Effective Activism

MiniActive – A Tale of Two (Former Makeshift) Garbage Dumps

They were smelly times, and they were actually quite dangerous times. Garbage overflowed in huge garbage receptacles and in empty lots throughout East Jerusalem, but they were rarely emptied.  Garbage kept piling up, especially in Kufr Aqeb, and it became a public health hazard. Sometimes, residents burned the trash, just to get rid of it. But that, too, was a public safety and health hazard.

A really horrible sight

A really horrible sight

Until one day, after MiniActive’s almost 2-year ‘We Won’t Live in Filth!‘ campaign, municipal trucks came and emptied the receptacle. And many were happy – for a minute.

 

Until they saw what the garbage trucks had left behind…….A whole lot of garbage, probably enough to fill another truck. And then it became a public health AND safety hazard, as residents started to burn the garbage in an attempt to get rid of it.

 

We called the attention of this ugly sight to city council members and a deputy mayor through the 0202-A View from East Jerusalem Facebook page, and they promised to take care of it. Indeed, a few days later, it was cleared up. Here’s the tractor that was brought in:

Tractors worked hard to clean up

Tractors worked hard to clean up

Congratulations MiniActive! Good job 0202! Here’s the post from the 0202 English page summing up the incident:

 

And in a second achievement, another public health hazard was cleared away this past week in Wadi Joz, also the result of both MiniActive’s campaign. Our director, Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir, told the back story in a Facebook post:

Some time 20 years ago, someone did work with large sewer pipes in Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem. It might have been the East Jerusalem Development Corporation, it might have been the Gichon (or what was before the Gichon, can’t remember exactly when the Gichon was formed). The contractor, who did the public works, just left broken or extra pipes, each of them 2 meters in diameter, in an empty field, and left, together with more building waste from work that had been done. There was no oversight on him.

An empty field with building waste is a great way to attract more building waste, or just plain waste, isn’t it kind of like a garbage can? And in this way, the situation in this field kept getting worse and worse, and the field became a serious safety and health hazard.

Three years ago, some residents had had enough and began to ask that the field be cleaned up. It’s private land, but there’s no doubt that most of the waste was left there from public works. At one point, our MiniActive volunteers in the area took it upon themselves to get the field cleaned up. They turned to the Gichon, who were very polite and explained that it wasn’t them, it was the East Jerusalem Development Corporation. The East Jerusalem Development Corporation said that they have no records from 20 years ago….After the MiniActive volunteers met with everyone, they sat down and wrote a letter to the Jerusalem Municipality, which said something to the effect of, “Look – we weren’t able to find out who’s directly responsible, but at the end of the day it’s Jerusalem – please take responsibility as the Municipality. Research, examine, demand – whatever you think fit – the main thing is that this hazard – which is also a serious safety hazard – is taken care of.”

The Municipality – from the regional cluster director to the Director General’s office – worked very hard to find solutions. And on July 12, there suddenly appeared heavy equipment that came to take the building waste away.

The area, after cleanup

The area, after cleanup

Hats off to MiniActive for another impressive achievement! Hats off to the Jerusalem Municipality for taking responsibility. Here’s a video of the newly-cleaned area:

 

Here’s Hagai’s Facebook post (in Hebrew):

 

And here’s the explanation of the event that was posted on 0202-A View from East Jerusalem:

 

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

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2017-07-30T12:26:59+00:00 July 15th, 2017|Blog, Effective Activism, MiniActive, Palestinians/Arabs|

Jerusalemite Day – Connecting Us To One Another / Celebrating the Diversity of the City

Jerusalem Day, the 28th of the Hebrew month of Iyar. That day in 1967 that the Israel Defense Forces captured the Old City. Some called it “reunification.” Others called in “occupation.” In all cases, it is etched in the hearts and minds of millions around the world.

For many years thousands descended upon Jerusalem on the 28th of Iyar in celebration of an ideal. But where were the Jerusalemites in these celebrations? Many did not leave their houses. Or they left the city for the day.

Many building blocks to Jerusalemite Day

Many building blocks to Jerusalemite Day

Starting last year, we, together with hundreds of activists and tens of thousands of Jerusalem residents, began to re-claim Jerusalem Day, with a true celebration of Jerusalem and its residents, of every race, ethnic group, religion and community. Our vision sought to create a day to celebrate Jerusalem – of Jerusalemites, by Jerusalemites and for Jerusalemites. Last year, 50 initiatives and thousands of people showed us that such an initiative was answering a real need in many residents hearts and minds. We had started a tradition in one single year. There was already talk of “what we’re going to do next year” before the sun set on A Different Day in Jerusalem 2016.

Our Director, Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir, talked about this in the May 19 edition of the Jerusalem Post’s In Jerusalem section:

Jerusalem Post, In Jerusalem

Jerusalem Post, In Jerusalem

“This is our second year, which is really great. Last year people thought we were crazy, but now we have made it clear that it is the right thing to do.”

You can download a .pdf version here.

And then we we came to 2017. This year we called the day, Jerusalemite Day of Diversity.

Here’s a 2-minute video about some of the day’s 80 events:

Here’s a version in Hebrew/Arabic as well. There is also a dedicated web site with all the events, and here’s a complete list of  the events in English.

This year was even more complicated than last, being 50 years since the 1967 war.  One of the most often-used phrases  this year has been: “ירושלים – עיר שחוברה לה יחדיו – Jerusalem – A city that has been joined together” – (Psalms 122: 3)

Many use this phrase in the political sense, describing the reunification of Jerusalem. This year, we emphasized a different, non-political reading of the Hebrew verb, לחבר – lechaber, which encapsulates in one word our vision for Jerusalemite Day of Diversity.

Connecting through knitting in the Katamonim

Connecting through knitting in the Katamonim

In addition to ‘join together,’ lechaber also means ‘to connect.’  This is exactly what we are trying to do in Jerusalemite Day of Diversity.  In this Times of Israel blog post, Michal Shilor, our Coordinator for the Campaign for Grassroots Tolerance, wrote:

“we seek to connect residents to each other – neighbor to neighbor, community to community, people to people. When we connect to one another, we find common ground, argue about differences and see one another as individuals and not representatives of an entire community.”

As in most successful initiatives, Jerusalemite Day of Diversity wasn’t born in a day. In February we sent out a call for initiatives, asking residents to propose activities / initiatives / ideas for Jerusalemite Day, and in March we had our first Open Technology meeting for planning. Since then, we’ve been working with dozens and dozens of activists, helping them to plan, produce, and carry out their initiatives. Itamar Farhi, a Jerusalem storyteller who organized an evening of storytelling at the Shutaf Cooperative, noted that

What makes me love Jerusalem more than anything else is its variety and its contradictions, which are interwoven together, Arabs Haredim, secular, religious Jews, Muslims, Christians, people from all ethnicities and of all types. Together they create a special shatnes [mixture]. Sometimes it’s complicated and disheartening, but sometimes, it creates magical and special moments like yesterday [at the story telling evening].

