Identity Groups and Conflicts

0202 Holiday Bringing Jewish and Muslim Holidays Face to Face

A Jew and a Muslim walk on the streets of Jerusalem and talk – High Holidays?

That’s what happened last Thursday, August 31. Organized by 0202-Points of View from Jerusalem, the tour in honor of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha and the Jewish practice of Selichot before the Jewish High Holidays gave participants a first-hand glimpse of events that are central to both religions. Like the Internet and Facebook pages aim to do, the tour led participants into a world that is completely different than their own. A seeming parallel reality of their everyday lives, yet still in their home city of Jerusalem.

Anwar beginning the tour at the New Gate

Anwar beginning the tour at the New Gate

The tour was actually two separate tours, one right after the other. The first tour began outside the New Gate of the Old City. Guides Tamer and Anwar (in two separate groups, since the first group filled up quite quickly) took participants through the Muslim Quarter as the pre-holiday fast ended and the Eid al-Adha festival began. They revealed how the holiday is celebrated by Muslim Jerusalemites.

Tamer took participants on whirlwind tour of different groups in the Old City, as a way to shed light on the its diverse religious make-up.  They walked through the main thoroughfares of East Jerusalem, viewing the wondrous decorations and observing how this part of the city slowly woke up from its day of fasting. As night fell thousands of Jerusalem vendors, musicians, artists, families and performers came to the Old City to celebrate the holiday. As is custom on Eid al-Adha, people were getting haircuts and buying new clothes. Barbershops all over the city were filled to the brim with Muslims coming to get a new trim in honor of the holiday. Tamer also told about his own family traditions during the holiday. Toward the end of the tour Tamer also spoke about the identity of the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem.

When the first tour ended, the second tour, of traditional Selichot prayers in Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, began. Ultra-Orthodox guide Ephraim led the groups. Ephraim took the tour to different yeshivot in order to explain the different practices surrounding Selichot. From Sephardim and Ashkenazim to the Hassidim to Mitnagdim, to the newly religious to kabbalah, they discussed possible parallels between Islam and Judaism. Both tours were riveting.

Ariella Bernstein, Chief of Staff at the Jerusalem Foundation who writes about her weekly Jerusalem unsung heroes, was so moved by the tour that she made the tour guides this week’s My Jerusalem Heroes:

Here’s the text of her post:

       I am not sure that Efraim Levy (אפרים לוי) and Tamer Said would have met without the moon. It’s the moon that sets Jewish and Muslim calendars and it is the coincidence of Muslim and Jewish holidays that brought them together. This weekend, Muslims celebrate the holiday of Eid Al Adha, the “Sacrifice Feast” honoring the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is but a few weeks away and now is a time of serious contemplation.
       Efraim and Tamer honored each others’ faiths last night in a one-of-a kind tour organized by 0202 – A View from East Jerusalem and 0202 – מבט מירושלים החרדית, organizations that offer a glimpse into Jerusalem’s real people. Tamer, a Jerusalem-born Muslim, kicked off the evening as Eid Al Adha holiday celebrations began. Onward they walked as Efraim, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, led the group to take part in “Selichot,” penitential prayers chanted during the late night hours in the month before Rosh Hashana.
       Efraim and Tamer never met before last night yet they walked away with a better understanding of each other. “I learned about Islam’s diversity, its character, and how Eid Al Adha is celebrated,” said Efraim. Tamer saw commonality. “There is a faith-based understanding and acceptance, and what brought me closer was my feeling that I can identify with ultra-Orthodox society,” Tamer explained.
       What amazes me is the humility I heard in their voices, the reluctance in accepting the extraordinary nature of their cooperation. “I don’t think I have much to contribute above anyone else – I’m just an ultra-Orthodox student learning economics,” Efraim proclaimed. “Someone should represent Islam from the Palestinian perspective and talk with Jews on an interfaith level,” said Tamer. For their humility alone, Efraim and Tamer are #MyJLMHeroes this week.
       Your partnership last night was exceptional. You are the epitome of all that is sacred in #Jerusalem. Too bad the world wasn’t here to see it but at least the moon bore witness.

You can access the original post here.

