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Atta’a: Broadcasting its Expertise

We’ve already noted here how Atta’a has become the #1 go-to resource for East Jerusalem Palestinians seeking information about matters having to do with the Israel Ministry of the Interior, coming up first (even before the official site) in any Arabic-language Google search for “Israel Ministry of the Interior, Jerusalem.”

Long lines outside Israel Ministry of the Interior East Jerusalem branch

Long lines outside Israel Ministry of the Interior East Jerusalem branch

Now, Atta’a is broadcasting its expertise in mainstream Arabic-language media as well. On February 17, Atta’a Director, Daud Alian, appeared in a 25-minute interview on Palestinian television, describing the situation that many Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem face when trying to deal with the Israel Ministry of the Interior. Here’s the video, from the Atta’a Facebook page:

A few weeks later, a story on the same subject appeared in the Arabic-language East Jerusalem-based Al-Quds newspaper, the largest and most widely read Arabic-language daily newspaper in the Palestinian territories. Here’s a link to the online version of the article, and a picture of the printed version:

Article in the Al-Quds newspaper March 6, 2108

Article in the Al-Quds newspaper March 6, 2108

0202-Points of View from Jerusalem translated parts of the article into Hebrew. Here are a few selected quotes:

The Suffering of Those Needing Services from the Israeli Ministry of the Interior is Only Getting Worse

Daud Alian, Director of the Atta’a Center, which specializes in informing residents about procedures of the Ministry of the Interior, the National Insurance Institute and the Jerusalem Municipality, says that the situation at the Israel Ministry of Interior branch in Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem is tragic. He added that the tragic occurrence that happened yesterday, like every day…a long line of people waiting to get into the office, reminded him of the old Ministry of Interior branch on Nablus Road 20 years ago – only suffering and crowding.

Alian noted that the Ministry of Interior shirked its responsibility of setting appointments to complete different procedures. Instead, all appointments must be set through the ‘My Visit’ mobile app, which is not associated with the Ministry of Interior and which is only available in Hebrew and English. In addition, currently the app isn’t working and appointments cannot be made. He added that in most cases when residents try to call to make an appointment, the Ministry of Interior doesn’t answer. And if it does, they only speak in Hebrew.

Alian believes that the only way the problem can be solved is if large numbers of residents flock to the branch every day, like what happened yesterday. Only then, when the Ministry of Interior sees how bad the problem is, will something be done to relieve the situation.

And here’s 0202’s Facebook post (Hebrew):

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support of Atta’a and its vital work.

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2018-04-21T09:26:13+00:00 March 20th, 2018|Attaa, Blog, Identity Groups and Conflicts, Palestinians/Arabs|

The Little Prince – Working Together, Top Down and Bottom-Up

Over the past several months we are seeing a new wave of activism for a cleaner and greener Jerusalem, in all parts of Jerusalem. It’s great to see the energy (renewable, we hope :)) going into these efforts. It turns out that the issue of cleanliness and the environment is common to all populations in Jerusalem, all who are sick and tired of seeing a dirty city.

Much of the work is local and targeted, and is solved by working with the different professionals in the Jerusalem Municipality, and / or via various educational and clean-up activities. In parallel, we saw a need to bring the issue of sanitation and clean streets to the fore among on the political – not only the professional – level. Thus, we, together with the program partners, initiated a number of meetings with key political leaders in the Jerusalem Municipality. We wanted to hear the views and opinions of the city decision-makers. What do they think? What’s on the city agenda?

And indeed it seems that the issue of sanitation and the environment is going to be a central and leading issue for every elected official, heading into the city’s 2018 municipal elections.

Meeting to discuss garbage

Meeting with Deputy Mayor Rabbi Pindrus to discuss garbage

We opened our series of meetings with local decision makers with the Deputy Mayor Rabbi Yitzhak Pindrus, who is responsible for sanitation on Sunday, January 28.  On February 26, we met with Moshe Lion, who is today in charge of the community centers.

Activists from Palestinian East Jerusalem, from Haredi and non-Haredi Jewish neighborhoods also participated. It was obvious to all present that the responsibility for cleaning up Jerusalem is on all of us, both residents and the Municipality, elected officials and professionals. Residents told about their activities and what they seek to accomplish. They asked how they can help the Municipality to keep the city clean, and how the Municipality can help them improve cleanliness in the public sphere. They discussed infrastructure, supervision, sub-contractors, communication and joint work, budgets, procedures, information and responsibility. Hard to believe how garbage can bring people together… 🙂

Meeting with Moshe Lion

Meeting with Moshe Lion

The bottom line – the importance of building relationships and to work together toward a common goal – a cleaner Jerusalem. Both Deputy Mayor Rabbi Pindrus and Moshe Lion stressed that cleanliness and sanitation are central issues for him, and he’ll be able to push to do more if there is a strong rallying cry from residents, demanding the Municipality’s action.

The residents also gave updates from the field – a new subcontractor began clearing garbage in the Shuafat Refugee Camp and a group of 50 Cleanliness Promoters in the Bucharim neighborhood who will be working in the public gardens and entrances to buildings before the Passover holiday.

Here’s a Facebook post (in Hebrew) describing the encounter with Rabbi Pindrus:

Here’s the post (in Hebrew) about the February 26 meeting with Moshe Lion:

So this is our mission: to raise our voice that we – and the city – need clean streets. Together we’ll be able to accomplish great things.

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Cultural Competency Coordinators – Putting Themselves in the ‘Other’s Shoes

One of the best ways to reduce inter-cultural tensions is by mentalization – understanding everyone’s viewpoints, needs and wants. Acknowledging the complexity of the situation, and even going through the process, helps to ease tensions, explained Irit Hovitz Fleishman, MSW, Founder and CEO of Grand Staff, which helps organizations and businesses manage greatly diverse staffs. Irit was the guest lecturer at the quarterly meeting of Jerusalem-based Cultural Competency Coordinators that took place on March 7, 2018, at the JICC.

Learning new tools for cultural competency with Irit Hovitz Fleishman

Learning new tools for cultural competency with Irit Hovitz Fleishman

There were representatives from ALYN, Hadassah (Mount Scopus and Ein Kerem), Sha’are Zedek hospitals; the Jerusalem Center for Mental Health; Leumit and Meuchedet HMO’s; and even the newly-appointed Cultural Competency coordinator for the Yehuda Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Tel Aviv. Each representative was asked to bring a few case studies that required cultural sensitivity. The encounter was dedicated to learning Irit’s unique method of multi-cultural management, as well as learning practical methods by examining the case studies.

Examples included:

  • Maintaining volunteers from many cultures
  • Sensitivities to status and the boundaries of different positions
  • Cultural adaptations of staff events and holiday-time presents
  • Dealing effectively with political tensions resulting from outside events
  • Managing staff meetings, dietary restrictions (Kashrut, Halal), fasts, holidays (and vacation time)

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation, which has been a strategic partner in Cultural Competency since its inception.

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From Tolerance Week to Martin Luther King – A Winter Wonderland of Tolerant Holidays

We reported before about the last Jerusalem Tolerance Week, the 8 days in mid-November with over 30 initiatives trumpeting tolerance in the city.

Well, it didn’t end there. As November blended into December, the new month brought with it a slew of activities where tolerance triumphed, from the Ethiopian Sigd to Christmas at the YMCA and on Mount Zion to a multi-cultural Hanukkah candle-lighting to the 7-week Holidays from Within Festival, which featured events celebrating Sigd, Hanukkah, Christmas, the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, and Novy God (their Festival was covered in Hebrew on YNET).

Winter holidays, promoting tolerance

Winter holidays, promoting tolerance

All the events basically fit celebrated one of these five holidays:

1.The Ethiopian Jewish holiday of Sigd (see here and here for more details):

  • November 16: A guided tour of the official Sigd ceremony at the Promenade in East Talpiot
  • November 16: Sigd Celebration at Beit Avi Chai
  • November 19: Ethiopian art workshop with the Ethiopian community of embroiderers
  • November 20 & 22: Sigd celebrations with Israeli families of Ethiopian descent
  • November 21: Ethiopian cooking workshop
  • November 22: A neighborhood Sigd celebration in Kiryat Hayovel, including a Museum in a Suitcase
  • November 22: A Story along the Way
A family celebration of the Sigd holiday

A family celebration of the Sigd holiday

2. The birth of the Prophet Muhammad (see here for more details):

  • November 29: Celebration in Ein Rafa
  • December 1: Lecture on customs and traditions in Islam
  • December 1: Festive tour of the Muslim Quarter
  • December 3: Home hospitality (in the YNET Hebrew article  you can see a video about this event)
Celebrating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad

Celebrating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad

3. Chanukah (see here for more details)

  • December 12 – 20: Nightly pluralist candle lighting in neighborhoods throughout the city
  • December 12: Candle lighting with ‘Hamiklat’ Haredi art gallery
  • December 13: Candle lighting with a Haredi family
  • December 13: Inter-religious candle lighting and Christmas party in French Hill
  • December 14: A Jerusalem dreidle-scavenger hunt, followed by a Chanukah party
  • December 15: Visit to the Karaite community in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City
  • December 15: Visit to the Messianic Jewish community in the Old City
  • December 18: Chanukah photography tour
  • December 18: Inter-religious candle lighting at the First Station
  • December 19: Tour of Meah Shearim
  • December 20: Haredi – Secular Chanuka encounter
Learning about different Chanukah traditions

Learning about different Chanukah traditions

4. Christmas (See here for more details)

  • November 26: Decorating the Jerusalem International YMCA’s giant Christmas tree
  • December 15 – 17: Christmas Bazaar
  • December 22: Tour of the secrets of the Jerusalem International YMCA
  • December 22: Tour of the Christian Quarter of the Old City
  • December 24: Christmas Eve concert
  • December 24: Volunteering at the Christmas Even mass at the Dormition Abbey
  • January 6: Tour of Orthodox Christian sites in preparation for the Orthodox Christmas
Christmas at the Jerusalem International YMCA

Christmas at the Jerusalem International YMCA

5. And Novy God, the Russian New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebration. (See here for more details.)