Our job was to spark and mentor the passion of activists, spotlight and showcase their activities, and re-frame the whole to make one beautiful celebration of Jerusalem and its spectrum of residents. And the vast range of activities throughout the Day sought to do just this. You could choose from playing sports, such as soccer with Jewish and Arab girls in Hapoel Katamon’s Neighborhood League Tournament,

Religious and secular, Jewish and Arab girls playing soccer

Religious and secular, Jewish and Arab girls playing soccer

and martial arts on the midrachov (Ben Yehuda St. In west Jerusalem’s city center) with Mosaica,

All passersby welcome to learn ju jiistu

All passersby welcome to learn ju jiistu with “Mosaica”

To tours of Jerusalem’s urban centers in both East and West Jerusalem with Ir Amim,

With Eran Tzidkiyahu and Ir Amim

With Eran Tzidkiyahu and Ir Amim

of Mount Zion as a symbol for the complexities of Jerusalem with Window to Mount Zion,

With our very own Window to Mt Zion

With our very own Window to Mt Zion project

on the seam line between Haredi and non-Haredi Jerusalem by Tarbus,

Between Haredi and non-Haredi Jerusalem

Focusing on Nahlaot, Jaffa Road, Mekor Baruch

of the National Library

"City of Dreams" Exhibit at the National Library

“City of Dreams” Exhibit at the National Library

and of Jerusalem from the viewpoint of African refugees and asylum seekers, by members of the Jerusalem African Community Center.

By the Jerusalem African Community Center

With active residents from the Jerusalem African Community Center

You could also choose to see performances. There was Bat Hur at Beit Hansen,

Bat Hur at Beit Hanson

Bat Hur at Beit Hansen

Beit Alliance,

"Heroes" by religious male dance troupe, Between Heaven and Earth

“Heroes” by religious male dance troupe, Between Heaven and Earth

the Abraham Hostel,

Souls (Nefashot) – Coping through Art

Souls (Nefashot) – Coping through Art

The Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem (Click here to go to the project’s web site),

50 Years 50 Faces Project

50 Years 50 Faces Project, 50 short films about Jerusalemites

Wandering Around the House, on roofs in the Old City

Wandering around the House

Wandering around the House, short play in which a Palestinian man and a Jewish woman choose to take an open place and claim it as their house

at the Museum of Italian Jewry,

Staged Reading of ‘Everything Private,’ play based on meeting minutes of the Barashi synagogue’s board in Nahlaot

Staged Reading of ‘Everything Private,’ play based on meeting minutes of the Barashi synagogue’s board in Nahlaot

And the First Station.

My Heart is in the East – Jerusalem in the Eyes of North African Liturgy

My Heart is in the East – Jerusalem in the Eyes of North African Liturgy

There was also a movie marathon at the Ma’ale School of Television, Film and the Arts.

Student films that dealt with and take place in Jerusalem, covering the entire spectrum of lifestyles

Student films that dealt with and take place in Jerusalem, covering the entire spectrum of lifestyles

There were also a number of lectures and discussions, including discussions with Haredim, new Harediam and the formerly religious,

Israelis of Ethiopian descent, describing their sometimes arduous aliyah stories,

To discussions about Jerusalem

Holiness and Politics: Jerusalem of Three Religions – A panel by the Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue (Formerly JCRC)

Holiness and Politics: Jerusalem of Three Religions – A panel by the Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue (Formerly JCRC)

And of course we can’t leave out the major events in the public sphere. The Jerusalemite Parade, with 3,000 marchers along the Jerusalem Railway Park, was one of the major events.

All Jerusalemites marching along the Jerusalem Railway Park

All Jerusalemites marching along the Jerusalem Railway Park

Along the way, marchers were invited to design cookies that represented their Jerusalem, a tolerant Jerusalem:

Cookie decorated with, "Everyday Jerusalem," produced by Jerusalem Cake Design

Cookie decorated with, “Everyday Jerusalem,” produced by Jerusalem Cake Design

In parallel, cookie and cake designers from all over the world were invited to design cookies for Jerusalemite Day, in an initiative called, “Let’s Bake a Difference.” Here’s an example from a decorator from Malaysia:

"With the support of peace, respect, hope, gratitude and loves bloom the flower of tolerance in Jerusalem," commented the artist

“With the support of peace, respect, hope, gratitude and loves bloom the flower of tolerance in Jerusalem,” the artist wrote

Afterward, participants were invited to take part in the Believers festival at the First Station.

Believers – An evening of inter-religious prayer and listening circles, on listening and the Holy City, with Kehillat Zion, Marsh Dondurma, Tahrir Eastern Bar and the Yerushalmim Movement, and Arab and secular and Haredi Jewish leaders.

An evening of inter-religious prayer and listening circles, on listening and the Holy City, and Arab and secular and Haredi Jewish leaders.

Nearby, residents of the Katamonim neighborhood celebrated their Jerusalem-ness with workshops on knitting, kubbeh-making, songs and dances, and much more.

Making kubbeh with Hannah

Making kubbeh with Hannah

In town, there was of course the 200-strong Flower Parade organized by Tag Meir, that distributed flowers to the Palestinian residents of the Old City, before the Flag Parade.

Gathering with flowers before going into the Old City

Gathering with flowers before going into the Old City

At the light rail station at Safra Square, the Ruach Nachon pre-Army Preparatory Program operated the Tolerance Stop, which greeted passersby with music and activity to demonstrate the necessity of working together.

Working together, building Jerusalem

Working together, building Jerusalem

Further on down the light rail, at Davidka Square, we, together with the Citypass company (that runs the light rail) and Lego, ran a station that invited passersby to build their Jerusalem out of Lego. (There were even specially-painted gold Lego pieces to build Jerusalem of Gold!)

Diverse Jerusalemites building Jerusalem from lego

Diverse Jerusalemites building Jerusalem from lego

People built the Calatrava Bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem

Do you know how many times this fell apart before it worked?

Do you know how many times this fell apart before it worked?

A mosque

Building all parts of Jerusalem

Building all parts of Jerusalem

And even “Jerusalem” in Chinese! (this has been checked for accuracy with a fluent Chinese-speaker)

Jerusalem in Chinese

Jerusalem in Chinese

Nearby at the Alliance Building there were more celebrations with the Jerusalem for All of Us festival, which featured a stage for Jerusalemite performers, a panel on Jerusalem entrepreneurship, stands selling art, art installations and a poetry slam.

Jerusalem for All of Us

Jerusalem for All of Us

Close to the Ben Yehuda midrechov, Shir Ezra, working independently, wrote questions about Jerusalem on a large white sheet, such as: Is Jerusalem open? Is it tolerant? Does it represent us all? She invited passersby to write their answers, also on the sheet. She reported that many interesting discussions arose from this activity.

Is Jerusalem reunited? Tolerant? Open?

Is Jerusalem reunited? Tolerant? Open?

And in the Haredi neighborhood of Mekor Baruch, graffiti artist Salomon Souza led Haredi boys and girls in decorating the walls of their neighborhood, with a number of onlookers.