0202 began in 2015 with one Arabic-to-Hebrew page, and received extensive mentoring from the JICC. 0202 has continued to develop, and today it consists of 3 Facebook pages (Arabic – Hebrew, Arabic – English, and Haredi – non-Haredi Hebrew), and reaches 150,000 people each week. Future plans call for 4 constantly-updated pages, tours like this and other events, making all of Jerusalem’s major populations accessible to everyone, world over.  We’re so proud of 0202, and we’re happy to offer them any more help they might need.

Thanks Tamer, Anwar and Ephraim! Thanks 0202 for the fantastic tours! Here’s the photo album that was posted on the 0202 Facebook page:

And many thanks to the Leichtag Foundation and the Jerusalem Foundation for their support of 0202-Points of View from Jerusalem and other efforts to promote tolerance in the city.

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Cultural Competency in the Police – Mentioned in Ha’aretz National Daily

We’ve been working with the Israel Police since 2015, and you can read about our work here and here. And it was covered on the Walla! Internet news site here.

Title of article about police

Title of article about police

Now, we’ve been mentioned in the national Ha’aretz daily newspaper, as the driving force behind developing cultural competency training in the entire Israel Police Force. Here’s the link to the article, and you can download a .pdf of the article here.

And here’s the full text:

Are Israel’s Police Really More Violent Toward the Ethiopian Community?

Are police in Israel and the U.S. inherently racist, or are they part of a bigger problem? A series of reforms undertaken by the Israel Police indicates a desire to change

Nomi Levenkron Sep 02, 2017 8:06 AM

Police officers aren’t born racist – they become racist in a society where racism is more deeply rooted than people will ever dare admit. The frequent violent encounters between police and minority groups – in Ferguson and Los Angeles, in Paris and London, in Tel Aviv, Jaffa and Jerusalem – all stem from  the same thing: a racist society that tries to conceal its racism with condemnation of the police. We scapegoat the police while taking pride in our own clean hands.

The encounter between police and minorities has been volatile since modern policing began, amid the many groups based on ethnicity, religion and sexual preferences. Processes of nation-building marginalized the Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians. European colonialism was disguised as a “civilizing mission,” which continued when the residents of the colonies arrived as citizens in the lands of the colonizers. The U.S. Civil War led to the de jure but not necessarily the de facto liberation of millions of slaves.

And the tens of millions of immigrants to the West at the end of the 19th century weren’t welcomed warmly since they were perceived as carriers of four kinds of undesirable baggage: dubious morals, crime, disease and imbecility. Many immigrants had problems finding work and housing, and therefore crowded into struggling neighborhoods. This geographic and employment segregation made it even harder to break down cultural barriers.

These processes led to mutual suspicion and sometimes hatred between minority groups and the police in Western countries. The police’s central role in protecting the regime and public order, especially during demonstrations, increased the potential for friction. The police’s perception that crime among minorities stemmed from cultural traits, not socioeconomic traits and discrimination, sometimes led to over-policing — as seen in unnecessary arrests and violence. And it also led to under-policing, stemming from neglect and indifference.

Police methods did not arise in a vacuum but rather in a society that was racist in innumerable ways, among them the restriction of groups’ access to jobs, welfare, education and health. Police activity was harsher in terms of the damage it caused to the bodies and freedom of minority people, but police racism was no different from the racism in the wider society.

This is the background for understanding the many violent disturbances among minorities against the police. These groups were sitting on a powder keg and were fed up with hegemonic society’s treatment of them. The police only lit the fuse.

At the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, the LGBT struggle began after police known for their homophobia raided a gay bar. The 1992 Los Angeles riots erupted after the police who beat up Rodney King were exonerated in court. The 2011 London riots began after the police opened fire on a 29-year-old black man, and at the beginning of this year in Paris a similar wave began after a young man from a banlieue complained that the police had arrested him for no reason, beaten him and raped him with a baton.

Often the police know they’re the scapegoat, even when they admit responsibility, as with the events that ignited the most recent riot. But that accompanies the underlying racism and socioeconomic discrimination. At a Milwaukee police press conference in August 2016 after the police’s shooting of a young black man provoked riots, Sheriff David Clarke said: “Police use of force serves as an igniter — there’s no doubt — but to an already volatile mix of urban pathologies, failed urban policy that exacerbates inescapable poverty, failing public schools, inadequate parenting . Stop trying to fix the police. Fix the ghetto.”

