Larger Baka Community Council

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!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Baka’a Open Space Town Meeting

We’re back in Baka’a! We worked intensively with the Baka’a Community Council a few years ago, and more recently have focused on specific nearby projects and areas such as the Railway Park, Talpiot, Abu Tor. But we’ve come back home, helping the community council to hold a community town meeting using Open Space Technology to re-jump community initiatives.


Introduction to Open Space Technology

Introduction to Open Space Technology

There were about 30 residents – young and old, immigrants from the US and France, religious and secular, as well as a group of youth in wheelchairs from the “Step Forward” organization.

Working in small groups

Working in small groups

This meeting on March 2, 2016,  brought up 12 different initiatives: a group to accompany children walking to school; developing edible forests; activities for immigrant youth from France; mutual assistance in the neighborhood; wall gardening; development of groups to advance tolerance in the neighborhood, and more.

Capacity building is one of the most important aspects of our Deliberative Democracy work in Baka’a – both with the residents and with the professional staff as well. Our job is that of mentor, helping the staff help the residents help themselves. Stay tuned for more developments!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Lechayim! From the Future Site of Barrakevet Cooperative Community Cafe

Let’s raise a virtual lechayim, to the future permanent location of Barrakevet, a volunteer-led Cooperative Community Café, that will be located along the Railway Park.

Raising a virtual lechayim

Raising a virtual lechayim

Barrakevet is one of the initiatives that we’ve been mentoring as part of our Deliberative Democracy work with activists from the Katamon-Baka’a – Katamonim area along the Jerusalem Railway Park (See here and here for more), thanks to support from the UJA-Federation of New York. Thus far, they’ve set up shop out in the open, sometimes next to the bus-stop-cum-library called the Reading Station, sometimes other places, but always requiring good weather to operate.

Their ultimate goal is to obtain an old train car as a permanent home. One of the first steps in this process is finding a suitable location for this car, which was the goal of initiators’ recent tour together with municipal officials along the Park. Final locations are still being discussed, but it’s important that the dialogue continues.  They’re also discussing different models and partnerships for operation. Next step will be to get that car…

Near the Gonenim Park

Near the Gonenim Park


Below is a short movie that was made of the tour (in Hebrew) .

May we soon be toasting lechayim from the Barrakevet cafe!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Residents of South Talpiot – Taking Charge of their Future

Deliberative democracy means enabling all residents, regardless of socio-economic or ethnic background, to take part in changing their future. Such processes can take place in rich neighborhoods, poor neighborhoods, and everywhere in between. Over the past few years we’ve indeed run the gamut of neighborhoods – from Baka’a to Arnona to Gilo, Romema and Kiryat Hayovel. Now we’re concentrating on South Talpiot.

Community Meeting in South Talpiot

Community Meeting in South Talpiot

South Talpiot has a very interesting mix of populations. There are many veteran immigrants from Middle Eastern countries. There is a large contingent from Ethiopia (the Municipality built a special community house for the Ethiopian community a few years ago). There are those who are a bit better off who have moved into recently-built hi-rise apartments, and more. There are those who are recognized by the local welfare office and are used to receiving services. Very few are used to having a say in determining what kind of services they will receive. Very few are used to being active and having a voice in the future of their neighborhood.

Discussing specific initiatives

Discussing specific initiatives

We’re starting to change all that. On February 3, the Greater Baka’a Community Council, together with the local welfare municipality branch and with our assistance, held a first social entrepreneurship meeting in South Talpiot. We were nervous about how many people would come – in the end there were 80 of us! This included the entire spectrum of diversity of residents – the true meaning of what deep democracy processes are trying to accomplish.  And just as often happens in Open Space Technology meetings, the issues addressed – all pertaining to everyday life in the neighborhood – also ran the gamut – from physical and environmental development of the area, neighborhood approach to urban renewal, finding solutions to parking issues, activities for children, and much more!

A total of 11 initiatives were discussed, and we’ll be following up with them, together with the community social worker and other professional staff from the Greater Baka’a Community Council. Congratulations to all involved on a fabulous jump-start!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Toward a Cooperative Community Café on the Jerusalem Railway Park

How do you want to see your green open spaces? That was the question we raised when we first began working with residents from neighborhoods that line the Jerusalem Railway Park about eight months ago, at the beginning of March, thanks to the support of the UJA-Federation of New York. Using Open Space Technology, a number of initiatives were raised, which we continue to follow up on today.

One of the initiatives that has gained momentum has been a Cooperative Community Café . A Community Café would be planned and operated by residents, for residents, and residents will make all the decisions – regarding what kind of food / drink will be served and at what prices, when it will operate, and what kind of activities will take place there. The goal of the Community Café is to create an informal meeting point for residents in a pleasant and casual atmosphere. All proceeds from the sale of food and drink will be dedicated to the operation and development of the Café, and not for profits.