Organized by the Artists Shelter that works in the area

Organized by the Art Shelter Gallery that works in the area

After all those pictures, here’s the 2 minutes video again:

The event was also covered in the press. In addition to the Jerusalem Post article above, there were a number of articles in the Hebrew Israeli press before and after the event. This included a mention in the May 17 edition of the national  Ha’aretz daily newspaper, in both its Internet and print versions. Here’s a picture of the print article. You can download the .PDF version here.

First page, Ha'aretz Article

Ha’aretz Article, “A New Agenda for Jerusalem Day”

And here’s the second page:

Second Page, Ha'aretz article

Second Page, Ha’aretz article

This article quotes JICC Director, Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir:

The point is that Jerusalemites are saying that they want to take back the day for themselves. I’m a Jerusalemite, what does this discussion about moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem have to do with me? We don’t want to argue about whether we re-unified or occupied. We want to celebrate the diversity of the city.

On May 18, we appeared in Globes, a major national financial newspaper:

Globes article

Globes article

 

In addition, Michal Shilor was interviewed in Hebrew on the national Galei Zahal radio station on May 22, (minute 5.30).

Hagai was also interviewed (in Hebrew) on the national Educational Television station:

There were also stories in the local Hebrew-language Jerusalem news site about the Lego initiative and the wall art. In addition, Eetta Prince-Gibson wrote about us in her opinion piece for Moment magazine, “It’s Hard to Celebrate on Jerusalem Day.”

Over 80 initiatives, tens of thousands of people, celebrating Jerusalem’s diversity. Can’t wait for next year!

Many thanks to the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation for their support of this and other activities that promote tolerance throughout the year. And a huge thanks to all the organizations, initiatives, activists and participants who took part! Thank you for helping to make Jerusalem a city that represents all Jerusalemites.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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MiniActive Women Leading Ramadan Food Drive

MiniActive never stops. Not even for the month-long Ramadan holiday. During this time, which commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, many Muslims fast during the day and eat before dawn and after sunset. It is considered a festive month, so although Muslims do not eat during the day, much time, effort and food are invested in preparing the nightly evening meals, (or Iftar).

Food ready to be divided up

Food ready to be divided up as part of a MiniActive food distribution project

Given the severe socio-economic standing of most Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem – some 80% live beneath the poverty line – the month of Ramadan can often be a difficult financial burden. In response to this difficulty, the MiniActive network ran a Ramadan food drive for 100 needy families during the first week of June. MiniActive women not only led the drive, they were the ones who donated and collected the foodstuffs. Afterward, the MiniActive staff prepared and distributed the packages.

Baked goods waiting to be distributed

Baked goods waiting to be distributed

Foodstuffs were distributed through baskets and re-usable shopping bags. Packages included staples such as flour, salt, sugar, rice and oil and pasta, canned goods as well as other goodies, that will make their Iftar meals festive occasions.

Food packages ready to go

Food packages ready to go

Ramadan Kareem!

Here’s 0202’s English translation of the original Facebook post:

And here’s the original Facebook post in Arabic:

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

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MiniActive – Continuing to Go International

Do you know where Brno is? Did you know that Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic (pop. 380,000) with a considerable population of Roma (est. 15,000 – 17,000), most of whom live in abject poverty?

City of Brno

City of Brno

We reported here about a delegation from an organization from Brno, Czech Republic, who work with the Roma (gypsy) population there, who came to Jerusalem to learn about MiniActive.

In April, Intisar, director of the MiniActive program, and Daud, director of the Atta’a Center, traveled to Brno to provide workshops and hands-on learning to representatives of the IQ Roma organization, one of the largest organizations that works with the Roma population in Brno.

The IQ Roma building in Brno

The IQ Roma building in Brno

It was quite an intensive, 3-day trip. The IQ Roma organization has been working with the Brno Municipality for the past 12 years, includes a rights department, a welfare department and a child care / development center. Intisar  met with professionals, activists and residents. She learned about the Roma population through these meetings, as well as through a trip to the Museum of Romani Culture, which is housed in Brno. She toured the houses and apartment buildings where the Roma population lives (mainly public housing). She answered questions – lots of questions – about the process of the MiniActive program, about challenges, personal and professional, that she encountered, about achievements that they’ve accomplished.

Meeting with residents

Meeting with residents

Through these visits, Intisar learned about the similarities and differences between the Roma population of Brno and the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem. They both feel that they are suffering both because of the government actions (or lack thereof) and because of the actions of individuals in their own communities. Both populations have high rates of poverty. However, in contrast to the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem, the Roma population does not have a sense of belonging to Brno or the Czech Republic, nor is education for their children a high priority.

Presenting MiniActive

Presenting MiniActive

The latter part of her visit was dedicated to exploring if and how principles learned through MiniActive can be applied in Brno. This included meetings with the person in charge of dealing with the Roma population in Brno and his staff, none of whom were Roma themselves. One of the first recommendations (that was accepted) was to hire a member of the Roma community, to be able to better understand their needs on the ground.

Presenting even in IQ Roma's in-house cafe

Presenting even in IQ Roma’s in-house cafe

Intisar also became part of municipal policy planning for the Roma community. Most of the Roma receive welfare payments, but are required to do 20 monthly hours of community service in order to qualify. She, together with the municipal staff, began planning a program that would include cleaning public areas as part of the required community service. It is hoped that by starting with small steps and the satisfaction of seeing results quickly, will spurn further action and hope for the future.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support of the MiniActive and the Atta’a Center programs.

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The Little Prince – Rolling Up Our Sleeves

We all have our differences but one thing that unites us – Arabs, religious, secular and Haredi Jews – is garbage. After years of working in the neighborhoods and speaking with residents from all populations about what they want to change, one thing always comes up – and it’s garbage. Inspired by the successes of our MiniActive project and its ‘We won’t live in filth!’ campaign, the Little Prince project seeks to help all communities in Jerusalem deal with their garbage.

150 people talking garbage

150 people talking garbage

An initial meeting was held in March at our offices on Mount Zion, which set the tone for this unique project. A true mix of the Jerusalem population – 1/3 Arabs, 1/3 secular/ religious Jews, 1/3 Ultra-Orthodox Jews – came to draw the broad strokes of the project.

Discussing ways to take care of garbage - together as well as separately

Discussing ways to take care of garbage – together as well as separately

On Wednesday, May 3, we rolled up our sleeves, and got down to work.

150 people came – 150 people who care about garbage! This included deputy mayors, the Haredi Deputy Mayor who is in charge of sanitation, the professional director of the municipal sanitation department, a number of members of city council, both from the coalition and from the opposition, lay leadership from a range of community centers, active residents, and more. Indeed, since the meeting they’ve been true to their word, helping us to help residents take care of our garbage.

Including Deputy Mayors and City Council Members

Including Deputy Mayors and City Council Members

“I’m participating this evening…in an amazing initiative of the Jerusalem Intercultural Center,” wrote Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkovich. “Those who dream of making a change in the field of clean streets in Jerusalem.” Here’s his Facebook post (Hebrew):

Yael Yechieli, Director of Jewish Pluralism programs at Shatil, happened to be in the Beit Alliance building, lecturing another group about activism. “I was telling them that the first condition for activism is when something gets you mad. The second condition is that other people tell you that you have no chance of succeeding and you ignore them. Then I remembered about the meeting and went downstairs to see more than 100 people, who had gotten mad about dirty streets, and who had been told that there’s no chance they’d succeed. What a wonderful coincidence.”