  • December 27: Lecture on the history of Novy God
  • December 28: Tusovka Novy  God Celebration

And of course we can’t forget the Kids4Peace winter event, that celebrated all the events together.

What was the impact of these events? Kehilat Zion, which participated in the inter-religious Chanukah candle-lighting at the Train Station, summed it up like this:

We wanted to take all of the little lights that throughout the year so many partners are working to shine, and to empower them together on one hanukkiah of hope in the public sphere.

Because in Earthly Jerusalem, something different is possible, and most of us choose to act different and to light hope. Together with communities of men and women from different neighborhoods, religions, and cultures who are joined in the belief in a Jerusalem of alliances and mutual caring; communities of individuals and groups who work and believe in a Jerusalem of good neighborliness and of friendship.

This, despite a group of hate-shouting youth who tried to disrupt the ceremony. Here’s the full Facebook post:

Kehilat Zion spoke specifically about Chanukah, but this is what we’re aiming for year-round. Over the 7-8 weeks, between Sigd and Orthodox Christmas, there were so many events (we counted some 50) it was hard to keep track. Well over 1,000 people, from all religions, all cultures, all languages. But also all Jerusalemites. Thank you Jerusalem for showing, yet again, your true colors of diversity. And thank you to the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation for helping us – and helping them- make it all happen.

 

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Cultural Competency Weaved into the Fabric of Sha’are Zedek Medical Center

A woman comes to the hospital to deliver a baby, and her husband is the one who speaks to the doctors. How do you best communicate? How do you make sure that the woman’s needs are being met, while respecting the cultural mores of the patient, which dictate that the man does the talking?

This is just one of the examples discussed last week in a cultural competency training seminar that was held at Sha’are Zedek Medical Center last week, for 15 staff members from the gynecology clinic.

Staff training staff at Shaare Zedek

Staff training staff at Shaare Zedek

But this seminar was different than other seminars. This one was led by Sha’are Zedek staff, in a regularly-scheduled staff meeting.

We reported here and here about our two Training the Trainer courses, which sought to enable in-house staff at the different health services in Jerusalem to present the principles of cultural competency / sensitivity to other staff members. In discussions with Sha’are Zedek, it was decided that short introductions, during regularly-scheduled meetings, would be the best way to ensure that as many staff as possible were introduced to the basic concepts of cultural competency.

The staff meet a wide range of ethnicities and cultures in their work in the outpatient clinics and delivery rooms. The seminar seeks to help them respond to the needs of patients and their families in a way that is culturally sensitive to all of Jerusalem’s diverse population groups.

In light of the response to this seminar, staff are already planning the next, this one to the reception staff of the general outpatient and eye clinics. Congratulations to Sha’are Zedek, for being one of the few hospitals that have made cultural competency training part of its business-as-usual in staff meetings.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its partnership in developing the cultural competency program since 2008!

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Mount Zion – Remembering Oskar Schindler and the Holocaust – Together

There are those who say that the conflicts between the different religions on Mount Zion go back 500 years, when the Muslims expelled the Christians from the Room of the Last Supper, which is in the David’s Tomb complex. And the Christians blamed the Jews for this occurrence.  There are those who say that the inter-religious conflict began 1,000, 1,500, or even 2,000 years ago, depending on which event you count as the beginning.

What’s for sure is that up until a few years ago, the tension could be felt among the different organizations on Mount Zion on a daily basis, and this tension was known to erupt and develop into difficult, even international, incidents.

Plaque honoring Oskar Schindler, at the Chamber of the Holocaust

Plaque honoring Oskar Schindler, at the Chamber of the Holocaust

Over the past two years, thanks to the Window to Mount Zion program (see it’s website here, and specifically the one about the graveyards of Mount Zion), the atmosphere has been different. Drastically different. Window to Mount Zion has enabled the residents of Mount Zion, despite their different religions and different approaches to religion, to respect one another and to help one another, both on a day-to-day basis (we call it the ‘cup of sugar’ relationship), and on broader issues, such as cooperating to clean up a local Muslim cemetery, and to release a joint letter of condemnation when that cemetery was desecrated, as well as working together to ensure that the cemetery was cleaned and better prepared to prevent further incidents.

