Window to Mount Zion – Accompanying Armenian Monks, Advancing Tolerance in the Old City

A significant part of Window to Mount Zion’s activities includes accompanying different Christian religious processions in an about the Old City.

Why do the different religious figures need this? Aren’t the police there to protect them?

Accompanying Armenian processions

Accompanying Armenian processions

Many of the religious rituals include processions through public spaces – from monestaries to the Room of the Last Supper (Cenacle) or to the Church of the Holy Supulchre. During these processions, the religious figures are subject to protests and objections (in the past, sometimes violence) on the part of the general public.

Accompanying another Armenian procession

Accompanying another Armenian procession

Of course, police are on hand. But in the six years that this project has operated, we’ve found that our volunteers have been quite effective in diffusing tensions, alongside the police. Because the volunteers are not police, they are not not seen as the ‘establishment.’ And because most, if not all, are also trained tour guides, they are able to describe to passersby what exactly is going on. We’ve found that, with education comes a higher degree of tolerance.

Since May of 2021 we have been accompanying Armenian monks every week on their weekly procession from the Armenian monestary to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre. This came on the heels of an attack of a monk in May, during a procession.

You can read about our accompaniment of Armenian monks here:


Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation, the American Center Jeursalem, and Keren Nitzan for their support of Window to Mount Zion.

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2021-09-24T14:32:58+00:00September 5th, 2021|Blog, Mount Zion|

MiniActive Youth – Cleaning Up their Neighborhood, One Section at a Time

We’ve written about MiniActive Youth here and here, and about the especially important activities here and here during the pandemic.


Getting the kindergarten ready for the school year.

This past summer, they continued to hold activities. In August, this included helping to build garden furniture and clean up the yard of a local kindergarten in the Sur Baher neighborhood. With their help, the kindergarten was able to get ready for the upcoming school year.

Painting, building, cleaning – all in a day’s work

Here’s the post (in Arabic) from MiniActive’s Facebook page:

A group worked in Beit Hanina as well, helping prepare a local garden. Here are more pictures from MiniActive’s Facebook page:

Many thanks to MiniActive Youth! And many thanks to our MiniActive partners: the Jerusalem Foundation, to Natan and to the Leichtag Foundation‘s Jerusalem Model.

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2021-09-24T14:34:07+00:00August 30th, 2021|Blog, MiniActive|

Atta’a – Continuing to Empower East Jerusalem Palestinians

The Atta’a Assistance Center for the Rights of East Jerusalem Residents has been helping Palestinian residents obtain rights and benefits since 2004, and we’ve described here, here, and here the amazing work they’ve been doing since the onset of the pandemic. Indeed, between March 2020 and March 2021, they helped Palestinians deal with over 7,300 requests, 4 times their annual average.

Muhammad being interviewed

Atta’a staff being interviewed for local TV / Internet broadcast

And since March 2021, Atta’a is continuing to help local residents at an accelerated pace: From the beginning of 2021 to the end of July, Atta’a has had nearly 2,500 requests for assistance. This breaks down to:

  • 800 requests via Facebook
  • 500 requests via WhatsApp
  • and another nearly 1,200 requests via in-person meetings

What’s the reason for the uptick in requests? Well, the continued pandemic, for one. Another is that the family re-unification law, which has prevented Palestinians from filing for residency status in order to live together with their families since the early 2000’s, was not renewed in early July, and many are turning to Atta’a for help. Since posting, this video has received over 210,000 views! Here’s the video in Arabic:

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation, the Rayne Foundation, the Leichtag Foundation, and the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders for their support of Atta’a.

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2021-09-11T17:03:20+00:00August 25th, 2021|Attaa, Blog|

Simplifying Language – A Principle of Cultural Competency

A main principle of Cultural Competency is making services accessible to all. This includes adapting language to increase understanding. This could mean translation into different languages used – or simplifying the language used.

Keeping calm – and keeping it simple

On July 29, the JICC’s Cultural Competency Desk held a Language Simplification workshop online for cultural competency coordinators from healthcare and welfare institutions.