Here’s her Facebook post (in Hebrew):

This project is unique in that, on the one hand, it encourages different populations to work together. On the other hand, much of the work is done within individual communities. The initiatives are as diverse as Jerusalem’s populations – there are those aimed at individuals, those aimed at neighborhoods, those aimed for implementation citywide. There are those that deal with specific aspects of keeping the city clean (signs, garbage cans), and there are those that are more general (developing an interactive app). Each participant can choose whether he or she wants to work with the ‘other,’ solely advance his or her community, or do both. The true beneficiary – all Jerusalemites. Here are some examples of projects that are being advanced:

  • Connecting – connecting residents with municipal workers through creating a mobile app that will connect and update all factors involved – municipal departments, residents,
  • “Two Pieces of Garbage” campaign – a public awareness campaign to encourage each resident to pick up at least two pieces of garbage a day
  • Adopt a street
  • Adaptation of street cleaning according to special needs in East Jerusalem
  • Our Signs – ensuring that public signage is clean and free from defacing
  • Twinning neighborhoods – enabling two neighborhoods that are similar in character to plan and brainstorm together
  • Clean Neighborhood Committees in individual communities
  • Adopting public sites by local schools
  • Public awareness campaign, “Leave it the way you found it,” on returning garbage cans to their place, with the lids down
  • Increasing reports to 106 municipal hotline
  • Community cleaning events
  • Increasing recycling

Keep updated here for more updates on this amazing program.

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MiniActive Hebrew Courses End another Successful Year

In today’s Jerusalem reality, to get things done – at the Municipality, at the water, telephone or electric companies – you need to know Hebrew.

Learning Hebrew as a tool for communication

Learning Hebrew as a tool for communication

Last year, as part of MiniActive’s efforts to provide professional development to its participants, and in order to improve the women’s effectiveness, they began participating in weekly Hebrew courses, offered by Speaking Hebrew, which takes place at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Last year 150 women and teenagers took part. This year, over 200 studied Hebrew from MiniActive!

In class

In class

Last week, they held a year-end party for 300 participants and their families, volunteer teachers, and everyone involved in the program.

Graduation ceremony at Hebrew University

Graduation ceremony at Hebrew University

There were congratulatory speeches.

MiniActive Director, Intisar, speaking at graduation

MiniActive Director, Intisar, speaking at graduation

Graduation certificates were distributed.

Very proud of their accomplishments

Very proud of their accomplishments

And the women shared the fantastic food that they’d prepared for the party.

Fitting finale to a fantastic year

Fitting finale to a fantastic year

The women told of how fun it was to learn in the classes – not the standard frontal lessons, but also games and other interactive methods.

The first of many steps to Hebrew fluency

The first of many steps to Hebrew fluency

See you next year!

Here’s the Facebook post (in Arabic):

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support for this project.

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Gearing Up for Jerusalemite Day

What is your Jerusalem? Who is your Jerusalemite?

This year May 23 and 24 are the days to think about Jerusalem and connect to it. This year, there are dozens and dozens of ways to do it.

Building on last year’s success of A Different Day in Jerusalem, this year we call it: Jerusalemite Day: A Day of the Other.

Jerusalemite Day: Day of the Other

Jerusalemite Day: Day of the Other

How do you want to connect to Jerusalem and its diversity? With tours of the Jewish-Arab seam line, the secular – Haredi seam line? Or Mount Zion, the only site that is holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians? Or Jerusalem according to asylum seekers? Commemorating those who perished in the treacherous journey from Ethiopia to Israel? Along the Jerusalem Railway Park or on the Light Rail? At a Kurdish hafla in the Katamonim or a parade on Azza St.?

Right now we have a list of some 70 events. And the list keeps getting longer and longer and longer. See here for the event on Facebook and here for the web site, which is constantly being updated.

Many thanks to the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation for their support of this program!

And here’s the entire list, updated as of 21.5.17. You can download an English list of events in PDF here:

Tuesday, May 23

15:30 – Hapoel Katamon Neighborhood League  – Year-End Girls Soccer tournament that will include 12 girls soccer teams in grades 4 – 6 from throughout Jerusalem including all sectors – religious, secular, Arab. At the Keshet Sports Field.

15:30 – From Zion Square to Sallah a-DinA Walking Tour of Jerusalem’s Urban Centers.’ A tour that examines connecting and conflict points between the Israeli and Palestinian centers of life in Jerusalem, guided by Eran Tzidkiyahu. Organized by the Ir Amim organization.

16:00  – Weaving – Macrame Workshop with Yaffi Ronen. At the Reading Station, Masryk St.

16:00 Jerusalem: An Ethnic Mosaic: Secular, Religious, Ultra-Orthodox, Arab. Presented by 4 female citizens of the city. Moderated by Daniel Goldman, Chairman of Gesher. Jerusalem Ramada Hotel.

17:00 – Tour of the Interfaith Music Conservatory with Father Alberto. We’ll meet at Damascus Gate and walk together to the conservatory that is within the St. Saviour monastery, which is adjacent to the New Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem.

17:45 Weaving – Macrame Workshop with Yaffi Ronen. At the Reading Station in Mekor Haim.

18:00 – 20:00  – Wandering around the House – A short play in which a Palestinian man and an Israeli woman choose to take an open place and claim it as their house. Come discover what happens afterwards, in a show that expresses the power dynamics of nationality and gender. This event is in English.

18:00 – Curator’s tour of a special exhibit at the Museum on the Seam. The exhibit seeks to examine secular Jewish artists and the influence of Jewish values on them and their art, at the same time looking outward at a new phenomenon of religious artists who draw inspiration from their beliefs and who engage it in a complex dialogue. The exhibit examines the connection between art and faith, both of which deal with the human acknowledgement of the revelation and the need to express it. Cost of the tour: 20 NIS. Pre-registration required.

19:00 – Bat Hur – voices and shadows echo the story of a daughter and mother who were trapped between the walls of Beit Hanson, Jerusalem’s leper colony. Two languages, two actresses, a choir and hidden Jerusalem history. Performance will take place at the Alliance Building.

19:00 – Screening of , “Turn Left at the End of the World,” organized by the Jerusalem Branch of Enosh, the Israeli Mental Health Association. The screening will be followed by a discussion about Jerusalem and welcoming the other. Discussion in Hebrew and English. Shalom Yehuda 29. This event will be held in English and in Hebrew.

19:30 – Martial Arts Advancing Peace – at the El Halev Center.

19:30 – Founder of “Stories on the Way” (Sipur al Haderech), Adv. David (Darsali) Avetta in an intimate discussion about his immigration to Israel, on ‘Yerusalem’ and about the story that an entire community is beginning to tell today. In cooperation with the Israel Association of Community Centers. We’ll meet in Diana Lipton’s house.

