2016 brought with it Christmas, Chanukah, and Novi God all at the same time, and this year, Jerusalem decided to celebrate together! And our Jerusalem Tolerance network, including its Facebook page with over 1,600 ‘likes’ and its e-mail list with over 450 members, spread the light.
In the past two years, Jerusalem has seen an ever-growing number of tolerance activities created by its residents, and the winter holidays gave us an even bigger and better opportunity to celebrate – and celebrate diversity.
So what did we have? During the final 10 days of 2016, Jerusalemites took it upon themselves to celebrate Russian, Ethiopian, Christian, and Jewish holidays – and even more!
In private homes, Jews hosted Christians for menorah-lighting, Muslims opened their homes to discuss their Jerusalemite narrative, Ultra-Orthodox Jews opened their homes to share their traditions, Ethiopians opened their homes to talk about the Sigd (which actually took place at the end of November, but who’s going to pass up a chance to celebrate?), and much more.
Tours invited Jerusalemites of all colors and religions to enter places that seem foreign to them on a daily basis. Several hundred Jerusalemites toured the Christian quarter of the Old City, the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah Shearim, and the Muslim and Armenian Quarters of the Old City with a local group of Palestinian and Jewish activist artists.
We saw cultural fusion taking place all over the city in local coffee shops and with a plethora of organizations. We saw movies about Ethiopian Israelis, and movies made by Palestinians and Israelis. We joined a musical jam between religious, secular, Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews at a local cooperative pub. We celebrated Novi God in several different venues that introduced us to the customs and food of Russian Israelis.
We heard the sounds of the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus, made up of Jewish and Arab teens in Jerusalem, in a special Christmas Eve concert. We joined one-on-one discussions at the Hebrew University between Palestinians and Israelis. We met Ethiopians and learned about the culture, the food, and the music of Ethiopia and its integration in Jerusalem. We lit Chanukah candles with all different walks of life: Christian, transgender, right-wing, Muslim, Ashkenazi, Jewish, ultraorthodox, left-wing, Mizrachi, Russian, Ethiopian, and more… We even made it to the Knesset, in a special meeting with representatives from the three monotheistic faiths who share Jerusalem!
Here’s a video of the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus in concert:
These 10 Days of Light can perhaps be summed up in the very special Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony that was held on December 29 in Zion Square, Jerusalem’s major downtown public square. This event was a special joint effort between Speaking in the Square, the Yerushalmit Movement and Beit Midrash Rechov. In the center of town, open for everyone to see, candles were lit by pairs whom we don’t usually see together. Here’s the list of candle-lighters:
- Efraim Zecharia, ultra-Orthodox, Assistant Principal at Chachmei Lev Yeshiva (one of the first ultra-Orthodox Yeshivot in Jerusalem to offer a full Israeli matriculation), a teacher at the religious Dror High School, together with Yiscah Smith, a religious transgender woman and an international speaker about living life authentically.
- Yael Yechieli Persico – Director of Freedom of Religious and Pluralistic Judaism, Shatil, left-wing activist, together with Yehuda Ifrach, journalist at the right-leaning Makor Rishon newspaper and right-wing activist.
- Anna Maria Segarmella, a Catholic nun from Italy, together with Peta Jones Pelech, Director of Educational Activities at the Elijah Interfaith Institute and initiator of “Praying together in Jerusalem.”
- Pnina Pfeufer, left-wing political activist in “Darkenu;” also active in “ultra-Orthodox for Peace,” and freelance writer in the Jerusalem Post and ultra-Orthodox newspapers, together with Berry Rosenberg, an Israeli of Russian descent, one of the initiators of the Israeli Novi God and the Culture Brigade, and a member of “1.5 generation” of Russian Israelis.
- Ahmed Maswadeh together with Oren Feld, the initiators of “Jerusalem Art,” an activist group of artists in Jerusalem who clean up abandoned areas, paint them, and create public space for dialogue.
- Avishai Bar Ishai, right-wing activist, together with Shayna Abramson, Times of Israel blogger and left-wig activist.
- Avi White, formerly ultra-Orthodox and an active member of the dialogue in Zion Square, together with Shmuel Drilman, ultra-Orthodox, communications expert, and an activist in promoting ultra-Orthodox-secular dialogue.
Here’s Jerusalem Art’s Facebook post of the event:
The candle-lighting was followed by discussion circles about tolerance in Jerusalem.
That is quite a list! We can’t wait to see and assist more of these activities in our ever-growing tolerant Jerusalem!
And here is our Facebook announcement post (in Hebrew) about (almost) all the events: