Blog Category: ‘Palestinians/Arabs’

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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MiniActive Youth – Now Operating in Beit Safafa

March 4th, 2017

MiniActive Youth continues to make the streets of East Jerusalem brighter! This time, in Beit Safafa.

Making significant changes

Making significant changes

The painting project was carried out in cooperation with the local community center.

It was a real group effort

It was a real group effort

The activity took place on a sunny Sunday, February 26.

Looks amazing!

Looks amazing!

Neighborhood by neighborhood, improving the environment in East Jerusalem.

An accomplishment to be proud of

An accomplishment to be proud of

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continued support of the MiniActive project.

Here’s the Facebook post, in Arabic:

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Atta’a – Savings for Every Child – Including Those from East Jerusalem

March 1st, 2017

In January 2017 the National Insurance Institute began its Savings for Every Child program, intended to help close socio-economic gaps and benefit children throughout the country, regardless of cultural or ethnic group. Here is the formal information about it.

Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are eligible for this program, like all other NII benefits, but few had chosen their means of signing up. (Only 10% had signed up, as opposed to 40-50% in other parts of the country, including Arab cities and villages.)

Until Atta’a came into the picture.

Atta’a has been doing a great number of activities specifically on the Savings for Every Child program, significantly increasing participation in East Jerusalem. These include:

A step-by-step guide on the Atta’a web site, explaining in plain Arabic, step-by-step, how to sign up for the program. (It is only possible to sign up on the Hebrew-language NII web site.) Periodic Facebook posts encourage residents to use the step-by-step guide and sign up. Here’s an example, from a Facebook post (click here for the link to the Atta’a web site):

A conference in the East Jerusalem branch of the National Insurance Institute, which took place on February 1. Atta’a brought the participants (60 – 70 in all), the NII brought the experts, who explained about the program and how to sign up, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of the different options.

Daud, Atta'as Director, explaining about Atta'a and Savings for Every Child program

Daud, Atta’as Director, explaining about Atta’a and Savings for Every Child program

Atta’a has held additional community meetings to explain about the program, as well. For example, on February 13, there was a workshop for 30 mothers from the Old City at the Abna al-Quds Community Center.

In the community

In the community

We know that as a result of our activities to raise awareness, the instruction page has enjoyed thousands of hits. We’re sure that this extra income will make a significant difference for many Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. It is exactly for this reason that Atta’a was created, and we’re proud to be able to provide this and other services to empower local residents to access rights and services by themselves.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continued support of Atta’a.

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MiniActive Youth – Getting to Know My City

February 26th, 2017

MiniActive – and MiniActive Youth – never cease to amaze us. You can read here and here and here about their most recent accomplishments.

Group picture on the walls

Group picture on the walls

Now, it’s time for us to show them how much we appreciate them.

Beautiful day for a beautiful walk

Beautiful day for a beautiful walk

Last week, on Sunday, February 19, they had a tour of the Old City by walking the walls.

What interesting things you can see from up here!

What interesting things you can see from up here!

Great views!

Like a picture postcard

Like a picture postcard

And lots of fun!

Resting on the grass

Resting on the grass

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

Here’s the Facebook post in Arabic:

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Atta’a – Empowering Residents through Increasing Awareness

February 18th, 2017

Over the last few months we’ve mentioned here and here about the steady increase in the number of ‘likes’ to the Atta’a Facebook page (today it’s nearly 8,500, but it changes frequently) and in the traffic on the Atta’a web site. The site has a wealth of information about health care and other service providers – from opening hours for the various offices to lists of hospitals and clinics with telephone numbers. There is information about the Ministry of the Interior, the National Insurance Institute, and much more.

In January the site, for the first time, published guidelines in plain and concise Arabic on who is eligible for discounts on property taxes and how to go about receiving those discounts. (Since health care, welfare, education and other services are provided based on a resident’s proof of residence in Jerusalem, nearly all East Jerusalem residents seek to pay annual municipal property taxes.)

Saving money, accessing rights

Saving money, accessing rights

Atta’a also posted notifications on Facebook, with links to the web site.

The result was revolutionary – thousands of people (out of a total adult population of 150,000) clicked through to the information on the Atta’a website in two days! We are very proud of this number, and believe that it enabled a large number of people to work correctly to receive discounts on property tax.

Atta’a posted a reminder a few weeks later:

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support of Atta’a.

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Groundbreaking Cultural Competency Work with the National Insurance Institute East Jerusalem Branch

February 15th, 2017

We’ve been describing here and here the long and complicated process of how we’ve been helping the East Jerusalem branch of the National Insurance Institute (NII) become more culturally competent. We’ve also described here and here the efforts of Atta’a to work with different government and municipal bodies to improve access to rights. Last week, the joint efforts of our Cultural Competency desk and the Atta’a program led to groundbreaking meeting between Palestinian Arab residents of East Jerusalem and the National Insurance Institute.

Meeting with the National Insurance Institute

Meeting with the National Insurance Institute

The meeting took place on February 8, 2017, as part of the NII’s process of becoming more culturally competent. The goal was to hear about real experiences of the residents who need to receive services from that branch. Residents described language obstacles, complicated bureaucracy, long waits in several lines, and more. Importantly, resident-participants who were brought in were educated – including a lawyer, a doctor and other medical personnel, a social worker and mothers to children with special needs. This means that, unlike many Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, these residents are more familiar with Hebrew and more familiar with the rights they are supposed to be receiving, but still, obtaining those rights in East Jerusalem is very, very difficult. Through Atta’a, we – and they – are trying to change that.

Voicing concerns for change

Voicing concerns for change

NII representatives listened. When possible they tried to offer specific solutions. The main purpose of the meeting was that they would take these issues back to the entire branch and discuss ways in offering solutions adapted to the specific needs of East Jerusalem residents. Both residents and workers felt that such meetings should become regular encounters.

Can’t wait to see how this develops!

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support of both cultural competency processes in Jerusalem and of Atta’a.


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MiniActive – Reaching for the Clouds

January 28th, 2017

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

MiniActive reaching for the clouds

MiniActive reaching for the clouds

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


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

Starting at the bottom

Starting at the bottom

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

Climbing higher

Climbing higher

And then they climbed higher.

As if in a winter wonderland

As if in a winter wonderland

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

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

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

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2016 – What a Year!

January 25th, 2017

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

Cultural Competence

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

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

Paramedical Professionals

Making healthcare practitioner exams accessible to Arab residents of east Jerusalem

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

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

Nurses studying to pass their Israeli certification examinations

Talking Coexistence – Arabic Language Instruction

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

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

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

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

Atta’a Presenting workshops

MiniActive for Arab Residents of East Jerusalem

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

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

Emergency Readiness Networks

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

Planning on map

Planning strategy on map

Multicultural Participatory Democracy

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

Writing and submitting objections

Writing and submitting objections in Gilo

Promoting Tolerance in the Public Sphere

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

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

Haaretz article about A Different Day in Jerusalem

Window to Mount Zion

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

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

Window to Mount Zion volunteers

Asylum Seekers

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

Tour of Nahlaot neighborhood

Families of asylum seekers on tour of Nahlaot neighborhood

Thank You!

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

Looking forward to making 2017 even better!

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MiniActive Becoming an International Model

January 14th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Atta’a – Rights Workshops throughout East Jerusalem

January 6th, 2017

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

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

Daud, Atta'a Director, in a workshop

Daud, Atta’a Director, in a workshop

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

Important information in the workshop

Important information in the workshop in A-Thori

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

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

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


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