Since the summer of 2014, Jerusalem has been characterized by heightened violence and incidents of racism, from all sides, to all sides. Sense of powerlessness and lack of trust among residents creates atmosphere of despair. And despair is creating hatred, racism, incitement and violence.
This atmosphere of fear and despair spurned us to action. Since the summer of 2014 we’ve been working rigorously to fight racism and xenophobia in the public sphere and to promote tolerance. Our approach is to encourage, promote and support activists throughout the city who are working effectively to improve tolerance in Jerusalem.
Thus far, we’ve constructed a broad grassroots network of impassioned activists that seek to work in uniquely diverse ways to promote tolerance throughout Jerusalem. This includes:
- Workshops to develop leadership and effective dialogue tools, both citywide and in neighborhoods, thus far assisting dozens of participants in furthering additional initiatives.
- Working intensively in neighborhoods to help local residents promote tolerance locally, in a way that is most appropriate for them. Initiatives range from Jewish-Arab holiday celebrations for families (in French Hill) to plans for a Jewish-Arab street festival (Abu Tor, conditions permitting) to stories of neighbors and neighborhood stories (Katamon-Moshavot and Baka’a, respectively) to a multi-lingual reading station / library (Nahlaot) to musical evenings of different ethnicities (Katamonim). Indeed, the range is as rich as Jerusalem’s diversity.
- Helping activists to develop Internet and social media tools to promote tolerance on a much broader scale, reaching hundreds of thousands throughout the globe. These include: “0202 – A View from East Jerusalem” Facebook page and Internet site, which translates popular Arabic-language sites into Hebrew and English (the Hebrew page with over 15,000 “likes” with a weekly reach of 50,000); the Speaking in the Square Facebook group – over 1,000 people, with diverse views, engaged in discussions pertaining to racism and xenophobia in the public sphere; Jerusalem Tolerance Facebook Page, which serves as a platform for diverse initiatives promoting tolerance.
- Rising mass awareness of Speaking in the Square, which received several mentions in the local press and continued to transform the dynamic in Zion Square to one of acceptance and tolerance.
- A Different Day in Jerusalem. In 2016 we, together with a range of partners, led the call to re-claim Jerusalem Day as a celebration for all of Jerusalem’s diverse residents. In its inaugural year, more than 50 events and activities, aimed at advancing tolerance and acceptance of the other, took place throughout the city and reached tens of thousands of people.
We have begun the work and have gained momentum, but a great deal remains to be done. We seek to continue to develop and expand these and other initiatives, working to make Jerusalem a symbol of pluralism, tolerance and inclusion.
You can read more details about this progran in the JICC blog, at the relevant category, in the program Internet Site and also at the Facebook page.