19:30 – The Mount Will Answer the Judgment: on Holiness and Sovereignty – The Forum for Regional Thinking invites you to the Researchers’ Community Lounge at the Alliance Building with 2 Jerusalem researchers-Tomer Persiko and Eran Tzidkiyahu, commemorating the 50th Jerusalem Day. We will discuss different perspectives, complimentary and opposing, from which we can look out on the Temple Mount / Al Aqsa.

20:00 – Ask for the Heart of Jerusalem, organized by Out for Change. In honor of Jerusalem Day, Out for Change will bring together two sectors that are intertwined with each other: Haredim and those who were formerly Haredi. We will try to bridge the gaps via a mind that seeks to know and a heart that seeks to listen. The interviewer: Pini Via, who grew up and was raised Haredi, and Mr. Benahu Tevila, a graduate of rabbinic and halakhic law studies, M.A. in Philosophy, Ministry of Education Supervisor for Haredi secondary schools, and an activist in Haredi society.

20:00 – Souls (Nefashot) – Coping through Art.  A special evening in which we’ll try to bridge the gap between the headlines and the stigmas about people with emotional disabilities and their abilities. A variety of performances will tell us about their experiences in special ways: original music, spoken word, stand-up comedy, open galleries, and more. At the Abraham Hostel.

20:00 – Heroes: Dance performance -Israel, Jerusalem and the ‘Others’ within It: Because Israeli-ness isn’t a melting pot – it is the Land of Israel in all its glory, which stretches out to all those who inhabit it, to the edges that don’t connect. The performance is by the Ka’et Ensemble and will take place in the C.A.T.A.M.O.N. studio in the Alliance Building. Cost: 30 NIS

20:30 – My Heart is in the East – Jerusalem in the Eyes of North African Liturgy. Jerusalem liturgy in Hebrew, Moroccan-Arabic and Matruz, by the Paytan Maimon Meny Cohen and a musical ensemble. Organized by Kehillot Sharot.

21:00 – Visions of the Gazan youth – An unofficial meeting with Sami, a freelance journalist and peace activist from Gaza. Join a discussion about the possibility for a better future and the missing dialogue between Israelis and Gazans. This event is in English.

21:00  – Holiness and Politics: Jerusalem of Three Religions – A panel by the Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue (Formerly JCRC) invites us to a workshop in which we’ll examine the character of none other than King David, who appears in holy writings of the three monotheistic religions. Through him, and through the Jerusalem sites that are associated with him (David’s Tomb, for example), we’ll learn about the holiness of Jerusalem in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and we’ll attempt to understand the political connections behind that holiness.

21:00 – Bat Hur – voices and shadows echo the story of a daughter and mother who were trapped between the walls of Beit Hanson, Jerusalem’s leper colony. Two languages, two actresses, a choir and hidden Jerusalem history. Performance will take place at the Alliance Building.

21:00 – 02:00 – Ma’aleh Movie Marathon. Ma’ale School of Television, Film & the Arts invites the general public to enjoy a nighttime marathon of the best new graduate movies that are participating in film festival around Israel and the world. The marathon will include films that deal with and take place in Jerusalem, covering the entire spectrum of lifestyles. The movies will be screened throughout the school. Come to a virtual-cinematic tour of the Haredi neighborhood and synagogue communities, through the crowded streets of Nahlaot, the city center, and Talpiot, to the mysterious, hidden monasteries. 20 Shivtei Yisrael St.

Wednesday, May 24

8:00 – Tour of the Rahel Checkpoint – That’s How We Do Zionism, Tolerance and Human Rights – a special tour of the Rahel Checkpoint that connects between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, by the Blue&White Human Rights group. This is a rare opportunity to hear and see up close the reality at the checkpoints, to meet the people from the field and to discover how to combine Zionism and human rights. The tour is free but pre-registration is required.

9:00 – Status Quo in Jerusalem – Tour of Mount Zion – between holy sites, forgotten stories and a delicate status quo, monks, yeshiva students, artists and business owners live side by side. Let’s get to know the viewpoints of the residents and the visitors of Mount Zion, about the shared living there and about the delicate and fascinating cooperation that takes place today. During the tour we will meet with the deputy director of the Diaspora Yeshiva Ely Dan, and Father Daniel, a monk from the Dormition community. The tour is free but pre-registration is required.

9:00 – Jerusalem is Tiptoeing In – The Djanogly Visual Arts Centre is hosting the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School for Bilingual Education and invites the general public to take part in a unique event that is completely Jerusalemite art – a rich collection of works that weaves the new-old narrative of Jerusalem from its artists’ point of view. Moving through the space we will discover new corners and faces of Jerusalem. We will examine how tensions, feelings and people build yet another story of Jerusalem.

10:00 – Heterotopia in MusraraTour of the Art Trail (for men), of the Studio of Her Own project. Art in the public space in northern Musrara, the third wall. Two tours, one for men (at 10:00) and one for women (11:00), guided by Rabbi Aharon Kedem from the Breslev Hassidim, and Tzipi Mizrachi from the Studio of Her Own.

10:00 – Stories on the Way at the Sieff & Marks Community Center in Beit HaKerem. The group of volunteers of the Shalem Movement will meet with Eitan Penethon for an open discussion about the story of Israelis of Ethiopian descent, on ‘Yerusalem’, and on the possibility to create change in Israeli society.

10:00 – Stories on the Way Discussion Circles – The story of the Ethiopian-Israeli Aliyah, by the Olim themselves. The discussion circles will take place at Mount Herzl, right before the official ceremony that will take place at 11:00.

10:30 – I Saw a City: Jerusalem between Dream and Reality – Tour about Jerusalem in the National Library: We will meet original objects from the Six Day War, we will view the largest stained glass window in Israel, we will become acquainted with the ancient map collection of Jerusalem and we will visit the exhibit, “City of Dreams: Jerusalem from the Imagination’s View,” Jerusalem as seen in the imaginations of Jewish, Muslim and Christian artists.

11:00 – Heterotopia in MusraraTour of the Art Trail (for women), of the Studio of Her Own project. Art in the public space in northern Musrara, the third wall. Two tours, one for men (at 10:00) and one for women (11:00), guided by Rabbi Aharon Kedem from the Breslev Hassidim, and Tzipi Mizrachi from the Studio of Her Own.

11:00 – Official ceremony for Ethiopian Jews who perished in Sudan. The public is invited to become acquainted with a different story that is commemorated on Jerusalem Day. The ceremony will take place at Mount Herzl. There will be discussion circles, operated by Stories on the Way, on the immigration stories of Ethiopian Jews.

11:30 A special workshop on the secrets of mediation and self-defense. Participants will learn how to correctly handle any conflict through a proper balance of wisdom and listening and action. Operated by the Mosaica Center for Conflict Resolution and The Jerusalem School of Traditional JuJitsu and Self Defense.

12:00 – 16:00 – Tolerance Stop on the light rail line, operated by the Ruach Nachon pre-army preparatory program, in cooperation with the Citypass company that operates the light rail and the Jerusalem Municipality. The stop seeks to create a Jerusalem mosaic and increase tolerance at the Municipality light rail stop.

