re pretty proud of this network of activists, which acted quickly, independently, and effectively, with our support and encouragement.

Sign initiators and helpers - best way to spend a school holiday

Sign initiators and helpers – best way to spend a school holiday

Even Yael Freidson, the Ynet reporter who first reported the racist graffiti, tweeted, when she saw the final result, with a hashtag that says “these are things that make me happy”. Indeed, the tolerance activists of Jerusalem managed to make lemonade out of lemons. They demonstrated that Jerusalem has an efficient and sustainable network of tolerance!

Of course, the incident was posted on our Jerusalem Tolerance Facebook page:

Many thanks to the UJA-Federation of New York for its support of our efforts both with residents along the Railway Park and to promote tolerance throughout Jerusalem. Many thanks also go to the Jerusalem Foundation for their support of our work.

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The Little Prince – Dutifully Making Sure Jerusalem is Clean

March 13th, 2017

“It’s an issue of discipline,” the little prince explained afterward. “After we finish the morning washing up, we must dutifully make sure that the planet is clean.”

This passage comes from The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Svetlana Fedotenko, founder of the Gonenim Music Center and a former participant in our leadership training seminar, who died last year, had been inspired by this passage, and dreamt for a long time to create a project that will put residents in charge of keeping our streets clean. (Click here for more about Svetlana).

We, too, were inspired by Svetlana’s dream, and last week we took some steps to make that dream come true.

Meeting for the Little Prince

Meeting for the Little Prince

We have seen how, of all subjects, garbage can be a unifying factor. We saw it when our MiniActive project banded together to fight for improved sanitation in East Jerusalem. We’ve seen it in the French Hill  – Issawiya area, where Israeli and Palestinian residents banded together to successfully fight the placement of a landfill in their backyards. We saw in city hall, how the one issue that brought secular and Haredi city council members together was the subject of garbage collection. (Below is more information about the French Hill – Issawiya situation)

We had the first organizing meeting last week. More than 25 active residents and community leaders – astoundingly, 1/3 Arab, 1/3 Haredi and 1/3 secular/religious (Don’t remember a time when that EVER happened on its own!) – met at the JICC. We heard about the current awful situation – in collection, in enforcement, in recycling, in teaching toward cleanliness and in teaching toward reduction of waste. We heard about fantastic initiatives that are already taking place, and concluded that such initiatives, together with mutual learning and assistance, can really change the city.

Another picture

Another picture

The group is already beginning to act, and we believe that in another month we’ll be able to invite anyone for whom this subject is close to his heart – residents, professional, community center, educational framework, environmental groups, NGO’s – to join this initiatives. In honor of Svetlana, we’re calling the program The Little Prince.

We’ll be waiting for you, after the morning washing up…

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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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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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Continuing to be Good Neighbors in Abu-Tor/A-Thuri

November 7th, 2016

We’ve described here and here our work with the Good Neighbors project of Jewish and Arab residents of the neighboring communities of Abu Tor and A-Thuri. We’ve been involved with helping them to develop and grow, as part of our Grassroots Campaign for Tolerance project, supported by the UJA-Federation of New York.

Israeli and Palestinian women meeting in Abu Tor/A-Thori

Israeli and Palestinian women meeting in Abu Tor/A-Thori

After a summer break, they’re continuing to do wonderful things!

On October 30 they launched the Neighborhood Women’s Forum, a steering committee that seeks to plan a schedule of joint activities throughout the year.

We can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with!

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Record-breaking Numbers as Arabic Courses Open

October 16th, 2016

Before you learn another language, it often sounds like this:

However, Arabic is an official language of Israel, and the fact that relatively few Jewish Israelis are able to communicate in Arabic creates gaps in understanding and communication, right from the get-go. Since we believe that learning the language of the ‘other’ enables one to gain insight and understanding of his or her culture, we at the JICC have been operating Arabic-language courses for over 10 years. They are indeed, one of our longest-running programs. We continue to be the largest Arabic school in Jerusalem, and maybe the largest in Israel.

Studying Arabic

Studying Arabic

On September 1 we started up the Arabic classes once again, with our veteran teachers Anwar and Suha, and our newer addition, Gali. This year we had another record-breaking year – 16 classes over 5 levels – some 240 people registered!  That is definitely a new high.

And here’s where studying Arabic with us can take you. As we were gearing up for the year our long-time teachers Anwar and Suha were in contact with some of their veteran students. Anwar called one of his students, Anat, who had been in his class from level 1 through level 4, but who hadn’t signed up for level 5 this year. “Anwar,” she said, “Because of the Arabic I studied with you at the JICC, I’m in Greece for the year, helping Syrian refugees. I’m actually able to communicate with them, and help them. Thank you for opening up this opportunity.”