Despite our new neighborly relations, we were still pleasantly surprised when the Diaspora Yeshiva called and invited us to an event commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27), which was to honor Oskar Schindler, who is buried in the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion. They asked us to invite representatives from the different Christian orders on Mount Zion. The Franciscan and Benedictine monks were touched to be invited, and we were honored to be a part of a moving ceremony. The ceremony began at Schindler’s grave and ended at the Holocaust Memorial, where a plaque in honor of Schindler was unveiled. Both Rabbis and Monks lit remembrance candles.

Here’s the link to the ynet article, (in Hebrew) which includes a short video about the ceremony.

And here’s the Facebook post in Hebrew:

Congratulations to Window to Mount Zion for bringing about this revolution in inter-religious relations on Mount Zion!

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Learning Arabic with Experience – Our Own Anwar Ben Badis featured in the Times of Israel

On Sunday, January 21, 2018, one of our veteran Arabic teachers, Dr. Anwar Ben Badis, was featured in an article in the Times of Israel news site. Below is the text, here is a link to the original article (and here is a link to a .pdf version). Looking to learn Arabic yourself? Our classes are full this year, but watch our website (https://jicc.org.il/heb/center-for-arabic-instruction/) for further details for next year!

Anwar Ben-Badis

Anwar Ben-Badis

Al-salam alaikum! Is it finally time for Israelis to learn Arabic?

Teachers and language schools are noticing a rise in the number of locals learning Arabic, although attitudes and angles depend on who’s teaching, and where

In the 20 years linguist Anwar Ben-Badis (emphasis ours) has been teaching Arabic, he’s heard nearly every reason why Jewish Israelis choose to learn his native language.

 There are liberals and lefties hoping for peace and a way to bridge gaps.

There are right-wingers and settlers; one settler eventually left the West Bank and moved into Israel proper.

Even President Reuven Rivlin studied with Ben-Badis, as did Knesset member Benny Begin.

His students are generally Jerusalemites who, as residents of a simultaneously mixed and divided city, brush up against their Arab neighbors at the supermarket, the mall and the movie theater and want to be able to say “excuse me” in Arabic (aläafw), or “I only speak a little Arabic” (anaa ataHaddath faqaT qaliil min aläarabiyya).

Perhaps they also want to know what the imam is calling from the minaret at 4 a.m.

His students, some 300 this year, study three hours a week — plus homework — hoping to achieve a comfortable level of spoken Arabic.

Actually, learning a little Arabic is something of a trend right now, particularly among adults who have  time to spare and believe that when your neighbor speaks a different language, it’s important to know what they’re saying.“It’s important to me to help them understand that it’s very acceptable to learn Arabic, even though it’s the language of the enemy,” said Ben-Badis. “I’m trying to help free the Israeli student from thinking of it as the enemy’s language, but rather as a way to connect with me. It’s not obvious to them.”

The Jerusalem municipality offers continuing education language classes each year in Arabic and Hebrew, as well as Spanish, Italian and Yiddish. There isn’t generally a huge demand for Italian, said Hagit van der Hoven, who heads the continuing education department, but the Arabic classes are always full.

This year, the municipality opened Arabic classes to its staff as well. “We figured that was the right thing to do,” said van der Hoven. “In Jerusalem, we have joint lives, and we just need it.”

In Tel Aviv, Ishmael Ben Israel, the linguist co-founder of A.M.A.L. — Spoken Arabic for All, a nonprofit that places Palestinian university students in elementary schools in and around Tel Aviv to act as ambassadors of Arabic culture — is also the CEO of LingoLearn, a for-profit, online language learning site. He has hundreds, maybe thousands of students currently studying Arabic, said Ben Israel, whose “hippie” parents named him for the eldest son of the biblical Abraham, a prophet and patriarch in Islam.

Ariel Olmert, the son of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, founded Ha-ambatia, or The Bathtub, a private language school with branches in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Having added Arabic classes to its French offerings four years ago, the school now has 400 students learning Arabic. It creates its own educational materials and aims to make language acquisition a living, breathing endeavor.

In the 20 years linguist Anwar Ben-Badis has been teaching Arabic, he’s heard nearly every reason why Jewish Israelis choose to learn his native language.
There are liberals and lefties hoping for peace and a way to bridge gaps.

There are right-wingers and settlers; one settler eventually left the West Bank and moved into Israel proper.

Even President Reuven Rivlin studied with Ben-Badis, as did Knesset member Benny Begin.

His students are generally Jerusalemites who, as residents of a simultaneously mixed and divided city, brush up against their Arab neighbors at the supermarket, the mall and the movie theater and want to be able to say “excuse me” in Arabic (aläafw), or “I only speak a little Arabic” (anaa ataHaddath faqaT qaliil min aläarabiyya).

