Deliberative Democracy

MiniActive – Celebrating a New Playground in Shuafat

It’s always nice to see the fruits of your labors.

Want to come and play in Shuafat?

Want to come and play in Shuafat?

It’s even more rewarding when these fruits have taken time in coming.

In the spring and summer of 2015, MiniActive women, especially from Shuafat and northern Jerusalem, were asked to take part in a process of public participation to plan a playground. On the one hand it was an incredibly sensitive time (things really hadn’t been the same since the Gaza war the previous summer); on the other hand, the dearth of playgrounds and open green spaces in East Jerusalem is such that this was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.

We're sure it's pretty crowded in the afternoons

We’re sure it’s pretty crowded in the afternoons

This playground was one of several that were planned throughout Jerusalem, as part of a joint project with the Jerusalem Municipality and the Bloomberg Philanthropies. (You can read here about a similar playground that was planned and constructed in Gilo, and here about the earlier process.)

Not only playground, but grassy lawns as well

Not only playground, but grassy lawns as well

The Gilo playground was renewed in 2016. And many in Shuafat, had lost faith that the Municipality would actually install the playground as they discussed. But lo and behold, one bright summer’s day, our MiniActive women were walking in Shuafat and found this, which was installed this past summer. Here’s a video of the new playground:


Have fun!

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support of the MiniActive project.

Here’s MiniActive’s Facebook posts about the discovery (in Arabic):

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From Gilo to the Center in 15 Minutes

Have you ever taken a bus from Gilo to the central bus station in Jerusalem? Better have a good book and a lot of patience – because today it’ll take you more than an hour, regardless of traffic. How long does it take in a car when it’s not rush hour? Oh, about 15-20 minutes.

What?!?!?!?! 5 times as long if you don’t have a car?!?!

Thanks to an active group of Gilo residents, together with the Gilo Community Council, and with our assistance and that from the 15 Minutes organization that seeks to offer good, fast public transportation all over Israel, the Ministry of Transportation has promised an express bus from Gilo to the central bus station in 2018. Most importantly, this line will be in addition to existing lines, not instead of. This decision was published on the MyNet Jerusalem web site, and in the Kol Ha’Ir newspaper, which carries local Jerusalem news. Here’s the article in print, and here’s a link to the online article.

Kol Ha'Ir Headline: Gilo: New Bus Line from the Neighborhood to the Central Bus Station

Kol Ha’Ir Headline: Gilo: New Bus Line from the Neighborhood to the Central Bus Station


All the partners in action worked superbly together to bring this about – bringing the issue to the press and raising public awareness, bringing in key public figures, organizing a trial run with representatives from Gilo, 15 Minutes, the Dept. of Transportation, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Egged Bus Company, and more, until the decision was made. We were there to support the activists, proposing new strategies and tactics, making connections to move the process along, adding positive energy to feed the momentum. We will also be there to make sure that follow through to the end.

Gilo residents meeting with 15 Minutes in October

Gilo residents meeting with 15 Minutes in October

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its support for our activities to advance deliberative democracy in Jerusalem.
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The Writing is (not) on the Wall

It’s not nice to wake up during the Passover holiday to ugly graffiti:

Hate graffiti on the Railway Park in southern Jerusalem

Hate graffiti on the Railway Park in southern Jerusalem

Especially if it’s racist graffiti that says, ““Arabs, go home,” and “We want revenge.” It also had “Kahane was right,” Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the outlawed Kach movement that called to expel Arabs from Israel and the Palestinian territories, who was assassinated in Manhattan in 2012.

Fortunately, a group of activists, part of our network of activists for tolerance that include residents, city council members and the Municipality, were quick to act. They called the Municipal hotline, and within a few hours the graffiti was cleaned.

Working hard to blot out racism

Working hard to blot out racism

But they didn’t stop there. They replaced the graffiti with other signs, full of love and acceptance.

We love our neighbors, in Hebrew

We love our neighbors, in Hebrew

Here’s an independent post of what happened. The incident was even reported in both the English and Hebrew YNET web sites, which are associated with the most widely read national daily newspaper, Yediot Acharonot.

Hebrew article in Yediot Acharonot

Hebrew article in Yediot Acharonot national newspaper

We were doubly interested in this process, since we’ve been helping residents and activists along the Railway Park initiate community-building activities along the park almost since its opening. Coupled with this cooperative work to promote tolerance, we’re pretty proud of this network of activists, which acted quickly, independently, and effectively, with our support and encouragement.