On September 28 we held a meeting for the leading team that seeks to establish the Community Café in the Jerusalem Railway Park. The goal was to review a number of different models from around Jerusalem and other cities in Israel, and determine what is best of the Railway Park. Below is the comparison of the different characteristics of the various models.

Railway Park Community Café

Railway Park Community Café

We distributed a number of tasks among team members before the next meeting, including finding an appropriate name. Any suggestions?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The JICC Calming the Waters in this Time of Crisis

garbage-cans-full1It’s been a difficult few weeks here in Jerusalem and in Israel in general. First the kidnapping and murder of 3 Jewish high school boys who had been studying in a yeshiva in the West Bank, then the kidnapping and murder of an Arab boy in Jerusalem, which sparked demonstrations in Jerusalem and even throughout Israel. And then missiles and air strikes and increased fighting.

Jerusalem Dome of the Rock

Jerusalem Dome of the Rock

We have been working to ease tension and conflict, and to promote civil engagement in Jerusalem’s future, since we were established in 1999. Thus, when tensions heightened and reached breaking points, we were there, trying to help residents re-gain order, first in their everyday lives, and then on a community and city-wide level.

Over the past few weeks we’ve played a key role in Jerusalem. We helped to spread a message of calm and a return to routine, through our broad network of contacts throughout the city.  In consultations with key figures we advised using a range of methods that successfully brought quiet to the streets relatively quickly. These consultations also returned routine services – garbage collection and sanitation, for example – back to the residents, reinforcing the feeling that everyone wished to get back to normal as quickly as possible.


It seems that these actions – and the influence of their messages – proved true in the field. Shuafat, the neighborhood where Muhammad Abu Khdeir (the Arab boy who was kidnapped and murdered) was from, became completely quiet during the day and incidents at night decreased quickly as well. Outbursts of violence and vandalism in different Arab neighborhoods were handled similarly, with similar calming results.

As soon as the military activity began in Gaza (July 6) and the missile attacks throughout Israel, including Jerusalem, we moved into a different mode of operation. We summoned the independent Emergency Readiness Networks that we helped to establish in East Jerusalem, which are a central component of the readiness of East Jerusalem in any emergency situation (from the snow storms in December 2013, to potential rocket fire like there is today) , and they continue to be on alert today. We are also helping many community councils in west Jerusalem that needed help in responding to the current crisis. For example, in the Greater Baka’a Community Council we helped to draft information and special messages of calm from the Community Council, which offered volunteer psycho-social professionals to help neighborhood residents. We advised other community councils regarding their responses to the situation as well.

In addition, because of our deep and extensive work in cultural competency in the health care system, we prepared special guidelines for health care workers for when social and political tensions are high, as they are now. In more normal times, hospitals and health care systems are often rare examples of coexistence and cooperation – between Jews and Arabs, religious, secular, ultra-orthodox (Haredi) Jews, etc. However, in times like now, when tension is palpable throughout the country, the situation inside hospitals and other health care institutions is affected as well. Indeed, in the past, there have been numerous instances of verbal and physical violence within hospitals, between patient and caregiver, between patients, and in rare cases, between caregivers. The guidelines help to delineate a professional response to prevent these situations and to deal with them quickly and effectively when they occur.

While today most of the attention is not on Jerusalem, we continue to work hard to maintain an everyday routine – and quiet. Under the circumstances it has become a state of “Emergency – Routine”. Much of the work continues to rely on the MiniActive and Emergency Readiness networks. The Emergency Readiness Networks continue to be on alert, ready to spring into action if necessary. The MiniActive groups continue, especially now, to contact service providers and report problems and demand repairs and improvements, which are able to take place because of the relative calm in the city. A lot of the work is being in contact with as much of the network as possible; the situation is not easy for any Jerusalem resident. Both Jews and Arabs are feeling the polarization and tension in the air.

Let’s hope for better times to come, soon.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

‘The Railway Park Is in Our Hands’ – Continued

We reported before about the exciting developments that we’re leading, thanks to the support of the UJA-Federation of New York, together with the Community Councils of Greater Baka’a, Gonenim and Ginot Ha’Ir. Now, almost three months later, we held a follow-up meeting, to see what progress has been made on the various projects that were discussed.