Perhaps they also want to know what the imam is calling from the minaret at 4 a.m.

His students, some 300 this year, study three hours a week — plus homework — hoping to achieve a comfortable level of spoken Arabic.

“It’s important to me to help them understand that it’s very acceptable to learn Arabic, even though it’s the language of the enemy,” said Ben-Badis. “I’m trying to help free the Israeli student from thinking of it as the enemy’s language, but rather as a way to connect with me. It’s not obvious to them.”

Actually, learning a little Arabic is something of a trend right now, particularly among adults who have  time to spare and believe that when your neighbor speaks a different language, it’s important to know what they’re saying.

The Jerusalem municipality offers continuing education language classes each year in Arabic and Hebrew, as well as Spanish, Italian and Yiddish. There isn’t generally a huge demand for Italian, said Hagit van der Hoven, who heads the continuing education department, but the Arabic classes are always full.

This year, the municipality opened Arabic classes to its staff as well. “We figured that was the right thing to do,” said van der Hoven. “In Jerusalem, we have joint lives, and we just need it.”

 

In Tel Aviv, Ishmael Ben Israel, the linguist co-founder of A.M.A.L. — Spoken Arabic for All, a nonprofit that places Palestinian university students in elementary schools in and around Tel Aviv to act as ambassadors of Arabic culture — is also the CEO of LingoLearn, a for-profit, online language learning site. He has hundreds, maybe thousands of students currently studying Arabic, said Ben Israel, whose “hippie” parents named him for the eldest son of the biblical Abraham, a prophet and patriarch in Islam.

Ariel Olmert, the son of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, founded Ha-ambatia, or The Bathtub, a private language school with branches in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Having added Arabic classes to its French offerings four years ago, the school now has 400 students learning Arabic. It creates its own educational materials and aims to make language acquisition a living, breathing endeavor.

“It’s a complicated story why Jews don’t speak Arabic,” said Olmert. “Our idea was that we needed to do it with joy, not because we have to, or because it’s the right thing to do.”

Ben Israel thinks one reason for the heightened interest is the TV show “Fauda,” about an undercover army unit that operates in the Palestinian territories. All the operatives speak Arabic fluently, and Arabic is regularly heard on the show.

“’Fauda’ was a big thing, it created a lot of buzz,” said Ben Israel. “It’s now cool to speak Arabic; young people see these undercover guys and they’re singing a song in Arabic and it’s something they want to emulate.”

That wasn’t the case when he was a kid. Ben Israel, now 38, first learned Arabic in high school from a female soldier, which seemed reasonable at the time but later didn’t make sense to him.

“The militaristic connotations of learning Arabic aren’t normal,” he said.

He wants the study of Arabic to help young Israelis think about a civil shared society, and see Arabic as a language of peace, not of war.

Ditto for the teachers he employs, who are native Arabic speakers.

Amal Gaoui, a student at Tel Aviv University who teaches at Tel Aviv’s Gavrieli elementary school, likes that her young students, fourth graders, don’t come with any preconceived notions.

That is, for the most part. When she taught them the term “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is great” and is often heard in conjunction with terrorist attacks, the students all looked at each other and laughed, said Gaoui. “They said, ‘Hamas says that.’”

This led to a conversation about good people and bad people. “It’s not just learning words,” she said, “but to understand why we’re learning this language.”

Ben Israel often hires Arab women working from home to teach in his online school.

“They’re making a living, and they now have this relationship with Jews,” he said. “At the schools, for the vast majority of the pupils, it’s actually the first time they’ve had any meaningful relationship with Arabs at all.”

Canadian immigrant Lee Gancman teaches Arabic to small groups of adults through the language school he founded, Damascus Gate. Gancman learned Arabic in college, later attending programs in Jordan and Damascus before making his way to Israel.

His students are Jewish Jerusalemites, who want to converse with vendors at the Mahane Yehuda market or chat about the weather with their butcher.

When Gancman advertises on Secret Jerusalem, an open Facebook group known for a startling array of posts on everything from finding bacon in Jerusalem to finding owners for stray dogs, he ends up with long threads about why people want to learn Arabic.

“You’d be surprised by the students,” he said.

It’s his religiously observant students who come into contact with Arabic speakers more often, generally in the Old City, said Gancman. “Secular students say, “‘I don’t know where to find Arabs.’”

Who’s your teacher?

The Jerusalem municipality’s Arabic teachers are Jewish, professional instructors who have been teaching the language for years, said van der Hoven.

When prospective students ask Ha-ambatia’s Olmert about his Arabic teachers, he tells them, “Our teachers speak Arabic as their native tongue. I’m not about race.”

About half of the students at Ha-ambatia are descendants of families where Arabic was one of the language and want to connect to their roots, said Olmert.

