Monthly Archives: December 2017

Little Prince in the Valley of the Cross

It all began with a question on Facebook – who hates all the litter in the Valley of the Cross? Valley of the Cross, in the center of Jerusalem, ‘down the hill’ from the Israel Museum and the Knesset, is named for the Georgian monastery that sits there. One of Jerusalem’s central ‘green lungs,’ a lot of activities take place there (helped by the fact that large youth movement chapters also have their home there), but they also leave behind numerous, polluting tracks.

This is one example of how the Little Prince program works. Residents initiate and drive projects to clean up Jerusalem, we provide any assistance or platforms, or help make connections, in order to facilitate the growth of the projects.

Fighting for a clean Valley of the Cross

Sign on right: The Valley is ours

The first post led to several others, and engaged more people. A Facebook event was created – anyone who’s interested in cleaning up the Valley of the Cross, let’s meet in front of the monastery on September 28, at 8pm.


We're all working for the Valley

We’re all working for the Valley

Usually the Valley is pretty deserted after dark, but this time, 15 people showed up to show their concern and launch into action.

After this meeting, each person took on one or another task, which led to a community clean-up day, during the Chanuka school vacation, on 15 December.

Scouts and other youth working to clean up the Valley

Scouts and other youth working to clean up the Valley

This wasn’t just another 4-people-with-garbage-bags clean up. It was a huge collaborative effort, with hundreds of volunteers and dozens of municipal workers. (A huge thank-you to all who turned up!)

Working together

Working together

The Jerusalem Municipality provided the garbage bags and and the means to carry them away.

500 bags of garbage!

500 bags of garbage!

Over 70 residents and their families, as well as 450 members of the local Scouts and Bnei Akiva youth movements (who have club houses in the Valley) participated in the cleanup, which resulted in 500 (!) garbage bags of junk.  a promise to contract an outside company to ensure the Valley stays clean.

Here’s one of the posts on Facebook (in Hebrew) from the Director of the Nayot Community Center, which borders on the Valley of the Cross, and a member of the organizing committee:

And another, from one of the activists:

The clean-up was covered by the local Kol Ha’Ir newspaper on December 22:

The cleanup making news

The cleanup making news

As part of the process, it was promised to contract an outside company to ensure that the Valley stays clean. We’ll keep you posted!

Cultural Competency on the Light Rail

It’s been said that Jerusalem’s light rail is one of its prime examples of multiculturalism.

Citypass, a model of multiculturalism

Citypass, a model of multiculturalism

The Citypass company, which operates the Jerusalem light rail, has become an important partner in working to improve tolerance in and around the light rail, including the Tolerance Station outside the Municipality, our Building Jerusalem with Lego stop on Jerusalemite Day, to Tolerance Traing-based tours during the Jerusalem Tolerance Week. But one of their most important initiatives was the series of cultural competency workshops that we ran throughout November 2017 for their 7 customer service representatives.

That is when tensions are high, and it comes out in the conversations the customer service representatives have.

The Customer Service desk

The Customer Service desk

It’s not easy working in customer service, since they are the ones dealing with people who’ve been fined or have complaints. When tensions are high, politeness takes a back burner. “We deal with things like, ‘That dirty/smelly/ stupid Ethiopian ticket checker gave me a fine'” said one of the workers. “How do you respond to that?”

In the workshops, the workers learned how to respond to these and other comments that are based on stereotypes. The training included principles of interpersonal communication that deflects tension-ridden comments.

During one of the four training sessions

During one of the four training sessions

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continued support of Cultural Competency since its inception in 2008.

Coming Together to Take Care of the Dajani Cemetery

We wrote here about our efforts earlier this year to clean up the Dajani Cemetery on Mount Zion. We are proud of and grateful for our partnerships with the different institutions on Mount Zion, organizations and authorities that made this project possible.

Cleaning up a special grave

Cleaning up a special grave

In November, we were unfortunately called to action again in defense of this cemetery. This time after head stones had been smashed and grave sites desecrated.

Dajani Cemetery, after the damage

Dajani Cemetery, after the damage

In response, the residents of Mount Zion released a statement in three languages:

The statement of the residents of Mount Zion

The statement of the residents of Mount Zion

Recently headstones were smashed and grave sites were desecrated at the Muslim cemetery on Mount Zion, belonging to the Dajani family. The cemetery is adjacent to David’s Tomb on Mount Zion – a holy site for many people. Esteemed Jerusalemites, members of the Dajani family, are buried there.

We, the religious and civic organizations and the residents of Mount Zion, together with Dajani family are shocked and hurt by the desecration of the memory of the deceased, and by this violent act.

We call upon the police to locate the perpetrators and to bring them to justice. Moreover, we call upon the authorities to renovate the headstones and the neglected cemetery urgently, as well as to improve on-site security. We will assist in any manner possible.


Diaspora Yeshiva

Jerusalem Intercultural Center

Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Harp of David

Custody of Holy Land

Rachel and Boaz Cohen

Dormition Abbey

Jerusalem University College

Dajani Family

A few days after this was published (and picked up in the Arabic press as well), trucks from the Jerusalem Municipality came to clean the weeds and trees that had accumulated in the vandalized cemetery.

