Blog Category: ‘Jewish Religious Denominations’

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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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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An Insiders View – 0202 Beyond the Screen

December 3rd, 2016

When was the last time you could experience a newspaper from Meah Shearim, or get an inside peek at what goes viral in Silwan? Palestinian and Ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem, two vastly different experiences from the secular-religious Jewish continuum of another 300,000 Jerusalmites. Only a few blocks separate them physically, but they are all worlds apart.

This Facebook event picture basically sums it up

This Facebook event picture basically sums it up

In a truly Jerusalemite way, they all came together last week (November 22) at the Hamiffal cultural space, at the 0202: Beyond the Screen event. The event brought together representatives from the original 0202: A View from East Jerusalem and the newly-launched 0202: A View from Ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem for a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at Jerusalem and current events from their different points of view.

Bursting at the seams, with another 750 viewers online

Bursting at the seams, with another 750 viewers online

What does Jerusalem look like? What can we learn from a deeper look at 0202 items? How does East Jerusalem view Ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem, and vice versa? What do the same news items look like as covered from East Jerusalem news sources or from Ultra-Orthodox news sources?

During the evening we were able to look at a number of different indicative posts that enabled panelists to analyze media, reality and the gap in between in ultra-orthodox and east Jerusalem,  crossing social, cultural, and physical borders through Facebook. Panelists included: Hatem Khweis – editor of “Hon” website and “Al-Balad” newspaper; Nasr Temimi – an active resident from Ras el-Amud; Yael Yechieli Persico – Director of Freedom of Religious and Pluralistic Judaism, ShatilBoaz Ben Ari – Photographer, “Haredim 10” News; Ohad Merlin – Editor, “0202 – A View from East Jerusalem”; Yossi Klar – Editor, “0202 – A View from Ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem”; Michal Shilor – Founder and Director, 0202.

From L. to R.: Nasr, Boaz, Yossi, Ohad, Yael, Hatem and Michal

From L. to R.: Nasr, Boaz, Yossi, Ohad, Yael, Hatem and Michal

In all, over 150 people squeezed into the main space at Hamiffal, and another 750 people watched on live stream! You can watch the video of the event here:

Earlier in the day Yossi and Ohad, both editors at 0202, were interviewed on the Galei Israel radio station. Click below to hear the interview in Hebrew.

Congratulations to Michal and the entire 0202 team for another successful Beyond the Screen event. Can’t wait for the next one!

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0202 – a Haredi Viewpoint – Launches

October 12th, 2016

The largest population of Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jews in Israel lives in Jerusalem. Yet, ask any non-orthodox Jerusalem resident about burning issues in the Haredi community, and they will only be able to tell you about them from what they hear from the mainstream, secular media.

0202, a project begun in March 2015, aims to provide all Jerusalem populations with a window into the ‘other’s perspective, from their perspective. 0202 began translating news items from the Palestinian viewpoint. The Hebrew and English pages can be seen here and here. Today they have over 50,000 ‘likes’ combined and reach over 100,000 people weekly. As part of the 0202 philosophy, 0202 – A View from Haredi Jerusalem, began in September 2016. Many of its 2,300 ‘likes’ were received in its first two days on line; today the page reaches 10,000 weekly. Like its sister pages, 0202 – A View from Haredi Jerusalem reaches key stakeholders regularly: journalists, municipality figures, activists, journalists, Israelis and Palestinians, in and beyond Jerusalem.

0202 - A View from Haredi Jerusalem

0202 – A View from Haredi Jerusalem

Unlike its sister pages, 0202 – A View from Haredi Jerusalem does not need to translate. (0202-A View from East Jerusalem translates items from Arabic to Hebrew or English.) However, it does bridge a vast cultural divide between the ‘general’ (secular and modern orthodox) Jewish population and the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) population of the city.

First, it breaks a few stereotypes of how information is transferred. Many believe the main avenue is through pahskevilim and print media.

Reading pashkevilim

Reading pashkevilim

While this practice still continues, today there are a number of web sites and Facebook pages that serve the Haredi community of today. Here are some examples of interesting posts over the past month.

Here is a recent post dealing with discrimination of girls from a non-Ashkenazi origin:

The Haredi press dealt with this issue at length at the beginning of the school year as well:

This issue has been a recurring problem at the beginning of the school year for several years. Click here for an article from the secular Ynet news on the subject, from a few years ago.

Two different perspectives of a cultural event – which featured women singing – that was disrupted by members of the Haredi population. The post reads, “Dozens of activists break into a missionary conference in Jerusalem.”:

And here’s the way the organizers presented it:

Event with Armenian choir

Event with Armenian choir

And the Times of Israel (secular) coverage of the event.

And here is what others are saying about the page:

From the excellent people at 0202-A View from East Jerusalem, introducing the next project: “A View from Haredi Jerusalem.” They continue to bring items from the Haredi world from outside our Facebook sound box. Here, there might not be a language barrier, but how many of us seriously follow the Haredi media? I promise that it’s fascinating. Congratulations to Michal Shilor, Hagai Agmon-Snir and everyone else working on the project…P.S. Waiting for the completion of the set, “View from West Jerusalem” in Arabic.

Here’s the post in Hebrew:

Welcome to the world, 0202-A View from Haredi Jerusalem. May your posts and the discussions they raise serve to increase understanding among the populations of Jerusalem.

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The People are the Story – Katamon-Moshavot Tolerance Group Meets in the Public Sphere

September 30th, 2016

The people are story…..

That’s the main principle behind our work to promote tolerance throughout Jerusalem. Beyond preventing acts of verbal and physical violence against the ‘other,’ in our view tolerance can be displayed not only towards those very different from you (Arabs, Haredim, etc.), but those closest to you in physical proximity – your neighbors. And the first step is to get to know those neighbors as people, not only the way we tag them.

Last year our Katamon-Moshavot Tolerance Group, Neighborhood Stories, met a number of times to share neighbors’ stories. This past Saturday (24th of September), they kicked off the activity year with a charming meeting outdoors, on the Jerusalem Railway Park.

The People are the Story at the Reading Corner

The People are the Story at the Reading Corner

Tamar, one of the organizers of the meeting, described how it went:

“Wow! What a meeting of Neighborhood Stories we had on Shabbat afternoon at the Moshava Reading Corner! Geto told about his aliyah to Israel with his mother from southern Ethiopia and shared the pain of this adolescence, Rami from Beit Safafa shared how he found himself both as a professional soccer player in the Palestinian league and a firefighter in the Israeli system, on his way to becoming a social worker. Eliezer Ben Yehuda (the grandson) told about his childhood in Katamon in a 4-room apartment with a Christian family and a Muslim family in a common kitchen….and more and more. And to think that this was a spontaneous meeting on the grass, neighbors passing by and sharing their stories and many more stopping and listening. Many thanks to you all!”

Here’s the Facebook post in Hebrew:

Many thanks to the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation for their support of this project.

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Cultural Competency Training for Municipal Community Department

July 22nd, 2016

Cultural Competency – we’ve talked a lot about it, on the blog and on our website, but what is it really?

When we began that discussion some ten years ago, we focused on the health care context. Indeed, if health care services are not culturally competent and sensitive to the vast diversity of cultures in Jerusalem and throughout Israel, it really can be a life or death situation.

Cultural Competency at Hadassah Hospital

Cultural Competency at Hadassah Hospital

But Cultural Competency is so much more than that. In those past ten years, we’ve developed and refined our definition of  Cultural Competency to encompass much of our entire approach to community work: All residents have the right to receive basic services (health, education, welfare) that are culturally adapted to best suit their needs. Cultural Competent services enable professionals to provide those services most effectively, and culturally competent residents are empowered to most effectively access these rights and services. You can read about the most recent work we’ve done to advance cultural competency in a number of fields – in health, the police, the workplace, academia. Now, we’re proud to be officially providing widespread training in the Jerusalem Municipality.

Training senior municipal professionals

Training senior municipal professionals

We’ve been working with the municipal welfare department for several years, facilitating workshops for them here and there, providing critical assistance in emergency situations (like the Haredi mother who was accused of starving her child). All the while, we were looking for ways to introduce cultural competency in a systemic way.

A few weeks ago it began. Not only the welfare department, with which we’d been working before, but the entire Social Services Department, which includes the Welfare Department, the Employment Authority, the Absorption Authority and the Public Health. About 80 senior officials from all the different Departments are participating in the first five workshops, which we are now taking place. The workshops introduce principles of the tools and insights of cultural competency.  But this is only the beginning. In the future we expect to hold workshops adapted to the different areas – veterinary services, well-baby clinics, absorption authority, daycare frameworks, welfare workers and social workers, and more.  All will undergo workshops led by those trained to lead cultural competency workshops.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continued support of the Cultural Competency program throughout the years.

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Comparing and Contrasting Mount Zion to the Temple Mount – JICC and Window to Mount Zion, in Jerusalem Post Article

July 18th, 2016

The Temple Mount and Mount Zion are two areas considered holy to a number of different groups, in relatively close proximity. Yet, we mostly hear about tensions only about the Temple Mount.

Why?

Journalist Peggy Cidor explored this question in the article that recently appeared in the Jerusalem Post, both in print and online. You can find the full text, in which she cites both our director Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir and coordinator of the Window to Mount Zion project Merav Horovitz-Stein, below.

Despite the existence of significant religious sites for Judaism, Islam and Christianity on both Mount Zion and the Temple Mount, only one seems to periodically explode with tensions. Why?

Last Friday evening was Laylat al-Qadar, the last Friday of Ramadan – a night dedicated to special prayers and meditation. As in the last few years, it drew tens of thousands of worshipers to the Temple Mount – to Haram al-Sharif and al-Aksa Mosque.
According to Hisham, the taxi driver who drove me to the Old City the following Sunday morning, there were some 300,000 worshipers there. More official figures estimate 150,000.

“In any case,” says Ami Metav, formerly with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Jerusalem region, “we’re talking about an impressive number of people. Despite the tension that arose over the prior few days on the Mount [with Palestinians entrenching themselves in al-Aksa with a supply of stones and fireworks, and one person lightly wounded on June 28], it went on without even the tiniest disturbance, without any need for the police to interfere.”

Tension and friction in Jerusalem are almost a matter of routine, sometimes ending in bloodshed, other times controlled before reaching that stage. But in two particular locations, very different initiatives and activities have produced different results. While the eyes of the world are locked on Jerusalem in general and more precisely on the Temple Mount, nearby Mount Zion – which has just as many points of friction and tension among various religious factions – has managed to remain less chaotic most of the time.

One explanation is the fact that while Mount Zion has long been part of Israel proper, the Temple Mount was recaptured in 1967 during the Six Day War.

Another reason is that despite the tremendous potential for tourism and global interest, Mount Zion has never made it to the front lines of the violence, apart from sporadic incidents perpetrated by hooligans, mostly arson of Christian institutions. Although there is there a Muslim site – the Dajani Cemetery – the other parties involved are Jewish and Christian, with most of the city’s Christian community represented.

There are some obvious reasons why the situation is less explosive on Mount Zion than it is on the Temple Mount, even though both are highly significant sites for more than one religion. A source in the local security forces says that since the Christian sites on Mount Zion are mostly Catholic, it couldn’t be otherwise.

“The fact that they are Catholic sites means they belong to the Vatican. No official representing the State of Israel would want to reach a situation in which the Vatican’s interests would be harmed under our control. That’s out of the question,” he says.