At the same time, while a fifth of Israel’s population speaks Arabic, the book most commonly used to teach spoken Arabic was written in the 1960s by a French priest, he pointed out.

“It’s actually a really nice book; he is a real lover of the language,” he said. But it’s written in Hebrew phonetics, which creates difficulties, he noted.

“It’s an exhausting process to learn a language,” said Olmert, who comes to the teaching of language through his study of French literature, and nine years of living in Paris. “There are the problems and paradoxes of learning spoken Arabic; Arabic is the language that’s everywhere and nowhere. We want our students to be able to speak and not get too caught up in the rules.”

Back in Jerusalem, Ben-Badis doesn’t shy away from the politics of learning Arabic; perhaps it’s the stubborn Jerusalemite in him.

He believes his native tongue should only be taught by native Arabic speakers who also understand the Israeli character.

“You’re teaching not just the language, but the culture,” he pointed out. “We’re in a particular region; the minute an Israeli Jews decides to learn Arabic, it’s not just a language, it’s a culture, it’s holidays, it’s the everyday stuff. They have no idea.”

This linguist, a PhD from Hebrew University who also interprets and teaches Aramaic, is unusually equipped to handle the Israeli student.

Raised in the north by his Muslim mother and Christian Arab father, Ben-Badis headed to Jerusalem for college, the city his mother hailed from, where his maternal grandfather studied at Hebrew University when classes were being held in Kiryat Moriah.

He lives in the neighborhood of Baka, up the block from his grandmother’s original stone house on Yehuda Street, now situated next to a Bnei Akiva youth group center and two religious Jewish public schools.

“My connection to this place isn’t as a visitor. I’m a son of this place. I know almost every corner of this city,” he said.

He is married to a Jewish American woman who was raised in Israel, and his father-in-law is a Reform rabbi actively engaged in interreligious peace building. Their 3-year-old daughter speaks Arabic, Hebrew and English, and Ben-Badis introduces her to his classes as “100 percent mixed, not half and half.”

“Jerusalem is exactly my daughter with all its shades,” he said. “We’re very tied to this city because we’re very similar to it, and therefore very close to it. I didn’t choose Jerusalem.”

He teaches Arabic with a similar flavor, “with his truth,” he said.

For most Arabic teachers, it’s a challenge to work with Jewish Israelis because it’s difficult to deal with Israeli chutzpah, particularly during stressful times when there are attacks or wars.

“Israelis don’t like to listen, they don’t like to be told what to do, they think they know everything,” said Ben-Badis. “I treat them like students. It’s not easy to learn a language, and I demand a lot. It creates a lot of back and forth and we work hard. But they’re not the boss here, I am.”

One student, a retired army colonel, told Ben-Badis he gave directions to Arabs his whole life and it wasn’t natural for him to reverse the process. Sometimes a student will ask Ben-Badis to write something on the board, but will say it in Hebrew, in the form of a command, and Ben-Badis won’t follow those orders.

“The powers are different in here and that’s how we progress,” he said. “I am who I am here. I’m Anwar, and I use my language as a resistance, to protect my identity.”

When he speaks Hebrew, it’s with a lilting set of rolling ‘r’s and harsh ‘ayin’ pronunciations, as he deliberately brings an Arabic flavor to the Jewish language.

“I don’t hide my Arabness — I show it everywhere,” he said.

He was once attacked on an Egged bus while speaking Arabic with his nephew. When his brother, a doctor in Haifa, went to help at a Gazan hospital during the 2014 war, Ben-Badis showed his students the WhatsApp texts he received from him, leading to difficult conversations and reactions.

An Israeli policeman was once sent to Ben-Badis’ classroom to check that he wasn’t teaching anything insubordinate.

None of it has stopped Ben-Badis from trying to expose as much of his culture as possible.

When his own parents were younger, Ben-Badis used to send students to spend the night at their house in order to speak Arabic and be exposed to their way of life. They often came back saying, “We never knew Arabs were like this.’”

“The meeting of Israelis with Arabic is more than a language class if the teacher is an Arab, it exposes them to the culture and realities of life,” he said.

In the Classroom

It’s 1 p.m. on a Wednesday, which means it’s almost time for the second class of the day at Jerusalem’s Islamic Art Museum, the elegant, art-filled building in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood, where Ben-Badis teaches some of his weekly classes.

His students shuffle in, including an American-born Peace Now activist, a former Tel Aviv University professor of art history and a couple of twenty-somethings sprinkled among the mostly grey haired students. The earlier class included a journalist and a former ambassador.

Toward the end of each year, Ben-Badis takes his students on tours, as part of the process of learning the language. They visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque, stop in at some Arabic libraries in East Jerusalem, and join iftar meals and hear Sufi music during Ramadan.

