Gishurim – Israel Community Mediation Centers

What does Yom Kippur / Eid al-Adha mean to you? Bridging conflict with a movie

For the second year in a row – the Jewish Yom Kippur and the Muslim Eid al-Adha fell almost on the same day. This situation had the potential of sparking even more violence, during a time tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, especially in Jerusalem but also in mixed cities throughout Israel, were high.

Both are among the most important holidays of their respective religions, but are celebrated quite differently. Yom Kippur is characterized by fasting and introspection, and, uniquely in Israel, refraining from driving (See here things that even the most secular Israeli Jews did on Yom Kippur when the roads were clear.) Conversely, Eid al-Adha, which commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, is celebrated with family get togethers, often slaughtering a goat or a sheep to mark the day. In an effort to diffuse tensions, the Gishurim program (which is being operated by Mosaica and us) and a range of other partners, produced a YouTube video, which was viewed throughout the country. It was a fully joint Jewish-Muslim production, and served as an important ray of hope during these tense times. Some 250,000 people were exposed to the film, and it was viewed by more than 150,000 people on Facebook, from all around the country. Happy (and hopeful) viewing!

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Rabbi Bob Kaplan in Acre

Rabbi Bob Kaplan, Director of Cause-NY (of the JCRC-NY) and our New York partner in the New-York Jerusalem Experts Exchange, toured Acco today as part of his visit in Israel. Rabbi Kaplan presented to local leaders and mediators the inter-identity crisis intervention model he uses in NYC. With the help of the Gishurim Project, a Community Dialogue and Mediation Center is currently being established in Acco. The meeting was set in order to help the center in its research and development process for designing the optimal implementation of such an institute in Acco. The recent events in Acco highlighted the urgent need for community dialogue and mediation in the city.

Acco

Acco

About 40 participants from various identities and agencies arrived to the meeting where  Rabbi Kaplan and Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir (JICC’ director) presented various models from NY and Israel.

Kaplan and Agmon-Snir at the Acco meeting

Kaplan and Agmon-Snir at the Acco meeting

The principal invitees to the meeting were the Imam of Acco, Sheikh Samir Asi and the Chief Rabbi of the city, Rabbi Yossef Yashar. They both had to attend a meeting with Israel’s President, Mr. Shimon Peres, on the same morning, but Rabbi Yashar saw it as important  to open the meeting and discuss some of the issues with Rabbi Kaplan.

Acco Chief Rabbi Yashar and Rabbi Kaplan

Acco Chief Rabbi Yashar and Rabbi Kaplan

Following the main assembly, the Community Dialogue and Mediation Center staff conducted a working session with the visitors from NY and Jerusalem, where next steps were formulated and peer consultation with the JICC and CAUSE-NY was put in place.

Acco Community Dialogue Center staff and the guests

Acco Community Dialogue Center staff with guests

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Last Meeting of the Distance-Learning Community Dialogue Course

The 14-weeks long Distance-Learning Community Dialogue Course concluded today. The course consisted of five distance-learning units and five face-to-face meetings. The twenty participants requested an on-going peer group that will accompany their community dialogue initiatives. We hope that the Gishurim program that sponsored the course will be able to provide this service. The course facilitators, Dr. Orna shemer and Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir, will probably facilitate these peer meetings.

Feedback Session of the Community Dialogue Course

Feedback Session of the Community Dialogue Course

In their feedback, the participants stated that the course has significantly leveraged their ability to plan and initiate responses to community conflicts and opportunities. During the course they presented and discussed the various initiatives they were developing in their community dialogue and mediation centers. This was the first ever community dialogue course of the Gishurim project and we hope it will be repeated in the future.

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Lod – Rabbi Bob Kaplan meets the Mayor

Rabbi Bob Kaplan, Director of Cause-NY (of the JCRC-NY) and our New York partner in the New-York Jerusalem Experts Exchange, visited Lod today as part of his visit to Israel. The purpose of the visit was to present the Inter-Identity Crisis Intervention model Bob uses in NYC. In a special meeting of the Lod Multicultural Forum, together with Lod’s Mayor, the NYC model was introduced and compared to the model currently implemented in Lod, with the support of the JICC.

Rabbi Kaplan at the Lod Mayor's Office

Rabbi Kaplan at the Lod Municipality

Orit Yulzari, Director of the Lod Community Dialogue and Mediation Center, was an intern at Cause-NY a few years ago. Upon her return to Israel she began receiving on-going consultation from the JICC. As aprt of her work she initiated the Lod Multicultural Forum which focuses on ways to make Lod a more culturally competent city and importantly it also serves as the city’s inter-identity crisis intervention team. A few weeks ago when there was an arson of a synagogue in Lod the forum was used for this purpose.

During the presentation, the Mayor and all the participants emphasized the importance of the Crisis Intervention Team. Insights and tips from similar work in NYC were discussed.

Update, Nov 25:     just a few days after this visit, Orit Yulzari received a call about an incident at an Arab school. A 10-years old kid threw a stone at a police car and the police officer slapped him and called him “Hammas member”. Orit and the Mayor immediately got to the place and ensured that the incident was appropriately dealt with. The fast intervention assured that no disinformation and incitement took place. Later on that day other members of the Forum met with all the relevant sides.

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First Training to Municipality Absorption Neighborhood Workers

The Jerusalem Municipal Absorption Authority employs about ten Absorption Neighborhood Workers in the city. Their role is to assist new immigrants (Olim) who live in their neighborhoods with all the daily matters that those are typically challenged with. While these workers are usually new immigrants themselves, they cannot, of course, know and understand the cross-cultural issues relating to all immigrant communities that live in their neighborhoods

The municipal Absorption Authority, which is responsible for the recruitment, training and mentoring of the Absorption Workers, approached the JICC to conduct a training on cultural competency to this staff. The goals of the training are to leverage their work by making them more aware to cultural issues and to encourage them to become the voice for cultural competence in their neighborhoods. Our hope is that in time they will encourage local Community Councils and centers, local government agencies and branches, health clinics etc. to become cultural competent. Practically, this means that the scope of their influence will expand to include all identities living in their service area and not only new immigrants.

Today, November 19, we conducted the first training in the series that provided the Absorbtion Workers with an introduction to the field of cultural competence, including examples from health and many other applications relevant to their daily work. At the end of the training participants expressed their satisfaction with the level and scope of the training and that they look forward to future sessions. The rest of the training will cover topics such as cross-cultural communication, tools for cultural competence, case studies and simulations, and stages for making an organization cultural competent.

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Community Dialogue Course – Third face-to-face-meeting

On October 28, the third face-to-face national meeting of the community dialogue course took place. During the meeting the 20 course participants presented a written summary about the community dialogue tools that they have been investigating in the literature. This process continues the online discussion of the tools on the distant- learning platform of the course. The analysis, to be completed on the next meeting, serves to concertize the community dialogue approach and principles. Following this process, working in peer groups, the participants began to analyze their own community dialogue processes.

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Gishurim Annual Conference – October 27 2008

On October 27, 2008, the Gishurim Program, which is a program to help Community Mediation Centers in Israel, had its annual conference. 300 participants from all around the country attended the conference, definitely the largest ever meeting of the community mediation centers in Israel.

Gishurim Conference Assembly 2008

Gishurim Conference Assembly 2008

The conference was implemented through the Open Space Technology and was facilitated by Daphna Barashi-Aizen, an organizational psychologist, and Tal Kligman, from the JICC. The conference focused on how community mediation centers can become more culturally competent in serving their diverse target audiences, and also in responding to the diversity amongst their staff and volunteers. Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir, the JICC director, gave the keynote presentation about the case study of cultural competence in the health system also in reference to the mediation centers. Following this presentation the participants discussed insights and initiatives in smaller groups. The summaries of the discussions were presented and follow-up initiatives were formalized for the coming year.

Setting Discussion Topics for the Open Space Sessions - the "Marketplace"

Setting Discussion Topics for the Open Space Sessions

A main discussion topic was the Acre riots and “the day after” – in all multicultural cities and communities in Israel. A few dozens activists and mediators came from Acre and helped the others to understand the background, the events and the probable consequences in Acre. Many other discussions touched upon the incorporation of new immigrants and different religious denominations into mediation centers. The discussions provided important insights for the activists in Acre as well as for those active in other places. The context of cultural competence offered an important framework for these discussions.

Open Space Discussion Group

Open Space Discussion Group

All discussions and follow-ups will be documented on the Gishurim website and through the help of the Gishurim program, some of the initiatives will be implemented. The Gishurim program is being operated by Mosaica and the Jerusalem Intercultural Center.

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Distance Learning Inter-Cultural Community Dialogue Course

As a part of the Gishurim Program, which is an Israeli program supporting Community Mediation Centers in Israel, an Inter-Cultural Community Dialogue Course is offered to 21 professionals and activists from all over the country. The Community Dialogue approach, developed by the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center, is taught by Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir (Director, JICC) and Dr. Orna Shemer (Department of Social Work, Hebrew University). The course is heavily based on a distance-learning platform, and the participants research, learn and discuss through the internet, which is a great way to improve learning, overcome geographical barriers and enhance internet skills that are nowadays very helpful in community work. In addition, there are face-to-face meetings that add another important learning opportunities.

The curriculum focuses on methodologies for deepening democracy in a community, creation of better community partnership and solidarity, defining a community public sphere which is more just, and defining the conditions for a flourishing multicultural community. The course that began in September 2008 is taught in five units of two weeks each.

The Gishurim program is jointly operatied by Mosaica and the Jerusalem Inter-Cultral Center.

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