Monthly Archives: April 2014

Who are You Gonna Call? MiniActive!

An integral part of the MiniActive program includes training in effective methods and processes in improving physical infrastructure. As noted elsewhere in the blog, these methods include calling the hotlines of municipal and other services, meetings and site tours with service providers, writing letters, network-building with the MiniActive Facebook page, and more.

april 24 2014 magnet

MiniActive Magnet

Today, MiniActive added something new to its arsenal – catchy new magnets. The magnets feature detailed explanations about how to register a complaint with the various service providers, including the municipal hotline (106) and the Hagihon water company. It also includes the phone number of the MiniActive project in East Jerusalem.

MiniActive Courses: Teaching First Aid to Palestinian Women in East Jerusalem

As noted last year, our MiniActive volunteers work to advance social problems as well as physical problems. This includes expanding education about first aid amongst volunteers. Last year’s first aid course included 20 women from all over Jerusalem; this year, there were 20 – 25 women in each of three locations: Kufr Aqeb in the north, the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, and Umm Tuba in the south.

First aid course 2014

First aid course 2014

This first course was a basic, 20-hour course, which began in March and is running until the beginning of May. There is significant interest in a more in-depth course (88 hours of instruction), which will enable graduates to also earn money as qualified chaperones for school trips.

CPR demonstration

CPR demonstration

Helping to Improve Health Care for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Our first major public event to start to help refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem realize their rights was the Conference we held at the Zippori Center on April 1. We are working on other levels as well, to advance the plight of these oft-overlooked groups in Jerusalem. One level includes working with the HMO’s that largely work with refugees and asylum seekers make their care more culturally competent to their needs.

Last month we held the first of what is turning into a series of meetings for 23 secretaries and nurses at the main branch of the Meuchedet HMO, which, because of its location downtown, and a special insurance Meuchedet has for foreigners, serves most of the refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem. These nurses and secretaries are the first line of communication with patients, and are the ones who first communicate with the refugees and asylum seekers. This encounter came about as a result of our close partnership with the refugee hotline in Jerusalem, and after a number of meetings with the branch management.

The workshop gave participants tools to better understand the numerous cultural gaps, information and tools regarding medical interpretation, and analysis of different situations that the participants encounter every day. In the second part of the workshop Dr. Michal Schuster, our senior consultant and facilitator for the Cultural Competency in Health Care program, presented background about the refugees and asylum seekers – where they came from in Eritrea and Sudan, the complexity of their situation in Israel, on the background of the country’s refusal to review their requests for asylum and refugee status. After the speakers, Barnahu, a social activist from Eritrea who works and lives in Jerusalem, told his story and of the difficulties he encountered in trying to obtain health services in the city. Many of the participants noted that this was the first time they had ever met a refugee or asylum seeker in person, and began to understand his perspective.

At the end of the workshop the Meuchedet staff was moved to action, and asked for another workshop for 25 more employees. They also asked to meet with the administration of the branch, to see how practical responses can be found to help refugees and asylum seekers receive health care services.

Cultural Competency in Mental Health Care in Jerusalem – First Graduating Class of Interpreters

We’ve written here  and here about the importance of making mental health services – especially in Jerusalem – culturally competent, and the long road that lies ahead. On April 8 we made huge strides in the right direction, presenting graduates of the first class of medical interpreters at the Jerusalem Mental Health Center at Kfar Shaul with their completion certificates.

These 17 graduates – bilingual workers at the main public mental health facility in Kfar Shaul as well as at other facilities throughout the Jerusalem  area – represented the diversity of Jerusalem.  They came from a broad range of professions at the Center – from nurses to other treatment professionals, as well as a diversity of backgrounds, speaking Arabic, Russian and Amharic as mother tongues. “Cultural Competency is a must in every public health facility,” said Dr. Teitelbaum, Acting Director of the Jerusalem Mental Health Center, in his remarks. “Research shows that treatment is better when the facility is culturally competent. Our goal is that this new skill will improve our ability to treat the patients.”


Indeed, language-dependent care, such as therapeutic sessions or psychiatric assessment, can be unsuccessful if it is not held in the patient’s mother tongue. Research shows that it is easier to express your troubles in your native language and that psychiatric problems are more evident (and therefore treatable) when they are expressed in the patient’s native language. Thus, when caregivers are not available in the patient’s native tongue, a medical interpreter is a vital part of the treatment process. The mental health interpreter not only knows both languages fluently, he or she is also trained to translate the smallest nuances, even if at first they seem illogical or confused. It is this attention to the smallest details that enables the caregiver to more completely understand the patient’s condition.

Our Hanan Ohana, who directs the Cultural Competency Desk at the JICC, noted, “This graduation ceremony means more than 15 or so trained caregivers in the course. The Jerusalem Mental Health Center is a leader in mental health services in Israel. Their enthusiasm for the training will serve as an example for other mental health institutions in Israel, which we expect will follow suit. The support of the administration was very important in this process. Without it, implementation of the program and assimilation of cultural competency principles would be much more difficult.”


Over the course of two months the participants learned the concepts of cultural competency in general, as well as the basic guidelines of medical interpreting, especially in the context of mental health treatment. “This is the first time I’ve taught a course for mental health professionals in Jerusalem,” said Dr. Michal Schuster, Senior Consultant and Facilitator for Cultural Competency, and also a lecturer at Bar Ilan University. “I definitely learned much more than I taught.”


