Hot Summer 2009 – the JICC Involvement in the Ultra-Orthodox Conflicts

October 7, 2009

Summer 2009 was very dense with issues related to the Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community in Jerusalem. One issue was around the opening on Saturday of a public parking lot in close proximity to the old city. Another major case was the arrest of a Haredi mother who allegedly starved and hurt her son for more than a year. Every weekend throughout the summer, Haredis rioted in their neighborhoods and near the parking lot. Also, throughout the week of the arrest of the Haredi mother, the Haredi neighborhoods were on riots, and municipality services were prevented from approaching them. Specifically, welfare services did not function for several weeks as a result of the Haredi community blaming them for being active in the arrest of the mother.

The JICC has become the main mediating agent in these conflicts. It was our work during the week when the mother was arrested that enabled all sides to sit together and achieve a solution that allowed the riots to stop. Since then, we have been working closely with all sides to respond to the many conflicting issues, which could each develop into a full blown crisis. We were involved in the court discussions, in the children’s interrogation, in the mother’s visits of the relevant child etc.

This story is not over yet. As we write this post, during Succot Hol Hamoed, we are handling another crisis around the Welfare Department’s involvement in the case.  We observed professional people on all sides who act according to their best professional judgment in this case. However, in a complex culturally-sensitive environment, the usual best professional practices are not always best for the situation at hand – and we try to help all sides to redefine what would cultural competent professional work mean in their respective areas – health, welfare etc. The story was covered on a Jerusalem Post article on July 23, when our work on this issue just begun. We hope that when the issue is resolved, we will be able to write the full story as an important case study for the need for cultural competency in all services.

In the case of the Karta parking lot, we were also involved in most of the negotiations and with the efforts that allowed the “ceasefire” in September. We are still involved, together with the highest officials at the municipality, police and Haredi community, in the endeavors to calm the issues for the future.

Altogether, we must admit that with all these unfortunate and difficult events, this was a very interesting and fruitful summer for us. We accumulated a great deal of knowledge and experience and demonstrated our important role and significant contribution in the city. Most important – we created even better contacts and relationships with the innermost circles of the Haredi community. A clear outcome of this development is that at present, whenever problems are about to erupt, all sides call us to intervene – it took us 10 years to acquire this legitimacy in Jerusalem!

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