Sign initiators and helpers - best way to spend a school holiday

Sign initiators and helpers – best way to spend a school holiday

Even Yael Freidson, the Ynet reporter who first reported the racist graffiti, tweeted, when she saw the final result, with a hashtag that says “these are things that make me happy”. Indeed, the tolerance activists of Jerusalem managed to make lemonade out of lemons. They demonstrated that Jerusalem has an efficient and sustainable network of tolerance!

Of course, the incident was posted on our Jerusalem Tolerance Facebook page:

Many thanks to the UJA-Federation of New York for its support of our efforts both with residents along the Railway Park and to promote tolerance throughout Jerusalem. Many thanks also go to the Jerusalem Foundation for their support of our work.

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Experts in the Field, Writing the Manual – Cultural Competence in Community Work

We’re proud to announce the publication of a new manual, Cultural Competence in Community Work, that was recently published under the auspices of the Israel Ministry of Welfare. Our director, Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir and Dr. Orna Shemer co-authored the manual, which is available in Hebrew. You can download a copy here.

Cultural Competence in Community Work manual

Cultural Competence in Community Work manual

It seems to be the first extensive manual of cultural competence in community organizing / building / development, including some novel community approaches that are specifically useful for diverse communities. The 150-page manual covers a wide range of the many aspects associated with cultural competency and community work. It discusses the principles from 5 different angles – focusing on the personal – individual worker, on the professional, on the organization, on the community, on the public sphere. And it offers suggested methods in how to work with people from different cultures. Just like the Manual for Integrating Cultural Competency in Health Care Organizations that was published in 2015 (the Hebrew version is here), and the video units, we expect this to be the source of information for cultural competency in community work.

We would like to thank the Israel Ministry of Welfare and Bruce (Baruch) Sugarman, the Director of the Community Work Service at the Ministry, for publishing this manual and hope that it will be helpful to workers and activists in many communities.

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2016 – What a Year!

As we jump head-first into 2017, we wanted to take a minute to reflect on 2016, and what a year it’s been! Overall, a year of unprecedented growth and development, and we can’t wait to get started in 2017. Here are some highlights:

Cultural Competence

  • The Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference in May 2016, organized jointly by the JICC and the Jerusalem Foundation as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, was a turning point for the JICC. Attended by hundreds of professionals, from Jerusalem and throughout Israel, the conference presented strides that have been made over the past 10 years, and set the stage for the next step of meeting diverse residents’ diverse needs, in all areas of life.
  • Continued work in the health care system, in Jerusalem and as a model throughout Israel, training in-house coordinators and facilitators to increase sustainability and adaptability within individual institutions. For the first time, work included a national network of hospitals and clinics.
  • Expansive work in the Israel Police Force, reaching most police stations and present and future commanding officials, and continuing to expand training in 2017.
  • Groundbreaking work with the National Insurance Institute (NII), East Jerusalem branch, the first NII branch in the country to undergo a process of cultural competence.
  • In the Jerusalem Municipality, the entire Community Services Administration, which includes welfare, public health, immigrant absorption, and more, is undergoing training, as well as the Auditor’s Office which will be able to look at the entire Municipality’s operations through the prism of cultural competency and sensitivity.
  • Santé Israël, the first web site to make Israel’s health care system accessible to French speakers, celebrated its first birthday. 
Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker

Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker, Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference

Paramedical Professionals

Making healthcare practitioner exams accessible to Arab residents of east Jerusalem

2016 was an important year for us to take stock of the past four years of this program. Our conclusions show that:

  • The number of certified Arab paramedical professionals in East Jerusalem has grown significantly.
  • The program has enabled the JICC to more clearly map the situation of different paramedical professions in east Jerusalem, contributing to the knowledge of training in the Jerusalem area.
  • The awareness both among Palestinian institutes of higher education and health care institutions in east Jerusalem as well as Israeli Ministry of Health has been raised significantly.
  • A large window of opportunity for Arab women paramedical professionals to improve economic opportunities has been opened.

Nurses studying to pass their Israeli certification examinations

Talking Coexistence – Arabic Language Instruction

Both 2015 – 2016 and 2016 – 2017 broke enrollment records. In 2015-16 there were 180 students in 12 classes, over 5 levels. In 2016-2017, there are 240 students in 16 classes, also over 5 levels. We also held several cultural evenings to enrich students’ understanding of Arabic culture. Here’s a short video about the program:

Atta’a Assistance Center for the Rights of East Jerusalem Residents

The Atta’a Center has been in existence since 2004, and in 2015 it came under the aegis of the JICC. In 2016 we have seen:

  • 70% growth in number of requests
  • Ballooning of its Facebook page to over 7,100 ‘likes,’ and launching of its web site.
  • Publication of a widely-referenced booklet on the Ministry of Interior
  • Expansion of network of partners in action, both from NGO’s and advocacy groups as well as municipal and government agencies.