In Israel, similar things happened after the establishment of the state, and the pretenses of creating a melting pot dissipated rapidly. We loved the immigration, not the immigrants. The Moroccans became an object of fear, the Germans scorn, the Yemenites pure paternalism (as in the kidnapping of Yemenite children).

Immigrants demonstrated in cities and transit camps against their treatment, but it was only the encounter between stevedore Yaakov Elkarif and two policemen in Haifa’s Wadi Salib neighborhood in 1959 that provoked a revolt by immigrants from North Africa, which included violent demonstrations, the blocking of roads and the setting of cars on fire. The appointment of a commission of inquiry and symbolic amendments to legislation were to no avail, and beneath the surface the embers continued to hiss.

The flames flared up again in the ‘70s when Israel’s version of the Black Panthers, representing Jews with roots in the Middle East and North Africa, demanded equality in education and employment. The racism against groups perceived as dangerous toward Jews was even harsher. The police stuck in the map flags dipped in the blood of members of the “minority” — the Israeli euphemism for Arabs. The 1956 Kafr Qasem massacre, the October 2000 riots in the Galilee and the 2017 Umm al-Hiran demonstrations are among the most notable incidents, but by no means the only ones.

A drop in the turbulent sea

If we probe our memories honestly, we must admit that Ethiopian Israelis’ problems neither began nor end with the police. The supreme heroism attributed to the bringing of this community to Israel stood in harsh contrast to the attitude toward them here. We labeled them “quiet and nice,” but we didn’t want them living near us. We refused to acknowledge them as Jews and put them in separate school programs. When they donated blood, we threw it in the garbage.

In a lecture by a policeman of Ethiopian origin in a law course I teach, a woman in the class asked him whether he feels safe enough to drink beer in the street after he goes off duty and dons civilian clothes.

The policeman smiled and said: “Are you asking me whether the police are racist? When I arrived in Israel I said that I would not live locked up in the Ethiopian community. I would have Israeli friends, an Israeli girlfriend, and an Israeli life. So yes, I did have an Israeli girlfriend. We went out for two years. But do you know what ‘we went out’ means? It means that not once did she invite me to her home.

“She was embarrassed. She didn’t want her parents to see her with an Ethiopian. After two years I understood what was going on and we split up. So are you asking me if the police are racist? I’ll answer you in the simplest way: You started it. We deal with the results.”

“A man is nothing but the image of his native landscape,” wrote poet Shaul Tchernichovsky, and by the same token, the policeman is the litmus test of Israeli society. Over-policing and under-policing developed gradually and led to a long series of clashes. More than once, a request to see an ID led to violence that at worst ended in an indictment for insulting public servants or interfering with a police officer. At best it ended with hard feelings of discrimination.

A 2016 Justice Ministry report noted that a large number of Israelis of Ethiopian origin – mainly minors – were being arrested and tried. For example, in 2015 the percentage of indictments against people of Ethiopian origin was 3.5 percent, compared with their 2 percent representation in the overall population. The report also showed that 18 percent of those held in the Ofek Prison for minors were of Ethiopian origin. The Tebeka legal aid organization for Ethiopian Israelis has received scores of complaints about police violence, but the group’s 2014 appeal to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch elicited only the laconic reply that “the police are not familiar with a phenomenon of police violence toward people of Ethiopian origin.”

Yet the community remained composed. Its young people joined the police but even there they didn’t find protection from the racism. Outside, police of Ethiopian origin encountered curses like “black zero” or “get out of here, it’s too bad you immigrated to Israel.” Inside the police, they came up against the glass ceiling that’s so familiar to every minority group. Joining the police, it seems, didn’t improve the police’s attitude toward the Ethiopian community.

The relative quiet ended in April 2015 when a video came out of the police beating Israeli soldier Damas Fekade and the attorney general closed the case. That event was preceded by a number of incidents, most notably the suicide of Yosef Salamseh; his family said he was abused by the police when he was arrested.

The video, however, was the last straw. In the days after its release, more than 1,000 people demonstrated in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, blocking main roads. The demonstrations got out of control, especially in Tel Aviv: Dozens of demonstrators and police were injured, store and car windows were smashed, and the police used stun grenades and tear gas.

Why did the protest erupt then? There are a number of possible explanations. The members of the generation born in Israel no longer agreed to bow their heads to racism, and the police violence was against a soldier in uniform – a symbol of the consensus and integration. Apparently Black Lives Matter in the United States also influenced the nature of the protest.

Conspicuous by their absence were other Israelis. During the following week smaller demonstrations took place in Kiryat Gat, Ashkelon and Haifa, where there are many Israelis of Ethiopian origin. The fact that there was no protest in Netanya reflected the success of the police there. Still, it’s doubtful the last word has been spoken.

Many faces of racism

How is racism eradicated? Quite simply, it isn’t. Racism is too deeply imprinted in individuals and society; at most it’s possible to decrease it. But in the Damas Fekade affair, the seeds of change were sown. From the outside, community activists demanded from the police an acknowledgement of over-policing, an apology and preventive action.

From within, an officer of Ethiopian origin, Superintendent Shai Yasu, a lawyer, contacted the police’s head of human resources, Maj. Gen. Gila Gaziel. Yasu suggested that he be appointed the liaison to the community. Similar requests by him in the past were refused, but the police saw the attack on Fekade as a warning sign, while the need for a change was clear to the top command. The police academy, which had been established just a few months earlier, was part of the change; all training processes were reexamined, and the question was asked: What kind of policing is needed in a multicultural society?

Despite the harsh criticism of Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich after he said it was natural for the police to be more suspicious of Ethiopian Israelis, he has been the first commissioner to launch an extensive program for multicultural policing. Many changes have taken place over the past two years. For example, 29 community police officers, most of them of Ethiopian origin, have been assigned to heavily Ethiopian neighborhoods; they arrange meetings between community leaders and local police commanders. They also create unofficial bridges such as paint ball and soccer games with teens.

Cases that were filed in 2014 to 2016, some of them possible results of over-policing, underwent reviews. All police stations and commanders have taken courses on cultural appropriateness, which were developed with the Jerusalem Intercultural Center [emphasis ours]. This year the number of police officers of Ethiopian origin (1,085 out of about 30,000) is larger than their percentage in the overall population, and there is an increasing number of officers (27 in 2014 and 51 in 2017).

The glass ceiling is also melting a bit; two Ethiopian Israelis are now chief superintendents. Police are regularly briefed on multicultural policing before they go out on duty, and there are plans to enlarge the pilot project in which police wear body cameras and at every station someone is responsible for cultural appropriateness. Surveys in the Ethiopian community indicate a steep rise in trust in the police, from 18 percent in 2015 (versus 48 percent in the general population) to 25 percent in 2016 (also versus 48 percent). The main tool is a joint steering committee of the police and the community.

One member of the steering committee is Issachar Makonnen. He was Israel’s first Ethiopian lieutenant colonel, and he heads an organization that helps the community and prepares its young people for the army. In this respect, he lauds the police’s head of human resources, Gila Gaziel.

“But let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he says. “There is still a gap between the orders from above and the field, and there is police violence. And there are police officers who beat someone up and then run to complain that they’ve been attacked. But I’m telling you unequivocally that it’s getting better. Today we have possibilities that we didn’t have before. I have an open door at the station commander’s office, at Gila Gaziel’s office and at Alsheich’s when necessary.”

When I recently completed a long day of interviews at the police academy, an officers’ graduation ceremony was going on. On stage stood 138 excited cadets; it was obvious that considerable thought had been invested in creating a culturally diverse cadre: seven of Ethiopian origin – four times their representation in the general population – as well as 10 Druze, one Muslim and two Christians. The speeches stressed the importance of diversity and multiculturalism. In the audience sat families and friends of every religion, origin and color – all of them shedding a tear of the same color.

At the end of the day, there seems to be reason for cautious optimism, even though there is still a long way to go. Are the police less racist than in 2015, the year Damas Fekade was beaten? It’s possible to say for certain only that the police are trying and investing money, manpower, thought, time and effort – which is a lot more than can be said about Israeli society. And anyone among us who has never committed the sin of racism has the honor of casting the first stone at the police.

Nomi Levenkron is a doctoral student at the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law.

While this is a national program, we owe our deep gratitude to the Jerusalem Foundation, which has been our strategic partner in developing Cultural Competency in Jerusalem for the past decade.