Anat, we’re so happy you’re able to put your Arabic to good use.

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

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Have a Taste of Our Arabic Classes

July 15th, 2016

Our Arabic for Communication classes are out for the summer, but registration for next year (2016 – 2017) is in full swing!

To get your mouth watering for Arabic, have a taste of a level 1 class from the 2015 – 2016 year, in which they finished a section on words about foods. They had learned verbs and other words through discussions in the market, and recipes. To sum up the section, they put their learning where their mouth is (hope they didn’t eat their words), and enjoyed a scrumptious meal. Each student explained what he or she made and gave the recipes and preparation instructions, all in Arabic.

How do you say 'sushi' in Arabic?

How do you say ‘sushi’ in Arabic?

How do you say sushi in Arabic? Register here to find out. But hurry! Places are filling up quickly!

Until next time, Sahtein (Bon Apetit)!

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Mourning Respectfully in Zion Square, Together

July 3rd, 2016

Two years ago, in light of the murder of the three Jewish boys and subsequent murder of an Arab boy, a group of diverse activists came to Zion Square to light memorial candles and to mourn. What they found was a downtown full of hate, racism and violence. But they didn’t give up and the Speaking in the Square initiative was born. The JICC became their mentors, provided logistical support and helped them develop. They also became one of the cornerstone initiatives – alongside our Neighborhood Tolerance Network and 0202, to name a few – of our Grassroots Campaign to Promote Tolerance in Jerusalem. With the assistance of the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation, the Campaign seeks to empower grassroots activists and their initiatives to fight racism and xenophobia throughout Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, on  Thursday, June 30, a young Jewish girl was murdered in her bed. This time, however, things were different in Zion Square.

Zion Square, June 30, 2016

Zion Square, June 30, 2016

Our Director,  Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir, wrote this Facebook post about his experiences this past Thursday night, and sums up the past two years:

Exactly two years ago, even though they didn’t know it yet, a group of Jerusalem young people invented Speaking in the Square. They came to Zion Square on that awful night, right after the funeral of the three boys, to light memorial candles and to sing quiet and comforting songs, and to balance out those who sought revenge and wanted to hurt the Arabs who worked and walked through downtown west Jerusalem. Even though members of the Speaking in the Square core have both left and right wing political views, the fact that they wanted only to sing songs and be sad tagged them among many in Zion Square as ‘leftist traitors,’ and they were kicked, spat upon, and shouted at as they sat on the pavement at Zion Square. They came back the next evening, and every evening during Operation Protective Edge, despite the violence and hate. I wasn’t part of it then, but later I used the term ‘courageous activism‘ to describe their approach, and it became a part of my professional lexicon. It turns out that in order to effect social change, you need to learn not to run away when they curse at you, throw sunflower seed shells at you or even kick you. Those who thought that these university students would disappear from Zion Square with the threats discovered that it didn’t happen. And in time, the violence decreased significantly.

A month afterward, at about the middle of August 2014, the Effective Dialogue approach was born. It was invented by these young people in Zion Square. Instead of hurling insults at Lehava activists and others who expressed racist views, this approach encourages one to talk with them in a way that enables expression of complex thoughts and ideas, helping us to understand that reality isn’t black and white. The goals of the group were then defined. The goal isn’t to turn Lehava activists into Meretz activists (especially since about half of the Speaking in the Square initiative support the Jewish Home party), but to detach the political discussion from expressions of hate, violence, racism and incitement that are too common in Israel’s political discourse. And to understand that deep discussion enables more sophisticated solutions than slogans such as “Wipe out Gaza” or “End the Occupation.”

Speaking in the Square continues every Thursday night, and sometimes on Saturday nights as well. A routine has been created that has re-branded Zion Square and downtown Jerusalem as a place where dialogue is possible. Suddenly it was possible to sit on the floor on mats and talk….Zion Square also received special treatment from City Council members such as Elad Malka, Laura Wharton, and Tamir Nir, who gave a hand so that the police and the Municipality could be a part of the change there. It was not a coincidence that the evenings in memory of Shira Banky took place there, even though she wasn’t murdered in Zion Square, and that the weekly events of the Yerushalmim Movement and others take place there.

In October 2015, almost 1 1/2 years after the process began, there were demonstrations of angry mobs in Zion Square on the heels of the murder of the Henkin family in Samaria. An hour before that demonstration, more people were murdered in the Old City, and the atmosphere could be cut with a knife. Speaking in the Square sat in Zion Square. Thana Jawabreh, who had just returned from a television interview where she emphasized as a Palestinian Muslim her objection to these murders, sat with them. The activists sat in circles, lit memorial candles and expressed their pain. There were those who participated in the angry mob demonstration, filled with rage, and calmed down and sometimes even sat with us. There were others for whom it was difficult to be in a circle that didn’t call for revenge. The Border Police failed to act appropriately and in time, and the event to spiral out of control. But courageous activism is courageous activism, and the group stayed on the floor and sang, even when the atmosphere was difficult around us. The message was heard well – our approach, which encourages tolerance and opposes hate – will not be driven out of Zion Square.