And indeed, despite tough opposition by some Jewish religious, right-wing parties, the conflict between Jewish and Christian interests at King David’s Tomb – whose second story is recognized by Christians as the room in which the Last Supper was served to Jesus and his disciples (the Coenaculum), in a conflict that has reached some peaks over the last two years – nothing there can compare to the extent of the conflict experienced on the Temple Mount over the years.

As for the Greek Orthodox and Armenian sites there, while the former are rather hostile to Israeli sovereignty and the latter express no preference for either side, both avoid as much as possible calling for police intervention in cases of friction with Jewish factions on Mount Zion.

Despite repeated recommendations to do so, there is no official body responsible for keeping order on Mount Zion. For several years now, the Jerusalem Intercultural Center (JICC) there has acted as a sort of non-official volunteer agent between the parties.

“Since we are not officially on duty here,” explains center director Hagai Agmon-Snir, “our efforts to calm the situation in cases of dissent or to offer solutions to local conflicts between the parties operating here are welcome. After all, we are not identified with the authorities but we are neighbors, and we have learned to know each one of the parties.”

THE TEMPLE Mount is a totally different story. Comprising only 300 square meters of the one square kilometer of the entire Old City, the world remains focused on it. For Metav, a coordinator and facilitator for the municipality, the Jerusalem Development Authority and the East Jerusalem Development Company (PAMI), there is no corner or issue that is not familiar to him.

Metav’s daily routine takes place in the narrow streets of the Old City, wherever there is a need to listen, act, offer solutions to residents and, above all, mediate between the Arab residents and the authorities, which they avoid out of fear and lack of knowledge but also an unwillingness to “cooperate” with Israeli authorities. Infrastructure, heavy construction – nothing moves in the Old City without Metav’s being involved or at least notified.

“With regard to the Temple Mount, the situation is so fragile that at any moment things can just explode,” he concedes.

Metav recently published a book on the Old City in which one of the chapters centers on the Temple Mount.

“There is something basic that we have to understand,” he begins. “While for us, Israeli Jews, there is an understanding that protecting our country might also mean going to war and losing loved ones, for the Palestinians, saving al-Aksa or protecting it from any attempt – real or imagined – to fall into foreign hands is a good reason to die or to send one’s children to death.”

Metav adds that this is not a position of judgment but a conclusion he has reached based on facts and thousands of hours of conversations with Palestinians.

“They are incredibly sensitive to any act or step that might be interpreted as an attempt to harm their status on the Mount,” he says.

He is convinced that Jerusalem’s Palestinian sector is largely ripe for what he calls “a process of Israelization,” which he sees as irreversible. “But at the same time, this the best moment for those opposed to this move to try anything they can do to stop it – hence, the very tough reactions that are all converging on the situation on the Temple Mount.”

Metav says that what we’ve seen during last year’s High Holy Days compared to the situation during Passover this past April illustrate exactly what he is describing.

“I am not talking about our rights, but about the situation on the ground. Last Rosh Hashana and Succot, Jews were allowed to visit the Temple Mount; and since it was a holiday period, there were quite a few visitors. As a result, when Arabs arrived for their prayers, the police decided, in order to avoid any friction, to stop them and allow them to enter only a few hours later.

“For them it was clear: Sheikh Raed Salah Abu Shakra [leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, convicted among other things of funding Hamas and of assaulting a police officer] had been telling the truth. This meant al-Aksa was in danger and that the Israeli plan was to impose here what had been imposed in Hebron at the Cave of the Patriarchs – dividing the Mount area.

“This was the sign for many young adults, already incited by the imams, to launch the attacks [that kicked off a wave of Palestinian violence]. The stabbings and deaths began there.”

Asked to explain, if this is the case why police then allowed so many Jewish visitors on the Mount, Metav admits that while the police and security forces’ evaluations and recommendations are always entirely professional, the final decision is in the hands of those with the ultimate authority – the politicians, “who sometimes see a different picture.” This is a situation that does not exist on Mount Zion, where there is less political interest or impact.

