Why a Community Cleanup Operation is Such a Big Deal

Community clean up operations are always good – they show citizen involvement, a desire for the resident-on-the-street to make a noticeable different in his or her immediate surroundings, more pleasant environment. But sometimes, they represent much, much more.

Cleaning up, repairing stairs in Ras al-Amud

Cleaning up, repairing stairs in Ras al-Amud

The community clean-up that took place in Ras al-Amud in mid-May by students of the Boys Comprehensive Junior  / Senior High School, is one of those cases. For the first time, this community clean-up operation was organized and overseen by a newly-trained Parents Association.

Continuing to work

Continuing to work

Over the past year, we’ve been working, steadily and surely, with Parents Associations in Ras al-Amud and Silwan, as well as in Sur Baher. This work has included training on the rights and obligations of the Parents Association, on how to hold meetings and elect members, on potential work directions, and more. Slowly but surely, Parents Associations have been formed in 5-6 individual schools, plus central Parents Associations in each of the neighborhoods to coordinate efforts. Successes include:

  1. Organizing a graduation ceremony at a school in Ras al-Amud after the principal decided not to organize one.
  2. Organizing the community clean-up operation seen above
The stairs after. Well done!

The stairs after. Well done!

After the Ramadan holiday, all Parents Associations are already gearing up for the upcoming school year, creating lists of repairs that need to be made, setting out potential activities that can be organized and implemented, and more. May this be the beginning of fruitful partnership of the parents in East Jerusalem in their children’s education.

Many thanks to the Leichtag Foundation for its support of this program.





Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Qualifying Paramedical Professionals, Improving Health Care in East Jerusalem

Slowly but surely, we’re helping to improve health care, accessibility to health care, and paramedical professionals’ workers rights in East Jerusalem.

Yesterday we began a second course to train physical therapists to pass the Israeli Ministry of Health certification examination, which will take place in May 2016. This is part of our larger program to train recent graduates of paramedical professions to pass the Israeli Ministry of Health certification exams that we’ve been developing since 2012. Since the program began, we’ve helped some 70 nurses, occupational therapists, and physical therapists to pass their Israeli certification exams, when it would otherwise have taken many years to achieve these results.

This success has brought brought additional development – in light of the success in the first three fields. we were asked to develop courses for medical lab technicians and speech therapists. We’re in the process of doing so, and will be sure to provide updates here.

Physical therapists course

Physical therapists course

We have 20 physical therapists in the current course. Last time we were very successful – 6 passed, on a test that is considered very difficult even in the original Hebrew.  We wish them success, Bi-najah, Be-hatzlaha!

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation and the Hadassah Foundation for their support of this program.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Paramedical Professional Training Program – Now Physical Therapy

How sweet it is to see the fruits of your labors pay off, and to see a program expanding to fill critical needs. Thanks to assistance from the Hadassah Foundation and the Jerusalem Foundation (More recently the Leichtag Foundation has also joined us as a partner in this amazing program), this year we’ve expanded our training program for Palestinian graduates of paramedical professions to include students of physical therapy. One by one, we hope to develop courses for all paramedical professions, to enable graduates to pass the Israeli certification examinations, which are required to work legally in East Jerusalem.

We began the project last year, with seed funding from the Jerusalem Foundation (click here for links to posts one and two on the courses), and the results were fantastic – 26 of 39 nursing students passed the exam, and 8 of the 14 occupational therapy students passed the exam.

Nurses in the new course

Nurses in the new course

Given the dearth of paramedical professions across the board in East Jerusalem, our main goal was to develop courses in as many disciplines as possible. Our next discipline – physical therapy. Developing a course for physical therapy was more challenging than for nursing or occupational therapy, especially since there aren’t schools for physical therapy (like there are for occupational therapy and nursing) in Jerusalem. Working with an outside consultant and the Ministry of Health, we planned the curriculum. We gathered 16 participants for our pilot course. Weekly classes began at the beginning of June and will prepare participants for the exam that will be held in November 2013.

Another meeting of the nursing course

Another meeting of the nursing course

These 18 joined another group of 30 who began studying in March for the nursing exam that will take place in September. As for Occupational Therapy, we’ve just finished helping 4 people prepare independently for the June exam, and we’ll start a proper course in September, leading up to the December exam.
We wish all graduates and students the best of luck in their studies and exams.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Assisting Medical and Paramedical Professionals in Receiving Certification from the Israeli Ministry of Health – an update and congratulations!