Dr. MIchal Schuster, on simplifying language

Dr. Michal Schuster led the fascinating meeting, which practiced with the participants important basics of simplifying language during meetings between therapists and patients from different identity groups.

Here’s a Facebook post from Cultural Competency desk’s Dr. Rachely Ashwal:

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support of cultural competency in Jerusalem.

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Dealing with Social and Political Tensions at the Bloomfield Science Museum Jerusalem

The tension from the recent Guardian of the Walls operation did not go unnoticed at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem. Guided by the principles of cultural competency, half of the museum’s instructors are Jewish, and half are Palestinian. The instruction team knows how to adapt the content to the various audiences that visit it – secular, religious, and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Jews and Arabs, Israelis and tourists, and the museum’s exhibits contain information in three languages ​​- Hebrew, Arabic and English.

The intercultural encounter at the museum invites quite a few conflicts and challenges for instructors – including social and political tensions. For example one instructor described a discussion with ultra-Orthodox students about an exhibit that describes a different perception of the length of existence of the world than that which the ultra-Orthodox students hold. During the operation, Palestinian instructors described their fear of going to the Museum, located in central Jerusalem, and groups’ fear of coming into the western part of the city. There were also numerous cancellations, or demands such as one school principal’s request that there be no  Jewish groups at the Museum during their visit. There were instructors who wear a Hijab, who felt that Jews did not want to receive instruction from them because they were Muslim. Or Jewish and Muslim groups who called out racist chants to before entering the museum. These issues and challenges were difficult for instructors to deal with without appropriate tools.

Diverse staff - talking about Diversity

Diverse staff – talking about Diversity

At the beginning of July we met with a group of museum guides – Jews and Palestinians, Hebrew and Arabic-speakers, for a two-session workshop. The guides acquired tools for dealing with intercultural group encounters, effective dialogue that helps each side to ‘see’ the other, and how to conduct a dialogue in socially or politically charged situations. Together with Orna Shani Golan, Director of the Cultural Competency Desk, the instructors developed responses for how to deal with groups conflict between groups, based on political or religious differences.

This is just the beginning of cultural competency work with the staff of the Science Museum. A future workshop is planned as part of the new instructor training, and additional work will be done with with instructors who teach classes to mixed groups of Jewish and Palestinian children, to ensure that the program is culturally competent.

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2021-08-22T06:26:16+00:00July 20th, 2021|Blog, Cultural Competence|

Window to Mount Zion – Bringing Improvements to Mount Zion

We’ve the Window to Mount Zion project here, as well as recent efforts to maintain the different sites, here and here.

On July 6, 2021, the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel, with funding from the Jerusalem Development Authority, placed an explanatory sign at the Dajani Family Cemetery on Mount Zion. The sign explains the history of the Dajani family cemetery on Mount Zion – the family’s heritage and its members who are buried in the cemetery next to David’s tomb. It is written in Hebrew, Arabic as well as English, shows the uniqueness of Mount Zion as a sacred international heritage site for three religions.

Ms. Dajani in front of the new sign

This sign is a milestone in many ways. First, it shows that public authorities recognized the rich, diverse history of Mount Zion and the numerous narratives of the place, and seek to display this diversity to all. Second, it is yet another step in the Municipality’s (Mayor Lion’s) promise to maintain and upkeep the entire area of Mount Zion. We hope that these trends continue into the future and that Mount Zion receives the resources it deserves.

Here’s the post from the Window to Mount Zion Facebook page:

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation, the Nitzan Fund and the US Embassy’s American Center Jerusalem for their support of Window to Mount Zion.

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2021-09-24T14:31:46+00:00July 18th, 2021|Blog, Mount Zion|

Cultural Competency for On-Call Emergency Welfare Workers

What do you do when there’s an emergency late at night that requires welfare services? This is exactly what the on-call workers of the Jerusalem Municipality’s Welfare Department are for. The on-call workers, who are all social workers, respond to a multitude of incidents, including: delivering difficult news, domestic violence cases, treating youth who have run away, and answering emergency telephone calls on various issues. About 150 on-call workers took part in cultural competency workshops via Zoom – some 100 on-call workers (in three workshops at the end of June) who work in West Jerusalem, and another about 50 workers who provide services in East Jerusalem, in a special workshop which took place on July 8 delivered in Arabic for drives of the east of the city (on 8.7.21).