“Look at what happened here this past Passover,” Metav points out. “The police didn’t impose any restriction on Arabs visiting the Mount, and as a result it all went as peacefully as possible.”

Metav clarifies that he is not suggesting that Jews should be prevented from visiting the Temple Mount, but that “these things should be done with the utmost sensitivity and caution. There is no other way to say it: It is a terribly explosive location.”

Inside the Old City, near Jaffa Gate, the newly renovated alleys and infrastructure spearheaded by the JDA and PAMI with Metav’s close involvement show what he has in mind when he talks about the need to listen to residents and provide solutions for them. Cleaning the little byways there has a wider impact than in any other place in the city; it simply means there is a possibility for some cooperation with the authorities, not just in obtaining basic services.

But all these aspects of daily life fall away as soon as al-Aksa Mosque is at stake.

“Take the cameras that King Abdullah of Jordan wanted to install on the Mount [in October 2015 for round-the-clock surveillance, in what was said to be an effort to calm tension],” continues Metav. “All the equipment had arrived here, sophisticated cameras; they were planned to be directly linked to a center in Jordan, and the Israel Police was permitted to get all the material filmed. But I was quite sure it would never happen. The worshipers adamantly refused to let anyone install them. I can understand them; it’s a severe breach of their religious privacy. And indeed, there is no indication that the cameras will be installed,” he says.

“So it’s all a matter of fragile equilibrium: Not to allow any riots or violence and, at the same time, to make it clear that there are no plans to change the situation – the famous status quo on the Mount,” concludes Metav.

BACK at Mount Zion, things are operating more on the basis of self-policed properties, with the Jerusalem Intercultural Center working with all groups – at the’ Diaspora Yeshiva and the Chamber of the Holocaust Museum; at Christian institutions such as Dormition Abbey and the Coenaculum in King David’s Tomb; and at Muslim sites such as the Dajani Cemetery.

As the JICC’s Agmon-Snir affirms, citing the example of King David’s Tomb, “Despite all these [potentially] explosive situations, we, all the parties involved, have managed to reach some kind of peaceful cooperation.

“Moreover, last week, for example, Hagihon planned a break in the water supply to the Mount. We, at the center, were the only ones aware of it, so coordinator Merav Horowitz informed all the parties [of all sectors] and forced Hagihon to inform everyone and take them into consideration. That’s how we work here.”

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JICC Completes Training Course for Police Commanders

July 14th, 2016

What is it like to be a police officer, and be responsible for keeping order and enforcing the law?

Police officers everywhere are on the front lines of law enforcement, bringing them into contact with a vast diversity of people. All too often, as we’ve recently seen in the USA as well as in Israel, events can get out of hand very quickly.

Protesting police treatment in Israel

Protesting police treatment in Israel July 3, 2016

The Israel Police understands the complexities of working with Israel’s different – and sometimes conflicting – population groups, and for the past year we at the JICC have been working with various ranks and groups in cultural competency training.

Israel police officers

Israel police officers

Last week we finished a course for police officials at the National Police Academy. The 50 course graduates, Superintendents and Chief Superintendents, represent the next generation of commanding officers in the Israel Police. Each will command soon a police station or a large police unit. The JICC has been mentoring the course for the past six months, from introducing them to the concept, to integrating cultural competency into different areas of the training course, and in writing a module in the unit commander’s file – on how to operate a culturally competent unit. We, together with the course participants, edited the comprehensive file. In the summary meeting of the course that was held with the Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh, the entire course’s work was presented. This included recommendations and tools on how to manage and operate a culturally competent police unit. The JICC, together with the officers of the course and the staff of the National Police Academy, will continue to work to advance the use of these recommendations within the Israel Police.

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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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Window on Mt. Zion – Keeping the Peace during Orthodox Pentecost Ceremonies

June 25th, 2016

This past year has been full of challenges for Window to Mount Zion, trying to enable all faiths and all groups to engage in their respective prayers and religious rituals, without infringing upon the rights and religious rituals of others, while maintaining mutual respect for all.