12:30 I Saw a City: Jerusalem between Dream and Reality – Tour about Jerusalem in the National Library: We will meet original objects from the Six Day War, we will view the largest stained glass window in Israel, we will become acquainted with the ancient map collection of Jerusalem and we will visit the exhibit, “City of Dreams: Jerusalem from the Imagination’s View,” Jerusalem as seen in the imaginations of Jewish, Muslim and Christian artists.

15:00 – Wall art for girls in the Art Shelter studio in the Mekor Baruch neighborhood, together with Solomon, the fantastic graffiti artist! Children (and adults) welcome.

15:30 – 18:30 – The Jerusalem March along the Jerusalem Railway Park, by the Yerushalmim Movement. Jerusalem communities march together and celebrate Jerusalem’s diversity. There will be 3 starting points:

            15:30 – Beneath the Baram Bridge, the long route

            16:00 – Gonenim Park, the general route

            17:15 – Oranim Junction, the Family March

            18:15 – Festive event at the First Station.

The march will be accompanied by Marsh Dondurma, Tahrir Eastern Bar and Kehillat Zion. Activities for children, music, balloons and a range of surprises will be distributed along the route!

16:00 – 21:00 Building Our Own Jerusalem with Lego – A building site for Jerusalemites from all ethnicities, religions and opinions. Building together a tolerant and inclusive Jerusalem from tens of thousands of Lego pieces. At the Davidka Light Rail Station. No Hebrew required.

16:00 – Street Beit Midrash on the Ben Yehudah Midrachov. A special session about tolerance and Jerusalem.

16:00 – Ascension Ceremony at the Church of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives. At 16:00 all the Christian churches will begin their ceremonies. At 16:45 the Catholic Franciscan evening service will begin. It is a Christian ceremony, please come dressed appropriately.

16:00 – Traditional Flower Parade organized by Tag Meir: Light instead of Terror. Let’s distribute flowers to the residents of the Old City.

16:00 – 23:00 – Katatmon’s Wisdom: Katamon Culture in Houses and in the Streets. An entire festival of Katamon-led activity, including neighborhood tolerance activities:

16:30 – 18:00 – “Here There Was…” a tour of the Katamonim neighborhood from the outlook of 3 women from different ethnic backgrounds. Starting from the gat of the Gonenim Park.

17:00 – Writing Workshop: Poetry from Recipes. Recipes from different ethnic groups are written as new Israeli poetry. The workshop will take place at the reading station on the Jerusalem Railway Park.

17:00 – The Parliament. Neighborhood residents from all cultures and ages are invited to the Butka Café to hold a neighborhood parliament, in which we talk about everything.

17:00 – 19:00 – Katamon Portrait. Neighborhood residents take pictures of themselves next to the Well-Baby Clinic.

17:30 – 19:30 – A Knit – A Space for Knitting. A simple space for knitting and learning how to knit, regardless of religion, creed or gender.

18:00 – Ethnic cooking workshops in residents’ homes. Learning about the dish as well as how to prepare Ingra with Abbebe and Kubbeh with Hannah.

18:00 – Kurdish Hafla – A Kurdish dance party with food.

18:00 – Meeting at the Beit Midrash – Asking for Peace of Jerusalem. The Matan women’s Beit Midrash opens its doors for joint learning for women from all backgrounds.

18:15 – Women’s Song: Vocal Creations as an Agent of Change. Vocal artist Faye Shapiro will tell about the “Rivers of Katamonim” project that she led with older women, together with young artists. It will meet at the Gonenim Community Center, and include vocal work and singing.

19:00 – Ethiopian Celebration – songs, dances, food, in the plaza in front of the minimarket on San Martin St.

19:30 – Choosing to Feel Well. Loneliness is a cross-cultural experience. We will hear about Alan’s project, which creates an inviting space for everyone to deal with loneliness together.

19:30 – Singing together songs from Israel and different ethnic groups. Organized by the Singing in the Garden initiative, in San Simon Park.

19:30 – 21:00 – Katamon Portrait 2 – Taking pictures of ourselves in San Simon.

17:00 – Wall art for boys in the Art Shelter studio in the Mekor Baruch neighborhood, together with Solomon, the fantastic graffiti artist! Children (and adults) welcome.

17:00 – 50 Years, 50 Faces – An opening festive event marking the documentary project of the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, commemorating 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem, presenting 50 personal stories of Jerusalem residents from all its corners, from the time directly after the 1967 war. It will include video clips, interviews, text and original pictures.

17:00 – Everything Private: Prayers, Stories and Staged Reading of ‘Everything Private’. A play based on meeting minutes of the Barashi synagogue’s board in Nahlaot. The minutes combine the holy with the everyday, and touch on practical details from the everyday life of the synagogue and community. It is spiced with light irony, and sometimes self-humor, yet it preserves the accuracy, honor and the reality of the time. The play has a contemporary and universal message about the unique drama and meaning of worlds that are disappearing, worlds that are being built, and colorful characters that are building them; and on longing and love. At the Museum of Italian Jewry.

17:30 – Black and White Jerusalem – A tour on the seam line between Haredi and non-Haredi neighborhoods to understand the Haredi sector, organized by the Tarbuth organization. We’ll meet in Davidka Square.

18:00 – Jerusalem for All Festival – with performances by Echo, Tito and Jaluk. There will be a stage for Jerusalemite performers. Kelly Halperin and Moshe Waldman will hold a panel on Jerusalem entrepreneurship. There will be stands selling art, art installations and a poetry slam and of course food and drink. The even strives to bring together different groups in the city, emphasizing the human and cultural diversity in Jerusalem. At the Alliance Building.

18:00 – Tour of Jerusalem as a City of Asylum: Jerusalem in the Eyes of the Asylum Seekers who Live There. A tour by the Jerusalem African Community Center.

18:45 – Believers – An evening of inter-religious prayer and listening circles, on listening and the Holy City, with Kehillat Zion, Marsh Dondurma, Tahrir Eastern Bar and the Yerushalmim Movement, and Arab and secular and Haredi Jewish leaders.

19:00 – New Haredim, the Formerly Religious, and All that Cholent. Journalist Mendy Grosman hosts Moshe Sheinfeld and Avi Tapilinsky at the Tmol Shilshom Café.

19:30 – Shfuyah B’Haloma (Sane in Her Dream) – A multi-aged, multicultural Jerusalemite panel on the occasion of the launch of Dr. Elan Ezrachi’s new book, Shfuyah B’Haloma. The panel will include: Ora Ahimeir, Keren Brunwasser, Eran Tzidkiyahu, Yossi Klein-Halevi.

19:30 – Screening of the movie, “The Seventh Day,” and discussion with Suleiman Hattib, founder of Combatants for Peace. Afterward we’ll dive into the sounds of Fuad Abi A-Nam and Friends.

19:30 – Meeting of Stories on the Way with Daressa Atchnepa – his emotional story of immigrating to Israel from Ethiopian. In the home of the Dahan family.

20:00 – Storytellers Evening on Jerusalem and Tolerance at the BeShutaf Cooperative. During the evening Jerusalemites will tell their stories: some sad, some happy, some emotional, some will leave you stunned. But all are real. Facilitated by Itamar Farhi.