Atta’a Presenting workshops

MiniActive for Arab Residents of East Jerusalem

  • For the first time ever, MiniActive activities led to a change in policy. After months of campaigning, MiniActive led the way toward the addition of 3 million NIS to the annual municipal sanitation budget for east Jerusalem, and 16 million NIS for the purchase of additional equipment for sanitation. As a result of this work, the entire Municipality is focusing their attention on garbage collection throughout
  • In January 2016, MiniActive organized the first ever Arabic language Horticulture Therapy course in Jerusalem for special education teachers, in cooperation with the David Yellin Academic College of Education.
  • Bus stops in entire neighborhoods were repaired and replaced, thanks to MiniActive.
  • 210 women – including 50 youth – are studying Hebrew through a volunteer NGO to improve the effectivity of their activism. This is a record-breaking number, which broke last year’s record of 150 women.
  • In MiniActive Youth for the Environment, teenage girls learn leadership skills while participating in major environment-improving public art and other projects in neighborhoods throughout east Jerusalem.
  • MiniActive became a model for international work, hosting a delegation that works with the Roma population in the Czech Republic in November 2016.

Take a look at MiniActive’s own year in review. It’s pretty easy to understand, even if you don’t know Arabic:

Emergency Readiness Networks

In 2016 we expanded the network to include 14 communities throughout Jerusalem. In addition to training new volunteers, the program included training of existing networks to maintain ability to respond and increase sustainability.

Planning on map

Planning strategy on map

Multicultural Participatory Democracy

In 2016 we mentored community center staffs in Gilo, Kiryat Menachem, Givat Messuah, Baka’a and south Talpiot. For the first time, residents – especially the Ethiopian community in Kiryat Menachem and the highly diverse community of south Talpiot –felt that they were able to influence issues that affected their everyday lives. Training included using Facebook as a community-building tool key to increasing residents’ engagement in community processes.

Writing and submitting objections

Writing and submitting objections in Gilo

Promoting Tolerance in the Public Sphere

Since the summer of 2014 the JICC have been at the forefront of promoting tolerance in Jerusalem. 2016 accomplishments include:

  • A Different Day in Jerusalem celebrated Jerusalem’s diversity through 50 coordinated events, affecting tens of thousands of people on Jerusalem Day. It was the first time such a broad effort has been made to celebrate Jerusalem’s diversity.
  • JICC-mentored Speaking in the Square and other tolerance initiatives that came in their wake led to the redesigning of Zion Square, to be called Tolerance Square. The initiative’s Effective Dialogue methodology spread, and is now being presented in national frameworks.
  • 0202-Points of View from Jerusalem are now liked by nearly 80,000 people and reach some 150,000 people weekly on Facebook and the Internet. The network now includes pages that translate from Arabic to Hebrew, from Arabic to English and one which brings news from the Ultra-Orthodox world to the awareness of the general population.
  • The JICC was asked to be one of the leading organizations in the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations to Promote Tolerance, formed by the Center for Young Adults and the Municipality’s Young Authority.
  • The JICC is continuing to develop Tolerance Network Teams (TNT’s), a series of neighborhood-based and theme-based grassroots initiatives that seek to advance tolerance in Jerusalem.
Elhanan Miller Haaretz article

Haaretz article about A Different Day in Jerusalem

Window to Mount Zion

Since October 2015, Window to Mount Zion has bridged inter-religious and inter-community gaps that have festered between Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups for centuries. As a result of its activity over the past year:

  • In unheard-of cooperation, religious Jewish and Christian groups have issued joint statements condemning hate crimes on Mount Zion.
  • Christian ceremonies, which in the past have caused inter-religious tension, proceeded without incident.
  • The celebration of Christian and Jewish holidays that coincided simultaneously, which in the past had been the source of conflict and tension, also proceeded smoothly.
Window to Mount Zion volunteers

Window to Mount Zion volunteers

Asylum Seekers

The JICC, together with the Jerusalem Municipality, sponsor the only paid public servant in Israel to help asylum seekers, outside of Tel Aviv. We are also part of a consortium of organizations and agencies that seek to meet the needs of asylum seekers living in the city.

Tour of Nahlaot neighborhood

Families of asylum seekers on tour of Nahlaot neighborhood

Thank You!