And yesterday, a 13-year old girl was murdered in Kiryat Arba. And another angry mob demonstration was planned in Zion Square. And we came – just beforehand to light memorial candles and to sit in a circle and sing quiet songs. And then, the surprise. We found some Jewish religious girls, students in an Ulpana, from an organization called Or Eitan who got there before us. Members of this young organization, Adi from Mitzpe Jericho and her friends, with the help of Elchanan from Har Homa and others, tried to light candles and do exactly what we wanted to do. When they weren’t successful, we volunteered our candles, which also wouldn’t light….and then we came together. And then more and more arrived, especially teenage girls, especially teenage Jewish religious girls, and joined in on the efforts to light candles and sing, from 8:30 at night to midnight. The Yerushalmim Movement arrived and discovered that their set corner was taken, and then they, too, joined the circle. Once in awhile someone came along and shouted at the religious girls that they’re sitting with ‘leftist traitors,’ that they’re not OK and that they’re not shouting “Jewish blood will not be un-claimed.” (as if any one of the “leftist traitors” wouldn’t care about anyone’s blood…) The girls calmed them down as best they could and explained that they’re just doing what needs to be done, and that it needs to be done with everyone. From afar we occasionally heard the Lehava boys, not more than 20 – 30, shouting racist epithets, but they were no more than a curious anecdote in the Square – most of what was happening last night is what you see in the pictures here. And in the background, close to the circle, were the taxis of Zion Square, Arab drivers who told me afterward that from their standpoint they felt completely safe all night (as opposed to the summer of 2014, when they were being attacked frequently).

Lighting candles in Zion Square

Lighting candles in Zion Square

At midnight we closed the circle, and some of us from Speaking in the Square found ourselves talking with Adi, Tamar and some other teenagers from the settlements, trying to examine the differences between us vis-a-vis the Arabs. And it was excellent to discover that there are gaps, yet we also have things to talk about. Because where else can these girls find people like us to talk to except for Zion Square? And where, except for Zion Square in the middle of the night, can we hear the frustration of girls who feel threatened by countless rock throwers and other acts and need to deal with the the hate these actions trigger, in their local environments and sometimes among themselves?

Hallel, a charming girl and gifted dancer, was murdered yesterday. I hope that someplace she sees what happened last night in the Square in her honor. Reality changes in the Square from day to day and from hour to hour. This change could be felt this year in the Square and in many other places in the city on Jerusalem Day, when we and tens of thousands of Jerusalemites re-claimed Jerusalem Day as A Different Day in Jerusalem. Maybe in the future, with the help of Or Eitan, Speaking in the Square and other groups of young people of another breed, from another generation, the change will also come to Tel Aviv and the Samaria.

Shabbat Shalom!

And here’s the post itself, in Hebrew:

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Jerusalem Art – Roof Top Tolerance

June 26th, 2016

How is it to celebrate an interfaith Iftar (breaking-the-fast celebration during the Islamic month of Ramadan) on a rooftop in the Old City of Jerusalem?

Take a look and see:

This celebration was produced by Jerusalem Art, an independent initiative by Jews and Muslims, who re-claimed an abandoned rooftop for social events. They are part of a growing number of independent grassroots initiatives that we’ve identified throughout the city. Here’s the post in Facebook:

And here’s their short explanation of their activities:

On Monday we held our biggest event so far, an Iftar on the rooftop which gathered Muslims,Jews and Christians from many different places and cultures.
We took a part in a good will activity that gathered people from different faiths and cultures to give water to Muslims at the time of the Iftar to break the fast, at Damascus gate in the old city of Jerusalem.

At the end we had a wonderful magical musical event with Turkish music, Arabic music and Rap! we truly enjoyed clapping and singing together

After about a month of intensive and continuous work we managed to turn an abondand part of a rooftop in the old city of Jerusalem into a meeting point for people who wish to work together to create a better Jerusalem and a better world through activism and art. We are looking forward to turn other places into places of activism ,compassion ,human interaction and art !

We want to thank everyone who have helped us and attended to our Iftar , for the ones who were not able to come because of their schedule , not having a permit to enter Jerusalem or any other reason, we are looking forward to see you soon and we apologize that we couldn’t help you to be with us.

This is their fifth event. Thus far they’ve cleaned:

Cleaning an Old City rooftop

Cleaning an Old City rooftop

Painted (twice):

And held two Iftars. (Here’s the post about the first one, held on June 13):

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