Late this summer, Istanbul’s ‘Rainbow Stairs‘ made international headlines and, almost unintentionally, became a symbol of grassroots resistance, human rights and democracy. The Istanbul municipality painted over the stairs in a drab gray, numerous rainbow-painted staircases popped up all over Turkey in protest.
Inspired by the mass spontaneous outbursts of color that suddenly filled Turkish streets, our own MiniActive decided to take action in East Jerusalem. One of the main goals of MiniActive is to empower women and their families to take responsibility for their lives, especially their physical surroundings.They’ve worked a long time in improving things that needed to be fixed – roads, garbage receptacles, sidewalks, etc. More about that below.
But just as important as fixing the almost insurmountable amount of things that need to be fixed, is also a need to make your physical surroundings pleasant and special. MiniActive has come to teach its participants that, just like they are responsible for making the space inside their homes presentable, collectively they – all 1,000 of them and their families – are also responsible for making the space outside their homes not just presentable, but pretty, too.
The MiniActive participants recruited their families to paint public stairways in four neighborhoods -Silwan, Wadi Joz, Abu Tor, and the Old City. A local merchant donated half the budget for paint. Fortunately, the Jerusalem Municipality is not as zealous about gray stairs as that of Istanbul. Enjoy some pictures of our local Rainbow Stairs.
In taking responsibility to care for the collective public space, MiniActive has also made local streets accessible. The Jerusalem Municipality is in the process of planning physical improvements to neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. However, not all of East Jerusalem’s streets are included. The MiniActive women, together with the Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights organization, petitioned the Jerusalem Municipality to make major improvements to 3 roads that were not in the Municipality’s original plan. This will make it much easier for local residents, especially those with physical limitations, to navigate the streets.
A third accomplishment related to garbage. Garbage, or an overabundance of it, is a big problem in East Jerusalem. In a concerted effort to improve the situation, our MiniActive participants took to the phones. They inundated the municipal hotline with requests, and succeeded in obtaining 15 new garbage receptacles – 12 smaller ones as seen in the right-hand corner below, and 3 larger ones. They also coordinated the exact placement of the bins with the neighboring residents, so that everyone would be satisfied. Of course, this was only the tip of the iceberg. They are now waiting for 15 more receptacles.