In addition, new and better security cameras were installed for the police in an attempt to prevent further damage.

Municipal workers doing the heavy cleaning

Municipal workers doing the heavy cleaning

On the following Friday, members of the Dajani family, volunteers from the Dormition Abbey and from the Tag Meir organization, helped to clean up and improve the area. Muslims, Jews and Christians worked side by side to bring the cemetery back to its former condition as much as possible.

Improving and protecting the cemetery as much as possible

Improving and protecting the cemetery as much as possible


News of this incident made the Arabic, Hebrew and English press as well.

AlQuds November 21, 2017 article

AlQuds November 21, 2017 article

Here’s the text of the article that was published in the December 22, 2017 edition of the national Ha’aretz newspaper. (Here’s the link to the article, and a .pdf of the text.)

When a Jerusalem Cemetery Is Desecrated Yet Again, Jews, Muslims and Christians Team Up to Clean It
The often-vandalized Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem’s Old City is neglected by the authorities

Shakked Auerbach, December 22, 2017

White fragments from smashed headstones were interspersed with the yellowed autumn leaves spread over the Muslim cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The graves of the Dajanis, the Palestinian family entrusted by the waqf (Muslim religious trust) with caring for the site prior to 1948, next to what is traditionally thought of as David’s Tomb, had been vandalized more than once in the past. But this time the perpetrators did not make do with scrawling graffiti – they also smashed five large headstones into smithereens.

“The Dajani family, according to their tradition, and written testimonies, protected David’s Tomb for nearly 600 years,” says Dr. Gadi Gvaryahu, chairman of Tag Meir, a coalition of Jewish groups that seek to counteract hate crimes. “Unfortunately, the headstones are frequently desecrated. It happened a few weeks ago, but it’s a recurring phenomenon.”

Following the most recent act of destruction, all the groups that have a presence on Mount Zion – Jews, Muslims and Christians – banded together to denounce the vandalism and issue a statement, which called on all the relevant authorities to take responsibility for the cemetery. “Many Jerusalem dignitaries are buried in the cemetery,” the letter stated. “We, religious and civilian institutions and tenants on Mount Zion, are shocked and grieved at the desecration of the honor of the dead and at the violent act We call on the authorities to restore the headstones and the cemetery forthwith.”

Tag Meir also declared a joint cleanup day, on Friday, December 8, and launched a campaign to raise funds for the renovation of the site. According to Gvaryahu, the Muslim cemetery, in addition to being a target of nationalist attacks, does not receive the same kind of publicly funded care that other Old City religious sites do.

“Because of its location, this place is very neglected and dirty, like a backyard, or a public garbage can. So we decided to go there,” says Gvaryahu. It’s not the first time that voluntary groups have undertaken to clean up the cemetery, but it requires regular maintenance.

“We hope that all the authorities will mobilize to deal with the cemetery,” says Merav Horovitz-Stein, coordinator of the “Window to Mount Zion” project run by the Jerusalem Intercultural Center, which aims to heighten public interest in and activity on behalf of the site. “There are graves there of a family that safeguarded David’s Tomb. This story is part of the history of Jerusalem.”

The recent cleanup campaign was testimony to the cooperation that has existed for years between several institutions on the mount that have been attacked by nationalists and religious extremists.

Gavaryahu: “A large number of volunteers from the Dormition Abbey came, as well as Franciscan clerics and also representatives from the church at Tabgha [the Church of the Multiplication, on Lake Kinneret]. There is much symbolism in the fact that representatives from Tabgha and from the Dormition came. The Dormition was vandalized four times by the [ultranationalist] Tag Mehir group, and Tabgha was once [in June 2015], as we all remember.”

One of the volunteers in the campaign, Katharina Bloebaum, 33, from Germany, was delighted to discover her coworkers speaking Arabic, German, English and Hebrew.

“It was a good feeling to meet with so many people from different countries and to clean the cemetery together. I think it is a sign of solidarity,” said Bloebaum, who arrived in Israel a year ago to work on behalf of Jerusalem’s Church of the Redeemer, a Lutheran institution. “This way we will understand the way of life and thinking of each person. And that is very valuable.”

A spokesman for the Jerusalem Municipality stated that the owner of the Mount Zion cemetery is the Israel Land Authority, which is also responsible for its maintenance. The spokesman added that the municipality had no knowledge of any desecration of the cemetery.

The lands authority stated: “The ILA and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority are working to clean up the cemetery and improve the situation there, including dealing with the damage done recently to the headstones there. It is our hope that we will already be able to see results in the near future.”

Many thanks to all who helped. May this be the last of these types of incidents. Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their ongoing support of this program.

Cultural Competency team and Santé Israël at National Ministry of Health Conference

On December 4, Santé Israël and our Cultural Competency team participated in the annual Ministry of Health conference on “Inequality in Health Care.” This was an excellent opportunity to advance and provide information about the number of different areas we work in.

