Monthly Archives: June 2014

Climbing the Learning Curve – Results for 2013 Palestinian Nurses Certification Exam

2013 – 2014 has been a fascinating learning year for us in the Healthcare Certification Exams project for Jerusalem-based Palestinian nurses. As you might remember, in 2012 we had fantastic success – 26 out of 39 participants passed the certification exam, which enabled the nurses to work legally in East Jerusalem. In 2013 we set out with another cadre of 26 nurses, but their road turned out to be rather bumpy.

At the end of the course, even after instituting weekly quizzes to ensure that the material was being learned, only 3 nurses passed the exam. This caused us to take a deep, long look into the course – were we off the mark in the way we prepared the nurses?  Was it just bad luck the second time? Was it the exam itself? Were we just very lucky the first time?

From our current understanding of the situation, it turned out to be a little bit of everything. The exam in September 2013 was indeed significantly more difficult than the fall exam the previous year. And as we learned from participants who re-took the exam in April 2014 (6 of whom passed!), the September 2013 exam was also more difficult than the April 2014 one. In addition, there was a significant group of participants who were one or two questions away from passing, indicating that there was indeed some luck involved.

After re-evaluating the course structure we decided to make a number of changes to the course – first, a number of stages, with entrance exams to each stage. All potential participants will receive background material beforehand. Not only does this ensure a common baseline of knowledge for all participants, it also shows a degree of seriousness that the participants will be able to study and learn for exams, which we’ve found to be essential to pass successfully. In helping the group of nurses to prepare independently for the April 2014, we ‘ve also learned that one specific review handbook was particularly concise and helpful in preparing participants for the exam. We’d used the handbook before, but in future courses (our next course will be geared toward preparing for the April 2015 exam) we’ll put a heavier emphasis on studying its material.

Our tally thus far – an additional 36 nurses who are accredited to practice nursing in East Jerusalem, out of 68 in two courses who took the exam. More than a 50% success rate in two years! At the previous rate (of 1-2 nurses successfully passing the exam each year), it would have taken nearly two decades to reach this number! Our thanks to the Hadassah Foundation, the Leichtag Foundation, the Dear Foundation, and the Jerusalem Foundation, for their continued support of this program.


Building a MiniActive Community

As we noted previously here and here on the blog, the MiniActive project is not only about improving immediate surroundings, it’s about improving everyday life for Palestinian residents – especially women – in East Jerusalem. As part of that mandate there have been a number of initiatives that were organized either by them, by us, or by others, that enable participants to improve their quality of life.

One example are the exercise classes. There are currently 3 groups – a total of 70 women – who exercise twice a week. Two groups are in the city center (meeting at the East Jerusalem YMCA), and the third group meets in Kufr Aqeb to the north.

A second activity is the series of tours around the Old City, given by our own Dr. Anwar Ben-Badis. There were tours throughout the month of May.

Old City tour

Old City tour

We’ve also taken some of the women on trips outside of Jerusalem. In February we took 55 women to the Tiberias hot springs, and on a boat trip on the Sea of Galilee.  At the end of May, and again last week,  we took another 50 women on a kayaking trip on the Jordan River in the north of the country.



MiniActive women are also participating in a photography course, organized by the Naggar school of Photography, Media, New Music, Visual Communication and Phototherapy in Musrara. Last year some 80 MiniActive women participated in the pilot program; we’re glad that eight more (out of a total of 20 participants) can take part this year in the highly professional program.

Photography course

Photography course

These are only a few examples of the activities for these effective women activists who transform East Jerusalem into a better and hopeful place. More examples will be reported in future posts!


Taking MiniActive Leadership Forward – Professional Development

In such an important and vast project as East Jerusalem MiniActive,  it is important for us to have continuing professional development for our volunteer leaders. That’s why we have monthly workshops and seminars for the 15 coordinators in the field of the area clusters. These are volunteer positions, and they report to Intisar, Intisar (yes, we have two, it’s not a typo) and Ikram in the JICC office. For example, in April the workshop included advanced instructions on how to register a complaint via the municipal hotline. It would seem simple, but in the reality of Jerusalem, nothing is simple. First, the women must schedule their calls for when there are workers who speak Arabic. Although the situation is much better than it was when we started (we helped bring about the hiring of an additional 5 telephone workers, bringing the total to 7 as opposed to the two who there were previously), the women still need to wait a long time until their calls are answered. When they finally speak to the hotline, they are tempted to register a number of complaints at once. The problem is that each complaint (i.e., call) receives a tracking number, which they can use afterward to check how the complaint is being taken care of. And if they don’t make one call for each complaint it is much more difficult to track the complaints.

Coordinator Development

April 2014 meeting of MiniActive Leaders

On May 25 we held another meeting, this time on how to strengthen the groups. Their next meeting will be held after Ramadan, which begins next week.

We are also helping all 15 of our field coordinators and active volunteers with their Hebrew. While we have found solutions to enable our Arabic-speaking volunteers to advance projects, many times Hebrew is required to facilitate communication with the Israeli service providers, and get things done. The course has been running weekly since the fall, and will continue until the end of June. Next year we might add more advanced levels. We’ll see in the fall what the different needs are.

Hebrew Course

Hebrew Course for the MiniActive Leaders

New in Healthcare Cultural Competency Services – Consultation on Issues Pertaining to Jewish Law

Most doctors in Israel are Jews, but even to them, Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) patients are an anomaly. There are so many different Jewish laws that the Haredi populations abide by (who are often more stringent than other Jewish groups), and so many different Jewish laws followed differently by so many different groups, it is difficult to know where to begin in addressing cross-cultural issues that arise in health care.

Helping health care professionals adapt their approach to Haredi populations’ needs, which in turn makes their health care more effective, has been an integral part of our efforts in the Cultural Competency in Health Care program. (See herehere and here for previous examples on the blog.) However, until now, our assistance has been per HMO (Clalit), per holiday, per project (calendar, videos, national network). Now we, together with Rabbi Zvi Porat of the ALYN Hospital, will be able to help everyone, across the board.

In May we opened up a consultation service for health care professionals on issues pertaining to Jewish law, in full cooperation with Rabbi Porat, who is himself Ultra-Orthodox and who works with the ALYN Rehabilitative Hospital in this type of capacity. As part of his work there, Rabbi Porat is in continuous contact with Haredi Rabbis of different communities in order to clarify and resolve issues and questions. Professionals who have questions can send them to a dedicated e-mail, and we, in conjunction with Rabbi Porat, will be in touch with them to help to resolve issues. This service is currently free of charge.

Until now, ALYN has been the only health care institution – or any type of institution in the fields of welfare, education, or health – in all of Israel to offer this type of service. We’re proud to be trailblazing yet another aspect of cultural competency, which we hope will further understanding between different communities not only in the health care context, but in other areas of life as well.

Beit Shemesh Round Table Goes Public

A few days ago, we received a notification of the following cry to public action: (Hebrew article). The link relates to a round table in Beit Shemesh, which we helped to establish and operate a few years ago. Incidents in Beit Shemesh included the harassment of religious girls on their way to school, which quickly broadened to larger outcries throughout Israel against Haredi discrimination against women in the public sphere. After two years of dialogue amongst leaders from the different communities of Beit Shemesh – from the Eidah Haredit, Hasidei Gur, Shas, other Haredi communities, rabbis and central activists from the modern orthodox and secular communities in the city, the round table has finally come to a point where it could come out with a public cry for working toward common goals peacefully.

Round Table Beit-Shemesh

To the untrained eye, and to those who are not from the city, this declaration might seem a bit wishy-washy. What’s so exciting about a public cry for unity and public participation of all groups? But one first needs to remember that this is a very brave declaration in the face of the current situation: on the one hand, a mayor who refused to include non-Haredi city council members into his coalition, and who has not yet understood that it is his role to try and unify the city. On the other hand, a city council opposition that is so disappointed by the mayor that it began a campaign to divide the city. So, this is the context of the so-called pale declaration for unity and joint efforts. But it is very significant. Despite what made the headlines, everyday life in Beit Shemesh is quite nice, and the negative image that it gets in the headlines have the potential of wiping out any hope that had been there, more than any internal rifts. Our involvement was rather limited, since Beit Shemesh is still not (yet) Jerusalem. But, when the crises arose, it was clear that our experience and knowledge of all sides would be of significant assistance to them. In addition to the article, the group has also opened a Facebook page, and we’re helping to promote that as well.

MiniActive in East Jerusalem – Learning to Improve the Environment

In addition to improving their immediate surroundings, our MiniActive women are learning to take care of broader environmental issues. Since the beginning of the year they’ve taken part in a number of initiatives, including courses (one in February – March and another, for different women in April – May) on compost, household environmental issues, and more. They distributed some 20 compost bins that they received from the sanitation department of the Jerusalem Municipality. In light of the demand for compost bins, a group of women requested an additional 10-15 bins for distribution.

Another 8 MiniActive volunteers (out of a total of 25 participants) are participating in a special gardening course at the David Yellin Academic College of Education.

On June 8 there was a tour of community gardens in west Jerusalem, which showed examples of what can be done in the community. This included a stop at the community garden at the Nature Museum, and an in-depth explanation of composting.

Compost Tour

Compost tour, Nature Museum

Tour of Tel Aviv Institutions for Refugees and Asylum Seekers – Continuing the Learning

On the first of April we were among the organizers of a first conference  that dealt with African refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem.  Last week, on May 27, we continued the learning, with a tour of organizations and institutions in Tel Aviv which are dedicated to helping these populations. There were 26 participants, who covered a wide range of professions – welfare office, well-baby clinics, public health, education, community workers, volunteers, NGO’s, and interested residents who wish to volunteer in the field. The tour included a visit to Mesila, a help and information center for the foreign population, operated by the Tel Aviv Municipality. There, participants heard a survey of the situation of the foreign population in Israel – data, problems, how they live, education of the children, and more. The group split up into tracks, and some took a tour of the central bus station and Neve Sha’anan, areas with large concentrations of refugees and asylum seekers. Here, life has been adapted to its inhabitants, with many stores and restaurants boasting signs in many languages besides Hebrew and English.

Participants were also able to choose to go to a number of different places – Unitaf, grassroots organization that operates a network of day care frameworks for both younger and older children; ‘Babysitter’ a private kindergarten for the refugee population; The Garden Library for the Migrant Communities and Neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv, which is located in the Lewinsky Park – a community center for the refugee population that includes classes for adults, activities for children and cultural activities; children at risk – a meeting with the team head of the children at risk section of Mesila – ways to treat and prevent the phenomenon, and parents classes.

The Garden Library at the Lewinsky Park in South Tel-Aviv

The Garden Library at the Lewinsky Park in South Tel-Aviv

Participants also met with an asylum seeker who lives in Jerusalem, who told of the differences between the community in Jerusalem and the community in Tel Aviv. This includes – fewer in numbers, fewer services available, less crime. At the same time, his description in many ways mirrored the stereotypical description of the Jerusalem population – more serious, they care for and organize child care solutions amongst themselves, and more.

We continued to provide more education for both professionals who care for asylum seekers in Jerusalem and asylum seekers themselves. On June 1, Michal, the coordinator of the refugee and asylum seeker hotline, is giving a talk, with translation into Tigrit, to mothers at the well-baby clinic in the Mahane Yehuda market. The lecture will include explanations on immunizations, healthy snack and diet, and more.  There were lots of women at the event (in the families, many of the mothers stay home to take care of the children), and they asked for more of these types of lectures and workshops. We’ll keep you posted.

2015-12-01T19:18:47+00:00 June 3rd, 2014|Asylum Seekers, Blog, Effective Activism, Identity Groups and Conflicts|