21 May Railway Park

21 May 2014 Railway Park Meeting

This time there were about 20 participants, all those and more who committed to advance different projects on the Railway Park that runs from the First Station near Liberty Bell Park to Teddy Stadium. Participants discussed projects such as:

Other ideas that were raised include:

  • A cooperative Cafe, similar to the Bar-Kayma in Tel Aviv
  • Establishing an Internet site for the Park
  • Live music
  • Communal painting drives

“What was noticeable was the creativity that rose out of a group of very different people, who all love the park,” said our own Na’ama Afek-Barzilay. “There were people there who had not been able to come to the first meeting. There were people there who told that they had moved into the area because of the park. The important take-away from this is that the future of these initiatives in the park really are in the hands of residents. The community professionals will lend their assistance, but their success is based on the residents.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

First Time in Jerusalem – Participatory Urban Planning in Talpiot/ Arnona

We began working with the Greater Baka’a Community Council, and particularly the area of Talpiot / Arnona, as part of our Deliberative Democracy Program that is supported by the UJA – Federation of New York, some two years ago. We first began with task teams, several groups which worked on specific issues. Response to this renewed community activity was so enthusiastic it inspired residents to band together with a range of local organizations to produce a 90th birthday celebration for Arnona last year.

Participants in Talpiot-Arnona Vision

Participants in Talpiot-Arnona Vision

This year we are entering into a new stage of community development in Talpiot / Arnona. It goes far beyond the very welcome social initiatives to build social solidarity that we sparked last year, and it reaches into the realm of real tachlis, practical planning that will show real results on-the-ground. The Talpiot / Arnona area was slated to receive a new master plan, and the area was chosen to be a citywide pilot of including residents in building a community vision, and contributing in a tangible way to how their neighborhood is going to look in the future. This is the first time where residents’ visions will turn into planning principles, which will then be translated to a master plan, which will provide guidelines for how the neighborhood will look and operate for the next 20 years!

Idea Board

Idea Board

Our first meeting was held on March 26, 2014. It included some 40 residents, community professionals and municipal officials. It was mostly a brainstorming session, one in which all wishes and needs were put on paper, to be revised and refined as the process continues. Vision statements ranged from a desire for cooperation and collaboration among all groups in the neighborhood – religious, secular, etc. – to grow social-cultural programming to increase a feeling of community solidarity in the neighborhood; to a desire for community public buildings to hold activities; to efficient responses to transportation; to making the neighborhood a green neighborhood; to preserving the quiet nature of the neighborhood to improving the safety of the neighborhood, and more. All of these statements will guide the professional city planners when they plan out the future infrastructure for the neighborhood.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
2014-05-09T18:58:34+00:00March 29th, 2014|Blog, Deliberative Democracy, Larger Baka Community Council|

Social Entrepreneurship on the Jerusalem Railway Park: Deliberative Democracy at its Best

How do you want to see your neighborhood, your city? And what can you do to get there? Often, in our everyday routines, especially after watching / reading / listening to the news, it is difficult to see how we can have an influence. The JICC’s Deliberative Democracy program seeks to change that.

Over the past few years, with assistance from the UJA-Federation of New York, we’ve been working intensively with a number of community councils to help residents influence and improve – and take responsibility for and ownership of – their neighborhoods, and their city.

As a result of our successful work in individual communities, we were asked to lead a larger process led by three community councils in the southern part of the city – Ginot Ha’ir, Baka’a, and Gonenim. The mission – enabling residents in neighborhoods that include the new Jerusalem Railway Park to fully enjoy and take ownership of this new pearl on the Jerusalem landscape. Here’s the flyer that was posted all over the Internet and social media:

The story of the Railway Park itself is one of social activism (more about it here and here). The park runs along the section of the old Ottoman-era Jaffa-Jerusalem rail line, and includes the neighborhoods of German Colony, Baka’a, the Talpiot Industrial Zone, Katamonim and Beit Safafa, ending at Malcha’s Teddy Stadium and the new train station that is in use today. After being cancelled in 1998 the tracks fell into disrepair, and had become an eyesore and garbage dump. Several years ago a group of environmentally-conscious residents, community activists and architects, successfully lobbied to turn this area into a massive urban park instead. After intense lobbying, this plan was accepted by local and national planning authorities. After several years of construction and support by the Jerusalem Municipality, the entire length of the park is just being completed.

With such deep roots in the community, it is only natural that the next step, injecting community activities and responsibility, along the course of the park, would involve the community as well. On March 5, we held a town meeting for residents from all communities that border the Jerusalem Railway Park. In all there were some 50 people, coming from the northern to the southern tips of the Park. All came to discuss events, initiatives and characteristics that they wish to see in the Park.

We used Open Space Technology for this event, which enables participants to raise and choose the issues they are passionate about, and work to advance them. Residents broke up into a number of groups. They ranged from a music festival, to a Purim parade, to growing edible plants along the Park, to Jewish-Arab relations to security and cleanliness. All groups are now forming plans of action of the different initiatives in order to bring them to fruition. The evening was so successful that we got this thank you from the different Community Councils:

Thanks to JICC Mesila-page0001

Print Friendly, PDF & Email