This is a follow-up to a previous post on this issue. Over the last year, in cooperation with the Jerusalem Foundation and the Community Services Division of the Jerusalem Municipality, we’ve been working to solve the both sides of the same issue regarding health care in East Jerusalem. On the one hand there is a severe lack of personnel in all disciplines that is certified to work in East Jerusalem. On the other hand, there are hundreds of graduates of academic programs, from universities in the West Bank or Jordan, who are living in East Jerusalem but are not able to work in their fields (or are working ‘under the table’ in those fields and are not receiving full salaries or legal benefits), because they did not pass the requisite certification exams given by the Israeli Ministry of Health.

We began this journey exactly a year ago, when we began to explore the issue in two disciplines: occupational therapy and nursing. We learned that the Ministry of Health needs additional Arabic-speaking workers in these disciplines, especially in East Jerusalem. We also learned that only 1-2 nurses and occupational therapists passed the exam each year.

We learned that the first problem was language – the graduates’ Hebrew was not good enough to pass the Hebrew exam, and that the Arabic translation of the exam was a very poor one. Moreover, all of the graduates had studied in English in their universities. Thus, even though it wasn’t their mother tongue, they preferred to take the exam in English. We then learned that the occupational therapy exam had become available in English two years previously, solving this part of the problem for them. In nursing, for some reason East Jerusalem residents had not been allowed to take the exam in English. We then met with officials from the Ministry of Health, who rather easily, agreed to let them take the exam in English as well.

With one obstacle behind us, we discovered that the graduates did not have access to the necessary learning materials – their own universities were far away, and only Hebrew University students have access to materials there and at Hadassah. This was actually very easy to resolve – we bought the books, and the graduates came throughout the year to study in our offices.

And then we discovered that there are occupational therapy materials that are only in Hebrew – position papers of the Occupational Therapists Association, as well as laws, which the students must learn. We translated these position papers into English and donated them to the Association’s web site. (We also received thank-you letters from other students in Israel who used our translations…) The laws were too complicated for us to translate, so we found a successful lawyer from East Jerusalem, who agreed to study the laws and explain them to the students, thus enabling them to learn the information.

We made contact with the relevant schools of occupational therapy and nursing at Hadassah, and convinced them to join our adventure. We then held a preparatory course in English for some 15 graduates in occupational therapy. On the day of the exam, which was held in Tel Aviv, we rented a bus for the participants. We didn’t want to take any chances of them being held up at security checks at the central bus station in Jerusalem. The result: 6 passed and became certified occupational therapists! Those who didn’t pass will sit for the exam at the beginning of November, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for them.

In nursing, the story was much more complicated. The exam is very difficult, and the preparation requires thousands of practice multiple-choice questions on a number of subjects. The problem was that we didn’t have a reserve of questions that was suitable for the Israeli exam – Hadassah’s pool was entirely in Hebrew, and it would have been exceedingly expensive to translate them. Even proofing the translations would have taken forever. We dared to do something that many thought would not help – we used large question pools in English that are used for the American certification examinations (NCLEX-RN), which is different from the Israeli. At the end of each chapter, we gave the students a small number of questions in English, based on the Israeli exam. The assumption was that in the end it was the same ‘body’ of knowledge (with a number of differences in legal aspects and ethics and emergency room protocol and first aid), and even though the type of questions are different, this model helped. No doubt that we gambled on our unique approach – it turns out that no one remembers that there was ever a preparatory program for the Israeli nursing exam in English.

Before we began the nursing program, we gave a practice test to the participants and no one passed! That was our base point, quite frightening. During the course we gave another practice test in July, and 7 participants passed. A month later, 2 weeks before the official exam, we held another practice test and 12 passed. 12 new nurses in East Jerusalem, the number that usually passes in 8 years, is definitely an achievement, but we wanted more – there were 45 participants in the course! After the exam at the beginning of September, we waited and waited (it turns out that the Ministry of Health takes a month and a half to grade thousands of exams), and yesterday the results came in: 25 (twenty five) passed the nursing exam!!! More than 50% success rate! We are over the moon, I must admit. We really didn’t imagine in our wildest dreams that we would be so successful.