“We’re not in a normal situation where learning the language is just to connect, it’s something else entirely,” said Ben-Badis. “It’s the difference between the Jewish student learning Arabic and a Palestinian from East Jerusalem learning Hebrew. Jews can live and earn a living without Arabic but an Arab needs Hebrew as a tool of earning a living. For Jews, Arabic is a bonus, it’s a privilege, because he’s the one in power.”

Teaching the language to Jewish Israelis, he said, isn’t about coexistence or bringing peace. In fact, said Ben-Badis, coexistence isn’t a word that he uses any longer.

“I want to help people, no matter who, get to know me better, Anwar, and my nation and my family and the people around me,” he said. “I’m not trying to convince them to change, I’m just trying to open a window or a door. I don’t want to be their friend, I’m showing them something else through the language. The language is a tool.”

(emphasis theirs) The language schools mentioned above can be contacted through the following links: LingoLearn, Ha-ambatia, Damascus Gate and Anwar Ben-Badis through the Jerusalem Intercultural Center. There are also learning language exchanges available through Facebook.

Congratulations Anwar!

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support of our Arabic-language classes.

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Close the Garbage Can! Campaign Gets Underway

How do you go about getting people to close the lids on the garbage cans and put them back in their place after emptying? Have breakfast, of course. So on January 4, some 40 sanitation workers, from truck drivers to shift managers to department directors, and Haredi activists from Bayit veGan, had breakfast together to discuss how to make the streets of their neighborhood, cleaner.

It was far from obvious that this meeting took place. There are many differences between these two groups – religious, ethnicity, nationality, gender, occupation, standard of living. Despite these differences, everyone present wanted to see – and work toward – a cleaner Bayit veGan.

This initiative is part of our Little Prince project, which seeks to advance a range of initiative to help make Jerusalem’s streets cleaner. The garbage can initiative was first presented at our Open Space Technology meeting that we held in May 2017, led by the Neighborhood Cleanliness Committee of the Haredi neighborhood of Bayit veGan.

Breakfast with the Neighborhood Cleanliness Committee

Breakfast with the Neighborhood Cleanliness Committee

This breakfast was the culmination of a long process of discussing the extent of the problem, the root of the problem, and possible solutions to the problem. We helped the women of the committee reach the conclusion that, in order to improve the situation, it was critical to develop a relationship with all involved, and not just be seen as complainers. Thus, the breakfast idea was born.

The idea was to invite all the local sanitation workers together with their managers to learn about the garbage collection from their standpoint. The local community center, alongside the community social worker and the community center director, invited all to breakfast at the community center.

So many attended there was barely enough food

So many attended there was barely enough food

The breakfast itself was a huge success. We were prepared for 5 workers, and 25 – 30 showed up – including all the regular workers, some substitutes, the managers, and the regional manager for Bayit veGan. Everyone cleared the air in an unusually good-natured meeting – residents complained about cans having their lids opened, how the trucks block the streets, how the cans are put back in different places. The workers complained that cars parked on the sidewalks and blocked access to the cans and other issues. Each ‘side’ brainstormed about ways they can help each other make the streets of Bayit veGan cleaners again. All came away with a fantastic feeling that despite the great differences in identity – ranging from Muslim Palestinian and Ethiopian Israeli to Haredi – bridges were built that laid the groundwork for future cooperation. And ultimately, cleaner streets.

Keeping our streets clean means so many things to so many people. From construction waste to littered parks to shutting the lids on the garbage cans in the streets, and having workers put them back in their place after they’d been emptied. Brainstorming and planning together about how to advance these issues in our individual communities – that is the beauty of the Little Prince. It is an example of wonderful, uniquely contemporary Jerusalemite, cooperation. We all live in Jerusalem and want to see it cleaner – for all of us.

Here’s the post from Facebook that was published on the Jerusalem Tolerance Facebook page:

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Eastward from Here – Training Activists in East Jerusalem

East Jerusalem has aroused the curiosity and interest of many activists in and around Jerusalem. But how much do they really know about this part of the city?

On tour in East Jerusalem

On tour in East Jerusalem, with Aviv Tatarsky of Ir Amim

In order to raise the level of activism in East Jerusalem, we, together with the Ir Amim organization, held an 8-session workshop called, Eastward from Here. The workshop sought to teach Jewish activists – all who work or seek to work in East Jerusalem – more about what is really going on on-the-ground, in order to enable them to be more effective in their work.

There are 22 participants, from a wide range of organizations – municipally-connected such as Moriah and the Young Adults Authority, New Spirit, Yerushalmim, Hamiffal and Blue and White Human Rights.

Each meeting dealt with a different issue, from effective dialogue and effective activism to East Jerusalem communities and East Jerusalem today to the basics of cultural competency. One of the meetings was a tour around different parts of East Jerusalem, led by Ir Amim researcher, Aviv Tatarsky.

From the workshop, participants are developing 15 different initiatives designed to work in East Jerusalem. These initiatives range from joint first aid courses for Jewish and Arab youth, Arabic-language study in Palestinian businesses in East Jerusalem, joint Jewish-Arab climbing club, academic assistance to East Jerusalem pupils, and more.

 This course is part of our Grassroots Campaign for Tolerance, supported by the UJA-Federation of New York. Many thanks also to Ir Amim for their partnership. We hope to see some very effective activism taking place in East Jerusalem very soon!
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Summing Up Tolerance Week

We’ve already described and listed here the 30 events that took place during Tolerance Week (November 10 – 18).  Here’s how our Michal Shilor, Coordinator for the Grassroots Campaign for Tolerance, described it:

In the last week, we broke records of emotion:

Jerusalem wore its holiday clothes

She removed her masks

And was just herself:

Authentic Jerusalem, made up of her communities,

Jerusalem of Jerusalemites, of all who love her.

Tour of the Old City of Jerusalem during Tolerance Week

Tour of the Old City of Jerusalem during Tolerance Week

During the last week Jerusalem celebrated Tolerance Week – the holiday that is davka the most appropriate for our city. Davka the city of political and religious and national and international slogans, davka for the city – for those who don’t know her – that is seen as the symbol of all that is opposite of tolerance.

What do others think of people like me?

What do others think of people like me?

During the last week, Jerusalem re-centered itself. She peeled away all the layers of slogans of all who think they know her, and said:

“I am of my residents.

I am of my people.

I am of my communities who choose to live with me,

to love me and to walk in my streets.

And I bring them together. And I make them feel good. And we live together.”

Learning Talmud and Hadith together

Learning Talmud and Hadith together

Jerusalem Tolerance Week began last year, and this year nearly doubled itself, with 30 events – initiated in schools, by activists, and organizations that chose to celebrate the multicultural diversity of Jerusalem, and to bring people together who don’t usually meet.

And it was really, really exciting.

I would like to thank you for the pleasure of helping you, watching how you create the real Jerusalem with a lot of energy and in full faith.

Coming together to learn about one another

Coming together to learn about one another

I was brought to tears by the event that brought together formerly religious Haredi Jews and Muslims.

I skipped for joy when Runners without Borders told me that they can’t invite more people to the Jewish-Arab race because there were already 800 (!) runners registered and the police requested that there not be any  more.

Running for Tolerance and Peace

Running for Tolerance and Peace

I wasn’t able to take the smile off my face when I met  Ruth Kristina Vasileva a minute before a joint learning session of Hadith and Talmud, especially after I saw the amazing people who came to study  together!

I didn’t believe how the mental health community creates an encounter with the outside world through board games and soup in the coolness of the Jerusalem autumn.

I was so excited to hear a poets’ exchange that brought together different identities through poetry.

That even the Citypass light rail company  joined the adventure and create a tour that connects the mental health community, Haredi women artists and the African community of Jerusalem on the light rail line.

At the Tolerance Stop on the light rail line

At the Tolerance Stop on the light rail line

And I saw secular, formerly religious Jews and Haredi Jews being angry at two Haredi newspaper editors, all the while speaking about tolerance and shared living, despite the disagreements.

And I was finally able to participate in a meeting with deaf people.

That Itamar Farhi again brought us an event of tolerance stories to the Katamonim, a place where life is so complicated and woven together that it screams for it.

I met a group of people – Armenians, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Palestinians, Israelis, Americans – who decided to eat a meal together to get to know one another better.

I was able to take part in a Sigd ceremony. There were so many events of Story Along the Way that made the story of Ethiopian-Israelis so well known around the Sigd Holiday.

Sigd ceremony

Sigd ceremony

We were able to provide a platform to inter-religious events.

I couldn’t believe that even light rail stations and the area in front of the Jaffa Gate became places of encounter.

We had a Jewish-Arab backgammon tournament and a religious-secular Jewish encounter on Saturday.

Backgammon tournament

Backgammon tournament

Sentences in Arabic, Hebrew and Yiddish peppered the public sphere.

And there were all sorts of other routine events in Jerusalem – in schools, in soccer clubs, and more – that simply brought people from all the different streams to remember that Jerusalem belongs to its residents. To all its residents.

Listening and learning

Listening and learning

Jerusalem? Jerusalem is the tolerance capital of its people.

We all live here in Jerusalem

We all live here in Jerusalem

Here’s a compilation of posts translated into English from the 0202 Facebook page:

 

And the original post in Hebrew:

And here’s Jerusalem Tolerance’s post and list of all the different initiatives:

 

Many thanks to the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support in advancing tolerance in Jerusalem!

 

 

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