Monthly Archives: October 2015

Window to Mt. Zion – Serving as a Microcosm for all of Jerusalem

Our home on Mt. Zion is a fascinating place. Our neighbors include the Dormition Abbey, the Diaspora Yeshiva, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim cemeteries. We have Oscar Schindler’s grave (in the Catholic cemetery), as well as the home of renowned Israeli sculptor, David Palombo, who created the gates to Israel’s Knesseth building. And of course, the most important site on Mount Zion stands in the middle of the complex and it is the only site in the world that is holy to Judaism,  Christianity and Islam! For Jews and Muslims is it David’s Tomb. The Jewish King David who is also a prophet for the Muslims is believed to be buried in a cave under the building. For the Christians it is the Cenacle, better known as Jesus Last Supper Room. Holy for all three, but like the rest of the city – and even the region – much tension has arisen over the past thousand years around it. And also in the last few years regarding who visits what, and when, and to whom it all belongs. Seemingly a microcosm for all issues Jerusalem….

Christian cemetery

Christian cemetery

Tensions peaked in the fall of 2013 – the spring of 2014, as the newly-appointed Pope Francis sought to visit the Holy Land and was scheduled to visit David’s Tomb / the Room of the Last Supper. Jews protested, sometimes violently. We convened the residents of Mt. Zion, and amazingly were able to get everyone in one room, together with the police, to try and work out a solution. Thankfully, in the end the Pope’s visit was uneventful, but it uncovered a deeper problem Mt. Zion has been facing, and emphasized the need for action.

That is how the “Window to Mt. Zion” project came about. We partnered with the Search for Common Ground Jerusalem Office, which is also working on a registry for Holy Sites. This project seeks to raise awareness in the general public about Mt. Zion, hold regular tours of the chief sites and areas of Mt. Zion, noting any detail, any improvement or any physical attacks. As part of the project, a corps of 15 – 20 volunteers, in pairs, triplets and sometimes individually, tour the different sites around Mt. Zion, recording – and reporting when necessary – any interesting things they see. You can read their blog in Hebrew, here.

Inside a monestary

Inside a monestary

Last week, on Friday, 23 October, we had a kickoff event, as part of the Open House Jerusalem festival that took place throughout Jerusalem over the weekend. We set up a stand outside the Zion Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, and offered a wide range of tours and lectures all over the Mount. We had tours of Mt. Zion from a Muslim perspective. We had tours of the recent archaeological excavations that are just outside the Old City walls. We had tours of the different cemeteries that populate the Mount. We told the fascinating story of our home and its famous mulberry tree. The Dormition Abbey and the Diaspora Yeshiva opened their doors to visitors as well. All in all, we told our story to 100 – 150 people throughout the day.

Information table, Zion Gate

Information table, Zion Gate

Cultural Competency in Hadassah Academic College

The end of the Jewish High Holidays signal the beginning of the academic year for Israel’s colleges and universities. This year, Hadassah Academic College is beginning the year much more culturally competent than last, and it will continue the trend, into this upcoming school year.

Training at Hadassah College

Training at Hadassah College

We began working with the college in November of 2014, after a very difficult summer and fall in Jerusalem. During the year we began operating a series of seminars for administration and lecturers on the principles of cultural competency and how they applied to an academic setting. Read here for more information about the beginning of the process.

Practicing in big and small groups

Practicing in big and small groups

The different types of course studies at the Hadassah College are are vastly different in nature from one another. There are those that are based on laboratory work, those that are based on frontal lectures, those that work with patients. Sometimes communication with the lecturers is direct and sometimes most of the students’ communication with the administration is done through counselors. So we adapted the different workshops to the different kinds of learning systems in place. In June and July, we held four full-day workshops for 80 faculty members from 7 different departments (laboratory sciences, environmental health, biotechnology, optometry and computer science), conducting workshops in groups according to learning style. Throughout the 2015 – 2016 school year we will continue to work with faculty from different departments. In the next stage, we will work with students who work with patients (such as speech therapy and optometry) during their training.

MiniActive Women in East Jerusalem – Advancing Horticulture Therapy

The therapeutic effects of gardening have long been widely known. This type of therapy has been used around the world since at least the 1800s.

Our MiniActive program, a network of over 1,200 Palestinian women throughout East Jerusalem who are working on a daily basis to improve their everyday lives, has extensively dealt with environmental issues. Alongside working to improve safety and environmental hazards in residents’ immediate vicinity, MiniActive groups have  partnered with women from other parts of Israel to learn about environmental issues; they have participated in a number of other related activities as well.

Young girls experimenting in gardening

Young girls experimenting in gardening

In Jerusalem, the David Yellin Academic College of Education operates a special course in horticulture therapy, but it is regularly available only in Hebrew. Now, they will be able to have access to the course, in Arabic. This is the first time ever that such a course will be made available in Arabic in Jerusalem. Indeed, while gardening therapy programs are available in western Jerusalem, there are no programs, and awareness of its benefits is very low.

We came to an agreement with the College in which the women would pay only half of the tuition fee. Classes will take place once a week for a full day, to enable the women to continue to work. 15 women started the course, which is scheduled to begin in mid-October.

The course is supposed to coincide with the beginning of the academic year, and is open to those trained in special education. Participants will learn about the world of plants and the therapeutic garden – principles of planning, establishing and maintaining such a garden. They will also learn the principles of psychology and psychotherapy, as well as how to design a gardening therapy program and practicums and lab exercises in closed areas.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support of this program.