It is important to understand the significance of the success of the nursing program – a large part of the graduates have worked in East Jerusalem as nurses, but without certification, they could not legally perform many medical procedures. Many times they did those procedures anyway, because they had no choice, and without the enforcement of the Ministry of Health. Now, their status is different, and with justification – they learned so many essential things in the preparation program that were important to their work, regardless of the examination. By the way, their salaries are also supposed to jump significantly. So it is good for them, and it is good for the residents of East Jerusalem – who will receive better health care in the clinics and hospitals in East Jerusalem. If we continue this trend, the legitimacy for these institutions to employ uncertified nurses will decrease drastically.

What’s next? There are many things that must be done – continuing the same disciplines and creating a sustainable system of preparatory courses for certification, as well as entering into additional professions – physical therapy, speech therapy, and more. And maybe we’ll succeed in areas that aren’t in the field of health care? We’ll know in time.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tsur Baher – educational issues – February 24, 2009

To continue the community process around education in Tsur Baher, we had today a special meeting in the village. All relevant stakeholders were present – school principals, Ministry of Education inspectors and Municipality officials including the head of the Municipality Education Department and Pepe Alalo, Jerusalem Mayor Deputy who is responsible for Education in east Jerusalem. Mr. Alalo, who was elected in November, came to learn about the process and its potential outcomes. Also in attendance were formal representatives of Tsur baher village, and representatives of the JICC and the Jerusalem Foundation.

To be honest, we were disappointed with the meeting. We felt that even though many promises were made by the municipality last December, not much has been done since then. The excuses of some of the municipality and government officials made the impression that the commitment to make a sincere change in Tzur Baher is lacking. We all understood that the head of the municipality education department must make a considerable effort in order to recruit his staff into the process. Otherwise, our more than a year old pilot project will lead us nowhere.

It is our role at the JICC to facilitate such community dialogue processes. Regression is to be expected at some points during such initiatives. It is our duty to help the sides see when is the process at risk, and we did just that at the meeting, ensuring that meetings will be conducted in the coming days to find out how can we put this important process back to track.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tsur Baher – educational issues – December 1, 2008

To continue the community process around education in Tsur Baher, we held today another meeting at the office of the head of the municipality Education Department.

Yet this was a different meeting, where the Tsur Baher school principals were invited to present their schools, including facts and issues that can affect decision-making in the future. This was the first time that a group of municiapl officials and community residents sat together to listen to such comprehensive presentations.

The meeting lasted two hours. At its conclusion it was decided that the next meeting in January will be held in Tsur Baher and will focus on responses to the main issues raised in the presentations.

After a year-long process it seems at this point that some trust and common understanding is shared by the stakeholders of this process.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tsur Baher – educational issues – October 6, 2008

Short background: Mr. Fouad Abu-Khammed, a businessman who was on the JICC board for many years, is one of the main lay-leaders of Tsur Baher – a Palestinian/Arab village in South-East Jerusalem. The JICC helped Abu-Khammed in establishing a connection between the lay-leaders’ education committee that he heads in the village, and Jerusalem municipality high officials. As a result, a unique process for improving the education system in Tsur Baher has been instigated, and a project coordinator, Carol Kasbari, was hired especially for this task. With the help of the Jerusalem Foundation and the Municipality Education Department, results are being seen on the ground. The JICC played a significant role in creating an enabling setting for the inter-cultural talks between the sides, which in Jerusalem are so often linked to global politics. At this point, the JICC serves as a consultant to the process and as an inter-cultural problem solver.

Today, we held one of the monthly meetings at the office of the head of the municipality Education Department. Representatives of the Tsur Baher lay-leadership, the Jerusalem Foundation, the municipality, and of course ourselves, heard Carol’s report on the achievements to date. Following a year and a half of discussions, many of which dealing with issues of inter-cultural communication and conflicts, today’s meeting revealed growing tendency for partnership and for understanding of the shared mission. Although many current solutions focus on “low hanging fruits”, these are very important, for example investment in laboratories and in classroom assistance. The strategic plan will have to tackle issues such as quality of teaching, violence and discipline. The role of the principals in leading the process was emphasized, but it is important to note that one of the original challenges in Tsur Baher was the lack of trust between these principals and the residents (although some of the principals reside in the village).

In November we will hold another meeting, and we’ll be able to see whether the positive attitude is still sustained in this important process.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email