Many many thanks go out to our partners in action and our donors. You can read about our activities in more detail either by clicking on the hyperlinks above, or by clicking here.

Looking forward to making 2017 even better!

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JICC at the 9th Annual Community Mediators Conference

For the past 9 years, the JICC has been, together with Mosaica Center for Conflict Resolution and the Community Work Service at the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs and Services, a key partner in organizing the annual conference of the Israeli Community Dialogue and Mediation Centers. This year, the conference took place on October 27 at Tel-Aviv University. It included 540 participants, 9 workshops and 7 discussion areas.

Conference opening

Conference opening

This year, we, too, presented in the workshops. Michal Shilor, our Coordinator of the Grassroots Campaign for Tolerance, spoke about activism for tolerance in the public sphere. She also spoke about the unique processes that are taking place in Jerusalem, such as the Municipality’s adoption of Zion Square as Tolerance Square, the success of A Different Day in Jerusalem (celebrating Jerusalem’s diversity) and more. She asked participants to think of potential ideas that can be implemented in their own hometowns. They ranged from Facebook pages and Internet sites to TED talks and escape rooms. We’ll definitely be following to see how they turn out!

Michal - activism for tolerance in the public sphere

Michal – activism for tolerance in the public sphere

Aliza Shabo-Hayut, our Director of Community Dialogue, spoke, together with the Community Social Worker of the Gilo neighborhood, on how to use Facebook as a community-building tool. They described how, when done thoughtfully, complete and meaningful discussions can be held, and community decisions can even be made, through Facebook. They also presented a number of ethical issues encountered when using Facebook as a community-building tool – such as, when is it appropriate for a community professional to step into a discussion among residents? or, if much of the discussion takes place on the weekends, when the community professional isn’t working, is it her responsibility to be on line and, essentially, on the job?

Here’s the Facebook post (in Hebrew) about the conference:

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Join the Group, Like the Page – Building Community through Facebook and Other Social Media

In our day and age, the bricks and mortar of building community take many forms. One of the most important forms today is through Facebook and other social media.

During the month of July we held two workshops with the staff at the Gilo Community Council in using Facebook to build community dialogue. The workshop stemmed from our work over the last year with the neighborhood community worker and the local planner, and in our experiences using Facebook in the process.

Using Facebook as a tool for community building

Using Facebook as a tool for community building

The Gilo Community Council has a very active Facebook page and Facebook group with several thousand members that does a fantastic job in communicating a wealth of information (locating and taking care of nuisances, providing information, advancing small businesses, raising needs in different fields, requests to the Community Council lay and professional leadership to deal with burning issues, and more). There are a number of community-led groups as well; in many of them the community worker is an active member. Here’s an example of an event on the Community Council’s Facebook page:

Because we understood how much the use of Facebook is important in Gilo to the community discourse, we decided to use it to inform residents about the impending expansion of the light rail system into the neighborhood, and to create active discussion and involvement in this process. This work proved to be very effective and impressive. They opened a new Facebook group and uploaded all the relevant information. A number of community town hall meetings were set and advertised in the group, minutes were distributed and discussed in the group (residents expressed their opinions, asked questions and discussed different issues) between residents, as well as between residents and professionals. Here’s an example (in Hebrew) of one of their posts:

Light rail facebook

Light rail facebook

We learned a great deal as a result of this experience – the dilemmas raised, and the conclusions that we reached – and we concluded that it is important that everyone who works with the community should use this tool. Thus the community worker and JICC staff designed a 3-part workshop for all the staff at the Gilo Community Council: 1) a technical review that discusses the using different aspects of Facebook; 2) skills to use Facebook as a tool for dialogue; 3) ethical questions regarding Facebook and different solutions.

Practicing what they learned

Practicing what they learned

Throughout the month of July there were two meetings with the administrative and coordinating staff of the Gilo Community Council, which included the Director, who actively participated throughout the process. There will be another meeting in October.

We expect that these workshops will enable the staff and leadership of the Gilo Community Council to further engage the community in its important work. Of course, this is only one aspect of their community work….

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2016-08-26T14:34:47+00:00August 15th, 2016|Blog, Deliberative Democracy, Gilo|

Continuing to Develop Jerusalem Railway Park

We began our involvement in resident initiatives along the Jerusalem Railway Park more than two years ago, together with the Baka’a, Ginot Ha’Ir and Gonenim Community Councils and a number of local organizations and active residents. This was very soon after the entire length of the Park, which runs from the First Train Station near the city center south toward Malcha and out of the city, had opened.