The participants also received specialized training in interpreting into their native languages. “I thought I knew the language I was translating from, and what I was translating into,” said Solomon, of Ethiopian origin. “But this course opened my eyes to a lot of subtleties I wasn’t aware of.” Lilian, a native Russian-speaker, echoed, “After the course, we feel much differently about the interpretation we do. The course gave us so much. It showed us how much more there is to learn.” Shoshi, also of Ethiopian origin, noted, “I never knew that there were so many different inferences, even in my mother tongue. Now I’m much more careful, even afraid [that I’ll interpret something incorrectly].”

During the course

During the course

Dr. Schuster emphasized that it is that awareness, of the gravity of the task of medical interpretation, “that is the key objective of the course. “

We would like to thank the Jerusalem Foundation and the Rayne Foundation, whose support made this course possible.

MiniActive in East Jerusalem – Updates from the Field

If you follow MiniActive’s Facebook page, and here on our blog, you’ll see that they’ve been extremely busy. But we’ll give you a few summaries here of what they’ve been up to over the past few months.


In January 158 complaints were taken care of. In February there were 412 complaints registered and 250 taken care of. In March 2014 alone, were a total of 670 complaints registered to the municipal 106 hotline. Of these, 250 were taken care of.

Before and after road pavement, Wadi Joz

Before and after road repaving, Wadi Joz

Seeing is Fixing

In March and April Palestinian MiniActive volunteers from the southern neighborhoods of Sur Baher and Umm Tuba, respectively, hosted  the Municipality’s regional director of planning and infrastructure. Some 40 residents from both neighborhoods spoke about different problems they face, on their respective street, and how they can work to solve them. Issues ranged from re-paving parts of a street, to installing a mirror to increase visibility on narrow, windy roads, to receiving approval to paint (paint themselves) public walls. In Umm Tuba, the tour took place on a road that is to become a ‘model road’, where improvements are going to be made in a number of areas. The women (plus one representative of the men) spoke freely with the regional director, asking how he can help, and he, in return, asking what they can give in return. (For example, they agreed to plant plants, supplied by the Municipality, in public areas.)

There have been and continue to be so many obstacles to improving infrastructure in the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. We continue to be so proud of the MiniActive project in East Jerusalem that has been able to make so many inroads toward improving everyday life. We’d like to thank the Jerusalem Foundation for their continuing support of this program.

Closing off electrical wires

Closing off electrical wires

Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Jerusalem – a Conference

Political asylum seekers in Jerusalem? Who, what, why, when, and how?

While award-winning movies (and, unfortunately, more frequent news reports)  have been made about issues concerning refugees and asylum seekers living in Tel-Aviv, they constitute a significant community in other areas of Israel, one that many of us are very unfamiliar with. Recently, the JICC, together with the Jerusalem Municipality, have been working to better answer their needs by maintaining a municipal hotline for refugees and asylum seekers. You can read more about our involvement at the relevant page on our site and on a previous blog post.

As a way to kick off more comprehensive and effective treatment of and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem, our municipal hotline, in partnership with the Haruv Institute and the CIMI organization, held a day-long conference. It was held on April 1, 2014 and focused on the issues, dilemmas and responses available for asylum seekers and refugees in Jerusalem.

Dr Hagai Agmon-Snir, Director of the JICC, gives a brief introduction to cultural competence in the context of asylum seekers

Dr Hagai Agmon-Snir, Director of the JICC, gives a brief introduction to cultural competence in the context of asylum seekers

The conference was attended by 40 professionals in the fields of education, healthcare and welfare in Jerusalem. “There was a wide diversity of participants,” said our own Tal Kligman, is responsible for the JICC’s activity regarding refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem. “They came from the Municipality, from welfare services, from the Ministry of Health, from hospitals, and more.  There was such a feeling of camaraderie in the air, one of ‘we’re all in this together,” she continued.

The day was divided into two parts: learning and acting. It began with a panel introducing different perspectives of the lives of asylum seekers and refugees in Israel in general and in Jerusalem in particular – from the legal background, to medical issues to intercultural dilemmas that are faced on an ongoing basis. The panel was followed by speakers from UNWRA, the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, and  a social entrepreneur who had established a volunteer network to help refugees in Jerusalem.


In the second part of the day, participants divided up into discussion groups to discuss different issues in the fields of employment, realization of rights, children and education, welfare, and healthcare. We’re planning follow-up meetings to enable participants to continue to follow through on a number of initiatives that were discussed during the conference.

One Strong Black - Sudanese Theatre at the conference

One Strong Black – Sudanese Theatre at the conference

The day ended with a performance of “One Strong Black”, an extraordinary play that was created by a group of Sudanese asylum seekers, who are striving to initiate social change through dialogue and openness. The play dealt with the actors’ daily reality, from their escape from Sudan through all their stages of coping living in Israel, and presents a unique, surprising and witty perspective of the asylum seekers community life in Israel. After the play there was a panel discussion with the actors. You can see parts of this play here:

The conference was the opening of what is intended to become a series of meetings to jump-start initiatives to help the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem and its environs. In future meetings we’d like to expand even further the diversity and scope of the participants, to reach as many relevant stakeholders as possible.

2014-07-11T09:36:52+00:00 April 3rd, 2014|Asylum Seekers, Blog, Featured, Identity Groups and Conflicts|