How do you want to see your neighborhood, your city? And what can you do to get there? Often, in our everyday routines, especially after watching / reading / listening to the news, it is difficult to see how we can have an influence. The JICC’s Deliberative Democracy program seeks to change that.
Over the past few years, with assistance from the UJA-Federation of New York, we’ve been working intensively with a number of community councils to help residents influence and improve – and take responsibility for and ownership of – their neighborhoods, and their city.
As a result of our successful work in individual communities, we were asked to lead a larger process led by three community councils in the southern part of the city – Ginot Ha’ir, Baka’a, and Gonenim. The mission – enabling residents in neighborhoods that include the new Jerusalem Railway Park to fully enjoy and take ownership of this new pearl on the Jerusalem landscape. Here’s the flyer that was posted all over the Internet and social media:
The story of the Railway Park itself is one of social activism (more about it here and here). The park runs along the section of the old Ottoman-era Jaffa-Jerusalem rail line, and includes the neighborhoods of German Colony, Baka’a, the Talpiot Industrial Zone, Katamonim and Beit Safafa, ending at Malcha’s Teddy Stadium and the new train station that is in use today. After being cancelled in 1998 the tracks fell into disrepair, and had become an eyesore and garbage dump. Several years ago a group of environmentally-conscious residents, community activists and architects, successfully lobbied to turn this area into a massive urban park instead. After intense lobbying, this plan was accepted by local and national planning authorities. After several years of construction and support by the Jerusalem Municipality, the entire length of the park is just being completed.
With such deep roots in the community, it is only natural that the next step, injecting community activities and responsibility, along the course of the park, would involve the community as well. On March 5, we held a town meeting for residents from all communities that border the Jerusalem Railway Park. In all there were some 50 people, coming from the northern to the southern tips of the Park. All came to discuss events, initiatives and characteristics that they wish to see in the Park.
We used Open Space Technology for this event, which enables participants to raise and choose the issues they are passionate about, and work to advance them. Residents broke up into a number of groups. They ranged from a music festival, to a Purim parade, to growing edible plants along the Park, to Jewish-Arab relations to security and cleanliness. All groups are now forming plans of action of the different initiatives in order to bring them to fruition. The evening was so successful that we got this thank you from the different Community Councils: