Monthly Archives: December 2008

Speaking Arts 2008

The Speaking Art Conference, organized for the fifth time by the Jerusalem Foundation and the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center, took place on December 17th-18th, 2008 at the Jerusalem International Y.M.C.A, with 63 Jewish and Palestinian artist participants.

The conference, which was lead by first-class Israeli facilitators, created a professional platform for musicians, actors and group facilitators, who work in the field of Jewish-Arab dialogue, to receive new skills for working and creating together .

Munir Bakri, a director and actor, opened the conference with a unique workshop. Bakri wanted to discuss the role of the artist in society as a whole, using as case study the cancellation of the Akko Festival for Alternative Theatre in October 2008, following the unrest that erupted in Akko during and after Yom Kippur. After the workshop the participants began working in three Jewish-Arab groups (music, theatre and group-facilitation) for 6 intense workshops. The overall theme for the conference this year was “home and its meaning for the artist working in the Jewish-Arab context”.

The theatre group worked under Salwa Nakkara’s sharp and rigorous facilitation. Salwa, an acclaimed and experienced Palestinian actress, chose to work with object-theatre and allowed the actors, which arrived from all over the country, to present the search for a home through objects they brought with them. The combination of the actors’ search scenes produced a show made up of intertwined theatre pieces. The show received enthusiastic reviews from the audience who saw it at the end of the conference. Salwa also showed a piece from her play “Cappuccino in Ramallah”, which is currently on stage in many places in Israel and the Arab World.

Wisam Goubran, a conductor with a rich repertoire in Israel and abroad, led the music group in a rare nonverbal two-day dialogue. Through the dialogue, the musicians created a joint music piece, which they then presented at the end of the conference. Dr. Goubran, who facilitated the music workshop for the second time, provided many participants with the possibility of examining their own cultural identity through the musical process.

Khalil Sbeit, who worked with the group facilitators, combined tools from theatre taken from his experience working with “Children for Peace”, with discussions of the challenges facilitators face in groups.

The guest workshop for the whole group of participants was presented by Smadar Imor who swept everyone into a unique experience of movement and voice. Smadar is the instigator and director of the Synapsa School for Human Development and Creative Healing through Movement and Voice. Her workshop integrated refreshing elements that allowed each participant to express her/his inner and outer voice.

As expected the conference provided a platform for cooperation between participants who wish to create inter-cultural musical or theatrical projects in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center will accompany these projects throughout 2009.

The conference concluded with the Jerusalem Foundation awarding the 2009 Martha Prize to the Bereaved Families Circle, a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization. Shortly after the ceremony Ehud Banai, George Simaan and Salem Darwish performed together in front of an enthusiastic audience of 600 people in the Y.M.C.A concert hall. The three gave a border-crossing bilingual concert to a loving audience. Bringing old and new songs, accompanied with oud, guitar and percussion, Ehud, George and Salem expressed a joint wish for a shared life of respect and compassion.

Ramot Open Space Initiative – the second day!

Today we had the second day of the Open Space event (which consists of two evenings – on Dec 10 and 16 – see the update on the first evening). Most of the participants in the first evening, as well as a few new faces, showed up and continued the discussions on the future of Ramot. Upon their arrival, the participants received the summaries of the discussions from the previous event written by the discussion groups themselves.

Ramot Lay Leaders and Professionals at the Open Space

Ramot Lay Leaders and Professionals at the Open Space

The second session was devoted to suggesting new implementation initiatives. Groups were formed to define these initiatives and ensure followup. The Ramot Community Council is committed to convening the groups in order to implement the Open Space outcomes. The Open Space steering committee will meet to make certain that the events would not remain a one-off activity, but that they would really be the beginning of profound participatory democracy in the neighborhood.

Ramot Open Space Initiative – the first day!

Ramot Open Space Banner

Ramot Open Space Banner

In 2008, the Ramot Community Council asked the JICC’s assistance in creating a  participatory community development process in the neighborhood. The selected model was Open Space Technology, a powerful methodology that encourages large groups of participants, in this case residents, leaders, activists and professionals, to engage in the process with both their passion and responsibility for action. In recent posts we updated on the preparations towards the two-sections Open Space event.

Assembly of the Ramot Open Space

Assembly of the Ramot Open Space

Today we had the first day of the Open Space event (which consists of two evenings – on Dec 10 and 16). About 100 residents, staff members, and a few others that see themselves as involved in the neighborhood, came and actively participated in discussion groups on topics they themselves have raised. We were happy to see involvement by the local youth, including four 12-year old primary school students who came ready with their discussion topics and ran a few of the discussions as real pros…

Putting a discussion topic on the agenda

Putting a discussion topic on the agenda

Diverse issues were raised: transportation, cleaning the neighborhood, education, activities for young adults, parks and much more. Each discussion group concluded with a summary paper of the main points discussed and first recommendations. There were two sessions, with 6-10 concurrent discussions.

A Discussion Group

A Discussion Group

The summary papers were typed and will be soon available on the Ramot Community Center website. They will also be distributed to the participants towards the next evening that will conclude the event.

Another Discussion Group...

Another Discussion Group…

The slogan of the event was “Now it is in our hands” and the main message that came out of it was that together, the residents and the staff of the community center can create a change in the neighborhood – with passion and responsibility.

Yet Another Discussion Group...

Yet Another Discussion Group…

Tikkun Webinar 1 – the Jewish Response to Genocide

Since 2004, the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center has a strategic partner in New-York – Cause-NY (of the JCRC-NY), headed by Rabbi Bob Kaplan. This partnership is available through our shared program, the New-York Jerusalem Experts Exchange, connecting experts and professionals in Israel, New York and other places around the world. Professionals involved in this network work in the fields of diversity, coalition building, community organizing and dialogue.  The program is funded by UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Agency For Israel.

One aspect of this fascinating exchange is our joint facilitation of a series of webinars on topics that interest a specific community of activists globally. Previous series were on issues such as cultural competence in health, cultural competence at the workplace, community resilience and more. The new series we started this week deals with “Tikkun Olam” and involves Israeli and Jewish experts and volunteers from all over the world who focus on helping people outside the Israeli/Jewish community.

Tikun Webinar 1 snapshot

Tikun Webinar 1 snapshot

The first webinar was on “the Jewish Response to Genocide” (see the Israeli and American invitations). The 30 participants were from the US, Israel, London and San Paulo. The first presentation was by DR. WILLIAM RECANT, Assistant Executive Vice-President, the Joint Distribution Committee. He focused on the “Agahozo Shalom Youth Village”, for kids who survived the genocide in Rwanda. This village is based on a similar project that was conducted in Israel in the 50’s for kids survivors of the Holocaust.

Next, RUTH MESSINGER & GITTA ZOMORODI, respectively the President and Senior Policy Associate of the American Jewish World Service, gave a presentation about their work in Darfour. The last presentation, by YIFTACH MILLO, Director of ASSAF, the Aid Organization for Refugees & Asylum Seekers, provided an analysis of genocide as a recurring phenomenon in modern Africa.

Altogether this was an excellent opening to the series. The next webinar in this series will be held in mid-January 2009.

Clalit HMO Update on Adapting Clinics to Ethiopian Patients – Dec 8 2008

Following previous meetings on adapting Clalit’s clinics to Ethiopian patients, the representatives of Clalit and the JICC discussed today the detailed plan for cultural competence in serving the Ethiopian community in Jerusalem. The meeting was very fruitful, and based on many insights, a detailed workplan is currently being formulated. First training will be held in February in the Ir Ganim neighborhood, followed by similar two-days trainings in all relevant clinics. In parallel, signage and other adaptations to this community will be applied.

At the meeting we’ve received an update that according to schedule all the relevant clinics are now fully equipped to provide the “Tene Briut” tele-interpretation services in Amharic. It is important to emphasize that unfortunately, up to this point, this is the only tele-interpretation service existing in Israel in any language!. It is our hope to find the means to create tele-interpretation services in additional languages, such as Arabic and Russian.

Ethiopian Community, Talpiot, Dec 4, 2008

On October 2 we reported in the blog on some achievements in the community dialogue process in Talpiot Ethiopian Community. The first was in solving the issue of language at the main HMO Clalit health clinic in the neighborhood. The second was the agreement by all relevant agencies to enable the Ethiopian community to have a weekend synagogue in a public location called Beit Hakehila (the Community Hall). These were certainly good news, although we estimated that the story was not over, and that other issues awaited their resolution in this neighborhood.

Indeed, during the holidays, a few issues challenged the mutual trust that needs to be built between the relevant stakeholders. The “weekend synagogue” model was found to be a source for many conflicts, some of which we have described in the previous blog posting. It is important to note that this model is used all over Jerusalem where religious communities are granted permission to use public facilities for their purposes, when these are not in use during the weekends, for example public schools. In Succot, although they were explicitly asked not to do so, the Ethiopian community built a Succah in the yard of Beit Hakehila. The municipality, which owns the place, perceives this and other incidents as violations of the ontract signed by the Ethiopian community for the use of the place. Since the episode occurred during the municipal elections campaign, municipality officials did not react this time. Politics, as we have seen many times in Jerusalem, is a significant player in the field. The elections have now passed and we will soon witness the next steps in this story.

And as if this is not enough, a new dispute emerged. The Ethiopian community asked that its members would be allowed to use another neighborhood public venue, Beit Lazarus, for private celebrations. It should be noted that in the Ethiopian community, religious life-cycle ceremonies (weddings, Bar Mitzvah, etc.) are a public event where the celebrating family invites all the community to participate. Having a public/private celebration in the middle of the village was an option in Ethiopia, but it is not so in Talpiot, where most of the residents are not Ethiopians. The alternative is to hold the celebration in a public facility, which the authorities allocate for that purpose.  However, in Talpiot such a solution was not achieved yet and the community asked that celebrating families would be able to rent Beit Lazarus for their events. The community Council that owns the place did not approve the request, stating that this public facility cannot be rented out for private purposes.

Practically, the community asked to use the place on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12, and threatened to hold demonstrations and protests if their requests were not answered. Last week, we found ourselves – the mediating team of Mosaica and the JICC – in meetings and conversations with the head of the Ethiopian community and the heads of the relevant authorities. However, it seems that the current lack of trust, resulting from the contract violations by the community at the synagogue, prevents such negotiations from being productive. Our experience shows that what is currently required is a process, that will probably be challenging for all sides, for the examination of the events that happened in the last months as well as their consequences for the trust building process.

Additional meetings will take place this week trying to decipher the way to resolution.

Tsur Baher – educational issues – December 1, 2008

To continue the community process around education in Tsur Baher, we held today another meeting at the office of the head of the municipality Education Department.

Yet this was a different meeting, where the Tsur Baher school principals were invited to present their schools, including facts and issues that can affect decision-making in the future. This was the first time that a group of municiapl officials and community residents sat together to listen to such comprehensive presentations.

The meeting lasted two hours. At its conclusion it was decided that the next meeting in January will be held in Tsur Baher and will focus on responses to the main issues raised in the presentations.

After a year-long process it seems at this point that some trust and common understanding is shared by the stakeholders of this process.