What is common in the following experiences?
“The train (on the old Ottoman line) was our alarm clock – when it went past our house every morning at 7 am, mom knew it was time to get up and get ready for school.”
“We rode our broken scooter to the YMCA to get into the Hapoel soccer game at halftime, with sunflower seeds in hand. We came back on foot, tired but happy, scooter in tow.”
“We didn’t lock our doors then. We knew everyone’s family backgrounds: Kurdish, Iraqi, Turkish, Moroccan. We didn’t know what “Ashkenazi” (Jew of Eastern European descent) or “Mizrachi” (of Middle Eastern descent) was. We were one big family.”
“The jelly cake at the Smadar Cinema, and Chechik who would stop the movies in the middle to yell at us to be quiet. We also learned to smoke at the Smadar Cinema.”
These are all common experiences that were shared last week at the Baka’a Neighborhood Tolerance Team’s first meeting. Dozens of residents came to listen and to tell stories about Baka’a of yore, from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. The stories brought together new and veteran residents, young and old families as well as students, in reminiscing about Baka’a’s fascinating past.
In such a diverse neighborhood it was important to bring the unique texture of the neighborhood to the fore. We have found in our work to promote tolerance in Jerusalem, that tolerance is not only something that must be practiced toward the far-away ‘other’ – Arabs, the Ultra-Orthodox. Tolerance begins in our neighborhoods, with our neighbors, in the local supermarket and post office, in the way we treat other people. The first step in treating them in a tolerant manner is to get to know them on a more personal basis. Thus, the fascinating stories of neighborhood veterans were a perfect way to launch the Baka’a Neighborhood Tolerance Team.
Many thanks to the UJA-Federation of New York for their support of this program.
If you want to see some videos from the event, here they are: