Empowering the African Refugee Community in Jerusalem

Over the past year, we’ve been developing programming and training, together with a wide range of partners, in different disciplines to help and empower the African refugee community in Jerusalem, and to educate local service providers in how to give the community culturally sensitive care. (For more information, click here, here  and here.) Here are a few examples of our work:

In late September we organized a first aid course at the Well Baby Clinic, with translation into Tigrinya, a language spoken by many African refugees. There were 9 participants, and all took the course very seriously. The translators all came from the refugee community in Jerusalem, and all were graduates of a medical interpretation course.

Well Baby Clinic first aid course

Well Baby Clinic first aid course

At the end of August (27/8) we held a story hour for the children and their parents. It was open to all children in the city center, both refugee and Israeli. The story teller told of Mulu and Tzagai, who had to leave their home and deal with a great number of dangers until they reached safety. After the story there were activities that helped the heroes of the story reach their destination.

Mulu and Tzagai story hour

Mulu and Tzagai story hour

On July 30, the well-baby clinic that serves the city center held a workshop for African refugee parents on early child development and dental health. Here, too, the workshop included translation by a trained medical interpreter. Parents showed a great deal of interest, and requested additional workshops. We and the well-baby clinic staff put a lot of thought into the workshop – and even brought a black baby to the demonstration – which the parents greatly appreciated.

Well Baby Clinic demonstration

Well Baby Clinic demonstration

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A Culturally Competent ALYN Rehabilitative Hospital during a Summer of War

It has been a difficult summer in Jerusalem, and for the region. It has been especially difficult for Israel’s hospitals, who treat all who come through their doors, but who must also deal with the effects of the conflict – on both sides – on patients and their families.  It has even been difficult for the ALYN Rehabilitative Hospital, which should be one of the institutions best equipped to deal with this tension. With our help, ALYN was the first hospital in Israel to become fully culturally competent. Thanks to the support of the Jerusalem Foundation and the Sobell Foundation we’ve been working with ALYN since we began developing our Cultural Competency in the Health Care System program in 2008. ALYN  has since become the model for other health care institutions in Israel. See here for more information about our Cultural Competency programs in general, and here for more information about our work at ALYN.

Alyn Cultural Competence Training

Alyn Cultural Competence Training

Dr. Maurit Beeri, Director General of ALYN, recently wrote a very interesting and important article in the Jerusalem Post about their work through this difficult summer of war and hatred: “Living together when the shadows grow long“.  Here is a downloadable version: Living together when the shadows grow long.

Dr. Maurit Beeri writes in her article:

“I was a young department director at ALYN Hospital Pediatric Rehabilitation Center a decade ago when I first learned of the concept of “cultural sensitivity in health.” We can take better care of our patients, I learned, if we understood better their cultural concepts of sickness and healing, their faith and their folklore.

Together with the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center we developed a curriculum which helped us make ALYN more geared toward our patients’ families.”

We are proud to be partners to this important success story! Reading the rest is a must to anyone who wants to learn more about the challenges and successes in cultural competence in Jerusalem and in every place in which social and political tensions are an obstacle for medical work.


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Opening at the JICC in the Fall – Arabic Language and Culture Courses

The JICC has been offering Arabic language for communication almost since its establishment, thanks to the ongoing support of the Jerusalem Foundation. In 2013-2014 there were over 100 students from the entire spectrum of the population – young people and seniors, professionals and students – all seeking to be able to use Arabic to communicate with those they share the city with.

ArabicSuha 596X298

We’re just opened registration for the 2014 – 2015 cohort, and this year we’ve got some extra surprises in store. In addition to the weekly meetings (There’ll be 8 groups in 5 levels, both afternoon and morning courses.), we will be offering a range of cultural activities. We believe that this will help to enhance students’ understanding of Arab culture.

ArabicAnwar 596X298

We will add 3 visits to unique cultural centers, such as a theater and a book store that also holds cultural events. We will also hold cultural encounters with various Arab cultural figures, such as a poet, artists, musician, actors, etc. We have openings for 120 students, just like last year. But, just like last year, we expect enrollment to fill up quickly. So hurry up and register!

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Putting Cultural Competency into High Gear

We’ve been working to improve cultural competency in the health care system for quite awhile (See here for more information). We’ve even gotten some nice press articles over the years. Now, together with our partners in academia, we’re putting cultural competency into high gear, and getting the word out on all levels.

Most recently, we’ve been partners in the publication of a unique document in Hebrew. It was written in cooperation with the Ruppin Academic Center’s Institute for Immigration and Social Integration and the JDC-Israel, on using training workshops for introducing principles of Cultural Competency into local municipalities and authorities, with an emphasis on the welfare departments. Click here for the complete document.

Cultural Competency in Local Authorities

Cultural Competency in Local Authorities

A second document was an article in the Ministry of Health’s periodical by our colleagues from the Ruppin Academic Center and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who wrote a comparative survey of cultural competency in the health care systems of England, Australia, the USA and Israel. Click here for the complete document. We are mentioning this article since the pages about Israel show how central is the role of the JICC in the field of Cultural Competence in Israel.

Cultural Competency comparison

Cultural Competency comparison

These publications join other recent accomplishments, including:

  • Publication of the Manual for Assimilating Cultural Competency principles in Health Care Institutions in Israel, which was published in July 2013. Click here for the document in Hebrew.
  • Production of four training videos, together with Bar Ilan University, the first such training videos in Israel;
  • Development of peer networks for cultural competency coordinators from throughout Israel, including special networks for mental health institutions;
  • Publication of information sheets in Hebrew on a number of Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Druze holidays, available here;
  • Offering of free consultation services for solving issues concerning Haredi clients / patients, in cooperation with Rabbi Zvi Porat of ALYN Rehabilitation Hospital.
  • Delving into cultural competency issues in mental health, which require a completely unique approach.
  • Publication of guidelines on a number of relevant topics, from writing on the Sabbath for religious Jews to dealing with heightened emotions during times of social and political tensions.

All the while, continuing our training and supervision of staffs from the gamut of health care organizations. We’ve come so far, yet there’s so much work to do.


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Taking MiniActive Leadership Forward – Professional Development

In such an important and vast project as East Jerusalem MiniActive,  it is important for us to have continuing professional development for our volunteer leaders. That’s why we have monthly workshops and seminars for the 15 coordinators in the field of the area clusters. These are volunteer positions, and they report to Intisar, Intisar (yes, we have two, it’s not a typo) and Ikram in the JICC office. For example, in April the workshop included advanced instructions on how to register a complaint via the municipal hotline. It would seem simple, but in the reality of Jerusalem, nothing is simple. First, the women must schedule their calls for when there are workers who speak Arabic. Although the situation is much better than it was when we started (we helped bring about the hiring of an additional 5 telephone workers, bringing the total to 7 as opposed to the two who there were previously), the women still need to wait a long time until their calls are answered. When they finally speak to the hotline, they are tempted to register a number of complaints at once. The problem is that each complaint (i.e., call) receives a tracking number, which they can use afterward to check how the complaint is being taken care of. And if they don’t make one call for each complaint it is much more difficult to track the complaints.

Coordinator Development

April 2014 meeting of MiniActive Leaders

On May 25 we held another meeting, this time on how to strengthen the groups. Their next meeting will be held after Ramadan, which begins next week.

We are also helping all 15 of our field coordinators and active volunteers with their Hebrew. While we have found solutions to enable our Arabic-speaking volunteers to advance projects, many times Hebrew is required to facilitate communication with the Israeli service providers, and get things done. The course has been running weekly since the fall, and will continue until the end of June. Next year we might add more advanced levels. We’ll see in the fall what the different needs are.

Hebrew Course

Hebrew Course for the MiniActive Leaders

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Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Jerusalem – a Conference

Political asylum seekers in Jerusalem? Who, what, why, when, and how?

While award-winning movies (and, unfortunately, more frequent news reports)  have been made about issues concerning refugees and asylum seekers living in Tel-Aviv, they constitute a significant community in other areas of Israel, one that many of us are very unfamiliar with. Recently, the JICC, together with the Jerusalem Municipality, have been working to better answer their needs by maintaining a municipal hotline for refugees and asylum seekers. You can read more about our involvement at the relevant page on our site and on a previous blog post.

As a way to kick off more comprehensive and effective treatment of and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem, our municipal hotline, in partnership with the Haruv Institute and the CIMI organization, held a day-long conference. It was held on April 1, 2014 and focused on the issues, dilemmas and responses available for asylum seekers and refugees in Jerusalem.

Dr Hagai Agmon-Snir, Director of the JICC, gives a brief introduction to cultural competence in the context of asylum seekers

Dr Hagai Agmon-Snir, Director of the JICC, gives a brief introduction to cultural competence in the context of asylum seekers

The conference was attended by 40 professionals in the fields of education, healthcare and welfare in Jerusalem. “There was a wide diversity of participants,” said our own Tal Kligman, is responsible for the JICC’s activity regarding refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem. “They came from the Municipality, from welfare services, from the Ministry of Health, from hospitals, and more.  There was such a feeling of camaraderie in the air, one of ‘we’re all in this together,” she continued.

The day was divided into two parts: learning and acting. It began with a panel introducing different perspectives of the lives of asylum seekers and refugees in Israel in general and in Jerusalem in particular – from the legal background, to medical issues to intercultural dilemmas that are faced on an ongoing basis. The panel was followed by speakers from UNWRA, the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, and  a social entrepreneur who had established a volunteer network to help refugees in Jerusalem.


In the second part of the day, participants divided up into discussion groups to discuss different issues in the fields of employment, realization of rights, children and education, welfare, and healthcare. We’re planning follow-up meetings to enable participants to continue to follow through on a number of initiatives that were discussed during the conference.

One Strong Black - Sudanese Theatre at the conference

One Strong Black – Sudanese Theatre at the conference

The day ended with a performance of “One Strong Black”, an extraordinary play that was created by a group of Sudanese asylum seekers, who are striving to initiate social change through dialogue and openness. The play dealt with the actors’ daily reality, from their escape from Sudan through all their stages of coping living in Israel, and presents a unique, surprising and witty perspective of the asylum seekers community life in Israel. After the play there was a panel discussion with the actors. You can see parts of this play here:

The conference was the opening of what is intended to become a series of meetings to jump-start initiatives to help the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem and its environs. In future meetings we’d like to expand even further the diversity and scope of the participants, to reach as many relevant stakeholders as possible.

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2014-07-11T09:36:52+00:00April 3rd, 2014|Asylum Seekers, Blog, Featured, Identity Groups and Conflicts|