20:30 – Beyond the Dark Mountains – a journey near home. We will commemorate 50 years since the Six Day War, which are also 50 years of shared living between Jerusalem residents from eastern and western parts of the city. Eliezer Ya’ari will take us on a journey to the people who live in East Jerusalem, part of the capital of Israel, and will enlighten us about their thoughts and dreams, on shared living in the city, on the daily reality, and on the future. We will meet at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

21:00 – Jibberishalem – Improvising the language, by JLMprov. An interactive improvisational performance on Jerusalem and its characters. We will meet in Alliance Building. No Hebrew required.

21:00 – Bat Hur. Voices and shadows echo the story of a daughter and mother who were trapped between the walls of Beit Hanson, Jerusalem’s leper colony. Two languages, two actresses, a choir and hidden Jerusalem history. Performance will take place in the Alliance Building.

21:00 – Yachas Ham at Birman. A special performance of the Yachas Ham band, paying tribute to Bob Dylan’s birthday (and Shakespeare’s). Let’s hear about tolerance as expressed in Bob Dylan’s songs.

All Day – Teachers Lounge project of “This is Jerusalem.” An exhibition of a year-long program that brought together Jewish and Arab educators. The exhibition will be shown at the First Station.

All Day – Jerusalem Tolerance Cookie Decorating! International competition of cookie artists who decorated cookies to emphasize tolerance in Jerusalem. Organized by Jerusalem Cake Design.

Events Not Open to the General Public

Special activities to advance tolerance at the Dror High School (religious).

Students from the Tag Meir student organization light up Jerusalem – Students will visit high schools throughout Jerusalem and will operate workshops on tolerance in Jerusalem.

The Scouts – all participants in the scouts will have special activities for Jerusalem Day, focusing on Jerusalem, its complexity, its uniqueness and its place in Israeli society.

Workshop by the Center for Middle Eastern Music for students for the Keshet School.

An Accessible City: Photography exhibit. The school at the ALYN Rehabilitative Hospital will hold a party celebrating Jerusalem’s many cultures. The program: An Accessible City – a photography exhibit. Songs about Jerusalem in Hebrew and Arabic and a competition identifying places in Jerusalem. The workshop is closed to the public but the exhibit will be open.

Meeting for all group coordinators from the Interfaith Encounter Association to meet each other.

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MiniActive – and Jerusalem – Featured in International “Cities of Migration” Newsletter

MiniActive, the Jerusalem Intercultural Center and the Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference are featured in the May 2017 newsletter of the Cities of Migration Network.

As part of the preparation for the conference, Dr. Adit Dayan, our colleague at the Jerusalem Foundation, attended the Cities of Migration Conference in Toronto. Cities of Migration is an international initiative launched in 2008 to identify and disseminate local integration practice in major immigrant receiving cities worldwide.  The project was the first to link global cities around issues of immigrant integration and has been surprisingly successful. Today, Cities of Migration has an international following of over 7000 international experts, practitioners and policy-makers, and its mailing list reaches 16,000 people worldwide.

Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker

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

After the conference we remained in contact with the Cities of Migration Network.  And this week, they published MiniActive in their May newsletter and as part of their “Good Ideas for Integration”  section on their web site.

Click here for a link to the online article.

And here’s the full text:

MiniActive: Local Women, Local Action

Jerusalem Intercultural Center

May 4, 2017

Empowering local women and minority populations to become agents of community change

Can a functioning street lamp be the key to peace?   Sometimes, it’s almost that simple.

In 2011 a group of Palestinian women in East Jerusalem decided they’d had enough of broken street lamps, unrepaired roads and other nuisances that caused daily tensions and disrupted the peace of the neighbourhood.   Local volunteers started using the municipal hotline to demand the repair and replacement of faulty street lamps and were soon meeting with relevant municipal authorities. No, the women explained, contrary to what municipal workers too often said, the street lamps would not be broken by local youth.

Five years later, the street lamps are still working, bus stops have been repaired and thousands of other small and large improvements have been made.

Empowered by a unique program called MiniActive that focuses on community-led action and helping local residents become change agents in their own neighborhoods, MiniActive volunteers are leading the way for civic action in East Jerusalem, and across the city.

From Activism to Action

Conditions for the more than 300,000 Palestinians living in poverty in East Jerusalem often put the health and welfare of local residents at risk. The quarter’s winding streets are poorly maintained, filled with potholes and often littered due to inefficient garbage removal by local authorities. Public stairs and walkways are uneven and unsafe, and few public buildings – schools, welfare offices, community organizations – are handicapped accessible.

Compounding these challenges, residents often lack the tools to self-organize and build the organizational capacity needed to effect changes on their own, leaving them feeling dis-empowered and disengaged from civic processes. Such frustrations can be exacerbated by cultural and language barriers, or unfamiliarity with municipal services.

For these reasons, the success of the intervention by Palestinian women in East Jerusalem around municipal repairs to their neighborhood caught the eye of the Jerusalem Intercultural Center (JICC).

Since 2004, the JICC had been engaged in a series of internal discussions about activism as a tool for community change. Since their mission was to help residents of all identities create positive impact within their communities and in the city as a whole, activism seemed an important approach. However, over the years they had noticed that much of the activist energy was non-effective, more cause and complaint than positive impact.

By contrast, the activism of East Jerusalem’s neighbourhood women was practical, positive and place-based.  Its example galvanized the JICC to pilot a new model for community engagement called “MiniActive.”  The central idea? To let people train themselves to change the world, by choosing a very small part of the world to change.

Agents of community change

MiniActive was launched in 2012, with the support and partnership of the JICC and the Jerusalem Foundation and the dual objective of effecting real change and empowering community action. Its goals are to advance human rights in East Jerusalem by creating sustainable grassroots advocacy and empowerment mechanisms; to empower women as agents of change; and to help all residents, but mainly women, take practical steps to improve the everyday lives of East Jerusalem residents.

MiniActive workshops consist of small group meetings in which each of the participants is invited to choose an issue to work on that is both ‘do-able’ and requires working with or convincing others to do something, whether it be neighbours, local agencies or the municipality, because learning to work with others is critical to developing organizational capacity. Examples can be repairing a street light, improving garbage collection in a specific location, fixing a pothole, replacing a safety fence, initiating an event in school, or simply connecting neighbours to meet together over an issue.   The criteria for choosing projects are:

  • Results can be achieved in 1-2 months. The relatively quick results seen on the ground in this model boosts participants’ self-confidence and empowers them to ‘graduate’ on to larger and more complex issues.
  • The solution cannot be achieved alone – some other body or organization must be activated to achieve success. This often includes the Municipality or other service provider
  • A passion for community. The participant has passion to achieve this target issue.

Whether it’s a problem on the street, an issue to be tackled at the local school, or a service improvement at the health clinic, the program empowers participants to identify problems in their immediate community, and helps them to develop effective methods of solving those problems, which can be applied to larger-scale problems in the future as well.

