We at the Jerusalem Intercultural Center strive to make Jerusalem a place that is suited to its many identity group, and you can read all about our different activities throughout this site. However, this summer, we’ve developed another important dimension to our work, fighting growing xenophobia, and violence and racism in the public sphere. The kidnapping and murder of the three Jewish boys, followed by the kidnapping and murder of a boy from Shuafat, followed by the military action in and around Gaza and missiles throughout Israel, have left nerves in and around Jerusalem very very raw. Fear and despair of the situation, and of the ‘other’, seem to be higher than they have been in a long time.
Such a situation is precisely a call to action for us at the JICC. Over the past few weeks, we have found that our expertise in bringing a number of voices to the table and finding alternative solutions is particularly relevant. We’ve been working with a number of organizations to try and combat these trends.
One example of our work has been producing hundreds 3’X2′ banners that remind us all that we are all living in Jerusalem and it belongs to all of us. Initiated in cooperation with the Shared Living Forum facilitated by the Jerusalem Foundation, the banners are written in ten (10!) languages, Hebrew and Arabic of course on top, but also Yiddish, Russian, English, German, French, Spanish, Amharic and Tigrinya (a language spoken by many African refugees and asylum seekers). The banners are plastered on public notice boards all over the city, and they have received welcome responses from a wide range of people. This activity has even caught the press’ eye – we were in two different newspapers (in Hebrew) in the same weekend! One of these articles was translated into English. Here is the other article:
The articles don’t only talk about the banners that we’re involved in. They also talk about another important aspect to our work, and that is helping other initiatives, especially those working in downtown Jerusalem which has been the site of a number of violent incidents. Two of these initiatives include those who talk with and extremist Jewish group of youngsters who have set up a stand that gives out racist literature. A different group stands near Arab taxi drivers to make sure that violent incidents are prevented. While keeping this energy independent is very important, we give these initiatives organizational help: We helped them meet together and discuss next steps; we helped them develop better dialogue tools; we are also making sure that the activities are safe. In the future, we will help in providing supplies, flyers etc.