workshop for west Jerusalem on call workers

Workshop for on-call workers

During the workshops participants raised inter-cultural challenges they faced when they’re on-call, which is different than their everyday work – lack of familiarity with the callers and their cultural characteristics; the rapid transitioning between the vastly different cultures and backgrounds of callers; the sometimes-opposing approaches between welfare and community services; dealing with callers’ sometimes first encounters with welfare services; the objections that arise on the background of cultural perceptions versus the authority of the social worker to carry out legal orders, and more.

One on-call worker told that she had to inform an ultra-Orthodox family about the mother’s death on Friday afternoon, right before the Sabbath. She was surprised with the family’s preoccupation with burying the mother as quickly as possible, and that they weren’t open to her attempts at grief support. Another on-call worker recounted the time that she tried to move an elderly man living in unfit conditions to a shelter, and how there was significant opposition from the family.

Participants were given tools to enable them to have a culturally competent and effective encounter: to think before the encounter what cultural sensitivities they may encounter and what is the effective response to those sensitivities and tools for deepening intercultural dialogue that helps facilitate effective and sensitive care.

שתי השאלות

Two questions – helping social workers be culturally competent

This is the first workshop we’ve led for on-call workers. We hope that future workshops will preserve and strengthen this knowledge and skills.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their ongoing support of Cultural Competence in Jerusalem!

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Cultural Competency in the English Department

We’ve written before about cultural competence in academia (here and here, for example). On 21.6.21 we traveled as far as Sapir College in the south for a second meeting (the first took place on Zoom) about cultural competence in teaching.

Cultural competence in academic teaching workshop

Cultural competence in academic teaching workshop

The lecturers, who teach English in diverse classes, deal with cultural gaps in teaching on a daily basis, and were very interested in what can be done to bridge those gaps. Many of their students come from the Bedouin sector; for a lecturer born in the US, these gaps seems insurmountable.

During the meeting, the lecturers raised different incidents they’d encountered – entire groups that turn off their cameras during Zoom classes, copying as characterized by different groups, not doing homework, and and more.

Practicing cultural education

Practicing cultural education

The lecturers also spoke about their experience of teaching under tension – such as during Operation Guardian of the Walls this past May. One lecturer shared that while teaching a class via Zoom the virtual background of one of the students showed a map of Israel with a keffiyeh. The lecturer did not know how to deal with the situation – should they say something or not? We discussed the issue in the meeting, and practiced how to use the model of effective dialogue model and tools for dealing with social and political tensions, which was developed at the Jerusalem Intercultural Center.

Simulation with a professional Actress

Simulation with a professional Actress

In the last part of the workshop we held simulations developed from the incidents shared by the lecturers. Hanin, a professional actress, simulated Muslim students, one was was afraid to make a presentation in front of the whole class, and the other was suspected of copying. The lecturers had an opportunity to use the tools for culturally competent teaching learned during the two workshop sessions.

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Jerusalemite Day of Diversity, 2021

This was the sixth year in which thousands of Jerusalemites took part in Jerusalemite Day of Diversity events on May 9-10. (You can read about previous Jerusalemite Days here, here, here and here.)  This year’s festivities included 150 events – 50 events held by Jerusalemite activists and 50 neighbood encounters between neighbors during Jerusalem Day, emphasizing the grassroots action that makes for a diverse and multicultural Jerusalem.

Jerusalemite Day at-a-glance

Jerusalemite Day at-a-glance

  • Events: 43
  • Neighbor encounters: 50
  • Participants in events: 2,000
  • Participants in neighbor encounters: 2,000
Tours on Tolerance

Tours on Tolerance

Each initiative was completely autonomous; the activists were those who dreamed, led, and created. The JICC provided logistical, strategic, and at times, financial support, but remained completely behind the scenes, assisting where necessary and providing the framework for echoing the authentic Jerusalem voices that call for tolerance and diversity in our complex city.