Language classes, recycling, horticulture: a community hub

In 2014 MiniActive upgraded its monthly professional development seminars for their volunteer coordinators from East Jerusalem’s various neighbourhoods. Previously, monthly meetings largely consisted of peer learning and assistance on a case-by-case basis. The new format included workshops on how to map local needs and set priorities; how to navigate the Municipality and its different departments; how to navigate other service providers (phone, electric, water, etc.); how to write letters to these agencies; how to deal with the Municipality’s contractors in the field; who might (or might not) be willing to work with them should a woman be supervising– and more.

In addition to in-service seminars about accessing local services more effectively, Hebrew classes have been organized for more than 200 women to facilitate communication with municipal service providers.  An important project outcome was the addition of Arabic-speakers to the municipal hotline, both to encourage participation and to handle the volume of calls MiniActive outreach was generating.

Since its overall goal is to improve residents’ immediate environment, in 2014 MiniActive began to offer courses and workshops that focused on a broader definition of improving one’s environment, such as composting, recycling, etc.  A photography workshop increased the women’s ability and propensity to look around them and see new ways to improve their neighbourhood.  In 2016, the first ever Arabic-language horticultural therapy course was added.

MiniActive has become a community hub, offering a wide range of activities – from exercise to crocheting to baking to trips – where local women can gather to enjoy their leisure,  each other’s company, and the rewards of hard work.

Today MiniActive’s network of volunteers spills across 15 districts, with 50 – 100 women in each district, and covers nearly every neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Working in small groups of 4 to 6, the women of MiniActive are working on 500 issues each month, solving approximately half and continuing to work on the remainder, and improving the everyday lives of residents through continual communication and interaction with service providers (telephone, electricity, water, municipality, etc.) and community members.

What’s more, municipal service providers recognize the effectiveness of MiniActive’s work and are less inclined to see the complaints as antagonizing ‘nuisances.’ Rather, MiniActive participants are viewed as partners in the change process.

Success

MiniActive has galvanized civic action in East Jerusalem neighbourhoods. In 2016 alone more than 6,000 formal complaints were filed, and over 2,300 problems resolved. Among the improvements, all bus stops in three neighbourhoods were repaired or replaced.  On a larger scale, MiniActive’s response to an acute problem around garbage removal resulted in the launch of the “We Won’t Live in Filth” Facebook campaign. The result? Millions of shekels were added to the East Jerusalem sanitation budget, and garbage collection became a central issue in local activism throughout Jerusalem.

From its modest beginnings, MiniActive quickly grew to a network of 1,000 Palestinian women in every corner of East Jerusalem, arguably the largest network of volunteers in East Jerusalem.  In 2015, MiniActive’s success was internationally recognized when the project’s director was invited to present at the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) Partners Forum in Washington, DC.  In November 2016 a group from the Czech Republic visited Jerusalem to learn about MiniActive. Interest in the project remains lively. Today, the MiniActive Facebook page has over 20,300 ‘likes.’

Over the past 5 years a growing MiniActive volunteer network has solved thousands of neighbourhood problems and is training hundreds of women on how to engage local service providers and municipal services to bring about community change by working with the system, and despite the system.

For the first time, MiniActive empowers participants to be stakeholders in their own future.

Making it Work for You:

  • Define realistic objectives in advance to make sure you can actually advance towards desired outcomes.
  • Prioritize actions according to importance, even when “urgency” threatens to re-order actions.
  • Building consensus takes time. Make sure urgent items don’t disrupt important consensus building processes.
  • Take an approach that brings the “other side” (the government, the neighbours, etc.) on board for a win-win outcome.
  • Break up a large issue into many smaller problems and tasks. This makes results more achievable and more feasible.
  • Groups dynamics and peer learning are the key. Consult with each other on how to proceed while ensuring each member of the team can work independently to advance her project.
  • Use the synergy of community forces as a tool to create power and move your project forward.

The newsletter also featured the remarks made by Uzma Shakir at the conference as a featured story:

The Culturally Competent City

 

Here’s the full text of that article:

Keynote speech by Uzma Shakir, Director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Human Rights, City of Toronto, on the occasion of the Jerusalem Foundation’s 50th anniversary event, the “Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City” Conference, hosted by the Jerusalem Intercultural Center on May 17, 2016 in Jerusalem.

In a brilliant, wide-ranging presentation Shakir describes processes taking place in Toronto and throughout Canada regarding multiculturalism and cultural competency, and responses to the country’s vastly different population groups, from the native populations to the Francophone community of Quebec to recent immigrants from south Asia and elsewhere. She first defined the role of cultural competency:

“Cultural competency can be viewed in two ways: it can either be seen as paternalistic and prescriptive – something you do for others who have either limited or unequal power to claim their rights; or transformative and critical – consciously producing spaces that address those power differentials in a meaningful manner and eventually lead to an equitable and just society.

In other words, cultural competency can mean being nice to people while maintaining the status quo of inequality or it can mean empowering marginalized people to take control over their own destiny and to change the conditions in society to produce equitable and just outcomes for all.

However, this requires an honest recognition of who is marginalized and then consciously co-creating the conditions for inclusion. In this sense, Toronto has its challenges just like Jerusalem and provides some compelling lessons.”

Uzma’s description of the role of cultural competency was really a defining moment for us. We realized that our work, experience and know-how was already working on both sides of the cultural competency equation, but we had never defined it as such. We were both training service providers to make services accessible to a wide variety of populations, and we were also empowering marginalized populations – of all kinds and ethnicities – to demand access to services, adapted to their particular needs. This is best represented by Uzma’s illustration:

Three views of Equity

Three views of Equity

In the first approach, existing infrastructures render services equally for different people. However, since people’s needs are different, equal provision of services does not create proper equality. In the second approach, adjustments are made, often ad hoc, to be able to work within the existing infrastructure to provide services in a way that responds differently to the different needs. In the third approach, infrastructure is built from the start with the different needs of different people in mind, to enable each to meet his or her particular needs in the best way possible.

Ours is the third approach, and in that way MiniActive is helping Jerusalem become more culturally competent. We’re so proud of their accomplishments and dedication, especially in the complex situation in Jerusalem. We’re so happy that tens of thousands of people around the world will be able to learn about MiniActive as well.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their full partnership in developing all aspects of Cultural Competency, as well as in developing the MiniActive project.

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MiniActive Youth – Improving the Environment in Sur Baher

MiniActive youth continue to do fantastic work throughout Jerusalem, painting murals and improving the environment.

Beginning to paint

Beginning to paint

This time, their project was in Sur Baher.

Improving an entire street in Sur Baher

Improving an entire street in Sur Baher

At the request of residents, the youth decorated the walls on either side of this residential street. The residents themselves prepared the ‘canvas,’  first painting it white. All the girls needed to do was come and paint the pictures. Looking great!

Painting flowers and butterflies

Painting flowers and butterflies

Read more about previous MiniActive Youth projects here and here.

And our favorite cartoon characters

And our favorite cartoon characters

And here’s the post from the MiniActive Facebook page (Arabic):

Here’s another post, mid-project:

And here’s the final project – this time all six paintings!

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continuous support of the MiniActive project.

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