Since then, the Railway Park has become one of the liveliest centers of activity in Jerusalem. Each month more initiatives are developed to enhance life in, on and along the park.  Some examples include: MusiKatamon:

MusiKatamon Festival in August 2014

MusiKatamon Festival in August 2014

Meeting Point: Under the Bridge (Meaning, under the overpass that leads from the Katamonim neighborhood to Beit Safafa.) Led by the Muslala Group, but included a broad range of local institutions:

Meeting Point: Under the Bridge, Spring 2015

Meeting Point: Under the Bridge, Spring 2015

Chalk Festival, also in 2015:

Chalk Art Festival April 2015

Chalk Art Festival April 2015

Reading Station, an old bus stop that had been re-configured with bookshelves. People drop off and take books freely. (The video is in Hebrew)

BaRakevet (both “At the train” and “Train Bar”) Community Cafe

We continue to accompany the leaders of these initiatives, many of which are resident-led. On April 5, we held a meeting for all those interested in developing new, and refining older, ideas and initiatives. There were some 20 active residents there, some who had initiated the idea of the park, some who are operating social initiatives in the park, some were residents who live along the park, and others were youth from the Telem Scouts movement, from all over the city.

Meeting to discuss resident initiatives

Meeting to discuss resident initiatives

At first we heard some updates of existing initiatives – BaRakavet, Reading Station, local treasure chests (places where people drop off unwanted items and pick up stuff for free). We also discussed several new initiatives – meetings with senior citizens, corner for petting and adopting pets, musical Kabbalat Shabbat at the Reading Station, jam sessions for Jews and Arabs, juggling and music at the Reading Station, a second-hand swap, and more.

Developing ideas, finding partners

Developing ideas, finding partners

Good luck to all the initiatives! We’ll keep you posted here on their development…

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Blue Line Blues – Public Discussion about New Light Rail Line in Gilo

We’ve talked before about planning light rail lines in Gilo. There’s going to be both the Green and the Blue lines there when the project is finally finished, so there are several processes taking place at the same time.

Learning about the blue line

Learning about the blue line

The Blue Line will run from Gilo to Ramot, and meet up with the Green Line, which will also run between Gilo and Mount Scopus. On March 21, some 20 residents, staff of the Gilo Community Council, staff from the transportation master plan, and the regional planner from the Municipality came together to discuss the new line, its planning principples, and to raise different concerns. Residents received all the relevant information and asked important questions. We were there to facilitate the process and help the Gilo Community Council staff.

Light rail illustration

Light rail illustration

This was the first meeting regarding the planning of the Blue Line, after we began the process of being involved in the Green Line.The first step in the Green Line process was submitting dozens of objections and requests for changes to the existing plan. Residents will be involved in all the steps along the way, until the Green and Blue lines are actually running, some 10 years from now. We’ll be ready to help the Community Council staff help them throughout the process.

Event poster

Event poster

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Just in Time for Springtime! Planning New Playgrounds in Gilo

Just in time for springtime – we’re helping residents and professionals plan more playgrounds.

After the outstanding success on Afarsimon St., we, together with the Gilo Community Council staff, began an additional public process of planning public playgrounds in Gilo. This time, it’s on Harduf St.

Meeting in Gilo

Meeting in Gilo

Unlike the first playground, this time the initiative for the playground came from a Gilo resident, who complained to the local city planner about the noise that was coming from a neighboring playground. This began a long process in which the planner went through the appropriate channels in the Municipality while the resident recruited additional community members willing to fix the playground. On March 21, 18 residents, half of them children, as well as the Gilo Community Council staff and the regional planner from the Municipality, began planning a new playground. Residents raised ideas and discussed their needs, and drew up and prioritized design principles. The children actively participated in the discussion, in a most productive and inspiring way.

List of design principles

List of design principles

Examples of some of the principles:

  • Appropriate for ages birth – 12
  • Landscaping appropriate for senior citizens
  • Planning that prevents crowds gathering
  • Multi-purpose equipment (e.g. one piece of equipment that includes ropes and swings and bridges, etc.)
  • Hourglass clock to time turns on the different equipment
  • Expanding the playground instead of passageways
  • Planting to enable shaded areas
  • Soft, environmentally-friendly pavement

The list will be sent to the Municipality and will form the basis for its planning. The next meeting will take place with residents and Municipality representatives in the playground in order to present a number of alternatives and to reach agreement on the best planning for the playground.

It was a fascinating and effective meeting, and we are proud to be assisting the Gilo Community Council staff and residents in this process. Next month – a similar process on Shamir St.


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