Events at local sites

Events at local sites

There were tours of a number of neighborhoods – Mamilla, Mea Shearim, Sheikh Jarrah, Pisgat Ze’ev and more; A joint prayer ceremony for Jews, Muslims and Christians; The creation of a Jerusalem culinary book by the best chefs in the city, peppered with childhood memories and thoughts about Jerusalem; Dozens of meetings with neighbors in different neighborhoods in the city that dealt with questions about good neighborliness and creating a diverse and common space in the building; Public sing-alongs organized by people dealing with mental illness, secular and ultra-Orthodox together; A huge street game to encourage meeting and conversation between passers-by; An original Jerusalem-Ethiopian play; Children’s drawing festival and various arts festival for adults; Portrait paintings of Jerusalem women; Meetings about Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Jerusalem diversity in Hebrew poetry, acceptance of the other in Judaism and more; Kosher Iftar dinner; Art workshops and diverse musical performances.

Inter-religious Iftar meal

Inter-religious Iftar meal

This year, Jerusalemite Day of Diversity took place against the background of a number of significant influencers:

  • In the shadow of Covid-19: Over the past year work to advance tolerance looked very different than before. The Covid-dictated pace was different, the issues were different. Many organizations’ budgets had shrunk, limiting their staff and programming; as Jerusalemite Day neared, some organizations were bringing back staff that had been furloughed, and they were just transitioning back into their positions. In parallel, Covid made us focus inward – not on the entire city but on our neighborhoods, and thus there was an increased focus on neighborhood-based activity – connections between neighbors, within buildings and in close physical proximity, creating a sense of social solidarity.
  • Mt. Meron Disaster on Lag B’Omer on April 29 had a huge impact on the ultra-Orthodox sector in particular, and on Israeli society in general. There was an overriding desire to show support for and identification with various communities. In addition, the media was busy covering that event and was not open to covering other events.
  • Tense Atmosphere in Jerusalem: violence, tensions between Jews and Arabs. On the one hand, a concern about whether this is the right time to act in the public sphere, and on the other hand, it strengthened the need and importance of our work on Jerusalem Day.
A wide variety of activities to advance tolerance

A wide variety of activities to advance tolerance

All this happened during Jerusalemite Day of Diversity across the city, despite, and perhaps because of, the social tension bubbling beneath the surface in Jerusalem in weeks preceding the day. Despite the difficult atmosphere, there was a general sense this was necessary, now more than ever, to make the Jerusalem voice heard – the inclusive, diverse, multicultural view of the city, and to strengthen our presence in the public sphere.

Here’s a link to a more detailed summary that includes the entire list of events, and below is the Facebook post in Hebrew with the official photo album of the day.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation and the Natan Fund for helping us to advance tolerance and cross-cultural activism in Jerusalem.

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2021-08-02T13:42:30+00:00June 18th, 2021|Blog, Promoting Tolerance in Jerusalem|

MiniActive – Helping to Relieve Tensions from Unsettling Situation

Over the past several weeks, life in East Jerusalem has been very unsettled, and violence abounds. Mothers are afraid for their children. Their teenagers, or younger children, want to do something, to show their anger and frustrations about the situation.

MiniActive responded, offering special workshops (a total of 5) to help Palestinian mothers build resilience – for themselves, and for their families. The workshops helped the mothers understand the severe stresses, and receive tools to help cope. They were extremely well-attended, drawing upwards of 80 participants each time. Feedback was amazing – mothers raved of how much they helped them deal with a very sensitive situation.

Helping women deal with the stress of the period

One of the workshops took place on Monday, May 17, with 35 women participating.  Another workshop was held on May 20, with over 80 participants! That workshop focused on: How to deal with fear and anxiety in the current circumstances, including: 1-How to deal with children’s excitement; 2-How to channel their energies; 3-How to deal with fear and stress; 4-How to help them in their studies. circumstances

Here’s the post (in Arabic) from MiniActive’s Facebook page from the May 17 workshop:

Here’s the post from the May 20 workshop:

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation, to Natan and to the Leichtag Foundation‘s Jerusalem Model for their ongoing support of MiniActive!

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2021-06-17T16:13:05+00:00May 28th, 2021|Blog, MiniActive|
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