Armenian Pentecost ceremony

Armenian Pentecost ceremony

Last Sunday – Monday, June 19-20, was a case in point. It was the Pentecost for the Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, the day according to Christian tradition that the Holy Spirit descended to the Apostles and other followers of Jesus. For many this is the moment when the church was created, and when the Apostles began spreading the Christian religion, and visiting the Cenacle, the Room of the Last Supper, is a vital part of the holiday’s celebration. (You might remember that we discussed the Pentecost recently. That is because the Pentecost for the Eastern Churches is different than that of the Catholic church, which was a month ago.) The ceremony for the Armenian church took place on Sunday June 19, and for the Greek Orthodox church, on Monday the 20th.

Greek Orthodox leaving David's Tomb

Greek Orthodox leaving David’s Tomb

The procession set out from the Armenian Quarter of the Old City toward Mount Zion and the Cenacle in the late afternoon. They prayed there for about 1/2 an hour, accompanied by a small number of members of the Armenian community. At the same time, Jews prayed in David’s Tomb without disturbance. For a moment Mount Zion was a symbol of inter-religious tolerance that enables everyone to fulfill his or her religious traditions.

The challenge came the next morning, on Monday morning, June 20, when the Greek Orthodox church held its ceremony. According to the ancient status quo agreements, during the Greek Orthodox ceremony a small number of priests go from the Cenacle on the second floor, via a special staircase that is opened only on this day, into David’s Tomb on the ground floor for a very short prayer. King David is a holy and important character for Jews, Christians as well as Muslims, and it is important for the Greek Orthodox to pray next to his grave. However, this event often creates a great deal of tension between the Orthodox Christians and Jews, who see this Christian prayer as defiling the holiness of David’s Tomb.

The police were prepared, with reinforcements in place, to ensure that order was kept. Window on Mt. Zion volunteers were there as well. They not only helped the police in keeping order, they were able to explain what is going on to both those involved and passersby, diffusing some of the tension that is sometimes inherent in interactions with the police.

This is from the Facebook post (in Hebrew).

The morning was not without incident. Over the two days a number of Jews tried to barricade themselves in David’s Tomb, in an effort to stop the Green Orthodox service. These people were arrested. Because of these events, the police closed off David’s Tomb to visitors in the morning, except for a small number of Rabbis. During the service some Jews demonstrated outside. Those who were violent were arrested as well.

We can’t emphasize enough that most of the Jews living, working and praying on Mount Zion throughout the year staunchly oppose violence against Christians in the David’s Tomb and Cenacle complex. Over the last year, thanks to the Window on Mt. Zion program, we have reached important understandings with all those who live and work here that have great improved relations between neighbors. And the more we are there, we see what a difference our presence makes.

On the morning of the 20th, a large, official Greek Orthodox procession, including the Bishop and many members of the Greek Orthodox community in Jerusalem, arrived at the Cenacle. There they held a short prayer service, during which a number of priests and the bishop descended into David’s Tomb as planned.  Shortly afterward, they left the complex. Window on Mt. Zion volunteers were there to explain what was going on to passersby and to those demonstrating against the service. Except for a few incidents of violence, which were handled quickly by the police, the event finished peacefully and respectfully. Here’s the video of the Greek Orthodox praying in the Cenacle:

And here’s a video of their prayer in David’s Tomb:

Eetta Prince-Gibson, also a Window on Mt. Zion volunteer, wrote about the experience in the Ha’aretz daily. Here’s the link to the full article.

Pentecost Haaretz article

Pentecost Haaretz article

And here’s the article from the Window on Mt. Zion blog (in Hebrew).

Many thanks again to the Window on Mount Zion volunteers! Without your help, we are sure events would have ended more like they did last year. Just for comparison, Eran Tzidkiyahu, one of the co-leaders of the Window on Mount Zion project, posted a year ago a short video:

 

Here are some past news reports to show the contrast:

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