Learning from Wisdom of Experience

Learning from Wisdom of Experience

In preparation for this conference we collected and published all 7 Wisdom of Experience newsletters into a brochure. Today this includes:

We also distributed Santé Israël flyers, as well as information about our new workshops on health and Haredim.

JICC helping to close gaps in health care in Israel

JICC helping to close gaps in health care in Israel

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their ongoing support of the Cultural Competency project since its inception. Many thanks to the Pharmadom and Rashi Foundations for their continued support of Santé Israël.

MiniActive – Story of a Corner Garbage Dump in A-Tur 2017

This is the story that has a happy ending, thanks to the involvement of MiniActive and local residents.

This is what the kids saw at the entrance to their kindergarten

This is what the kids saw at the entrance to their kindergarten

A new kindergarten director noticed a severe sanitation problem, basically right outside her door. There was an area that was not only filled to overflowing with household garbage, there was quite a bit of construction waste there too. In addition, the supporting wall to the kindergarten, which is adjacent to this ‘corner garbage dump,’ is in danger of collapsing, due to the garbage and construction nearby that dug beneath the wall.


Discussing how to improve A-Tur together

Discussing how to improve A-Tur together

Whose responsibility was it to clean this situation up? That’s a good question – City sanitation is definitely the Municipality’s job. But are they responsible for the construction waste, when it was there because of private construction? What about the supporting wall of the kindergarten, which is rented from a private owner by the Municipality?


Working together to make A-Tur cleaner

Working together to make A-Tur cleaner

MiniActive, the residents and the Municipality discussed these issues back and forth over a full month. On October 31, the municipal director for sanitation in East Jerusalem toured the area with residents in A-Tur. They came to an agreement of who will do what:

  1. The residents would properly dispose of the construction waste and repave the area.
  2. The Municipality agreed to sweep the streets regularly and to empty the garbage receptacle every two days.
  3. The residents, together with the kindergarten landlord, will collect money to re-build the faulty wall.
  4. The residents also agreed to cordon off an area for garbage, so that it won’t spill out onto the street.
The 'after' picture - all cleaned up and re-paved

The ‘after’ picture – all cleaned up and re-paved

Congratulations A-Tur! We’ll keep you posted on further developments.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continuing support of the MiniActive project.

Here’s the ‘before’ situation, as picked up by the 0202 Facebook page:

Here’s the final product in English, from the 0202 Facebook page:

And here’s the original post in Arabic:

Atta’a – East Jerusalem’s Go-To for Information and Assistance

Do you know how to get here?

Ministry of Interior Municipality office

Ministry of Interior Municipality office

This is the Israel Ministry of Interior office, within the Jerusalem Municipality complex, where Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem can go to change their address and register newborns.  At the beginning of October, the The Atta’a Assistance Center for the Rights of East Jerusalem Residents posted a short video on exactly where it is inside this rather large complex of buildings, and exactly how to get here. Here’s the video:


This 1 1/2 minute video got over 20,000 views! (11,500 on the Atta’a Facebook page, and the rest as a result of the 138 shares)

Indeed, over the past year, Atta’a has become the go-to source of information for East Jerusalem Palestinians on issues regarding the Ministry of Interior, the National Insurance Agency, and more. Google “Ministry of Interior, East Jerusalem” in Arabic and you would expect to get the government agency. But what really comes up first? Atta’a.

Over the past year and half, since the launch of Atta’a’s new web site, Atta’a has become the authority for East Jerusalem Palestinian residents. Uniquely, Atta’a provides information that is geared to the needs of East Jerusalem residents, providing them with information regarding their Jerusalem residency status, family unification issues, etc., that affect only East Jerusalem residents. There are sites that explain in Arabic but often they are geared toward Arabs who are full Israeli citizens. There are also sites geared for residents of the Palestinian Authority, but these, too, are not relevant for Jerusalem residents. And residency issues affect them not only vis-a-vis the Ministry of Interior, but also in health care, welfare, social security, education and more. Explanations on the Atta’a site seek to be easy to understand, cutting through the bureaucracy as simply as possible. Atta’a provides step-by-step demonstrations in filling out different forms and going about different procedures, and is there to individually help residents when needed, both online and in person.

Likes on Atta'a Facebook page 2017

Likes on Atta’a Facebook page 2017


As we have seen in nearly every parameter, the demand for Atta’a is huge, and we are proud that Atta’a is rising to the cause. Here are some of Atta’a’s accomplishments in 2017:

  • The number of active entrances into the Atta’a web site increased tenfold! (In 2016, there were 3,631 entrances, and in 2017, 36,760 in 2017.)
  • The number of likes on the Atta’a Facebook page increased by 300%! (from 5,000 likes in 2016 to over 13,500 in 2017)
  • 425 questions were answered by e-mail or telephone messaging.
  • In-person consultations at the three assistance centers also increased by 60%, from 500 requests to 800.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its support of Atta’a since its founding in 2004.

2017-12-08T14:13:03+00:00December 1st, 2017|Attaa, Blog, Identity Groups and Conflicts, Palestinians/Arabs|