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Window to Mount Zion – Who Are the People in Our Neighborhood?

We believe that our offices sit in one of the most interesting neighborhoods in Jerusalem – Mount Zion. Mount Zion includes David’s Tomb (the only place in the world that is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims), the Diaspora Yeshiva, the Dormition Abbey, historic Muslim, Christian and Jewish cemeteries, and much more.

When Window to Mount Zion began two years ago we started a new tradition, an annual social gathering for all residents. This year, we – representatives of all institutions and organizations that live and work on Mount Zion – did something even more unusual – we took a tour of a number of different hidden gems that the ‘neighborhood’ has to offer. This enabled residents to get to know their neighbors – and neighborhood – just a little better.

The tour started in the Chamber of the Holocaust, which is operated by the Diaspora Yeshiva. This was one of the first places established to commemorate the Holocaust, yet, for many, it was the first time they had been. It was a somber yet fascinating experience.

In the Chamber of the Holocaust

In the Chamber of the Holocaust

From there we moved on to the complex of David’s Tomb and the Room of the Last Supper (Cenacle). There, we heard the site director talk about efforts to improve maintenance at the site. We saw the new setting to place candles and noticed the improved cleanliness of the site. From the police station at David’s Tomb the community police officer spoke about the cultural competency training that we provided for the entire David Precinct (that is responsible for the Old City and Mount Zion), and how the work on Mount Zion served as a model for action.

On the roof of David's Tomb

On the roof of David’s Tomb

We enjoyed the view from the roof of the David’s Tomb complex, and were able to see its environs, and enjoy Jerusalem’s fresh, mountain air. The head of the Ad Cenaculum monastery spoke briefly about the monastery and its long history.

From the roof we then descended via a hidden, back exit, which led to two green gates and two fabulous gardens. One belongs to the Dormition Abbey and the other to the Beit Yosef complex. Both are actually associated with the Dormition Abbey. Their representative explained that in the past it had been one garden. During the years 1948 – 1967, when Jerusalem was divided but Mount Zion was an Israeli enclave surrounded by no-man’s land, the Dormition Abbey allowed the State of Israel to use the access path to the garden in order to access Mount Zion. This is the path that  splits the garden today.

On Mount Zion, even the garden paths are historic

On Mount Zion, even the garden paths are historic

We visited the well-kept gardens and heard more about the Franciscan community in Jerusalem.

The visit ended with dinner and discussions in our own beautiful garden, underneath one of the oldest mulberry trees in Jerusalem. What a wonderful way to end an evening, discussing ideas and thoughts about the diverse and varied communities who live on Mount Zion.

Here’s the link to the Facebook post (in Hebrew):

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Wisdom of Experience in Cultural Competency

After 10 years trailblazing the area of Cultural Competency we and our partners in action have garnered a broad spectrum of experience in a wide variety of areas. Throughout the country, there are many people who have developed expertise in different aspects of cultural competency, in different disciplines. They’ve dealt with countless difficulties and are proud of impressive achievements. We’ve all come a long way. After 10 years, we and our partners in action are excited to share some key aspects of Cultural Competency in Israel, and are taking a moment to reflect on the journey of the last decade.

We’ve called this reflection “Wisdom of Experience” newsletters. They detail different issues in Cultural Competency that we’ve dealt with. Each 3-5 page description includes a page introduction about the topic, plus a detailed description of the subject, written by our partners in the field.

Rabbi as a Hospital Consultant

Rabbi as a Hospital Consultant

Thus far we’ve written about (in Hebrew):

Rabbi as a Hospital Consultant (for matters concerning the Ultra-Orthodox population)

In Your Language – Language Accessibility at Hadassah Medical Centers

Assimilating Use of a Telephone Interpreting Hotline

Training at the Western Galilee Medical Center

We’ll continue publishing these newsletters monthly. Other subjects soon to be published include our Haifa-based round table with Haredim and the Maccabi HMO, Cultural Competency in Mental Health, making health services accessible to French-speaking olim, and more.

These newsletters join our series about multi-cultural and religious holidays, that we continue to revise in 2017 (on our Hebrew publications web page).

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued partnership and support of cultural competency over the past decade!

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Living Safer, Living Longer – Introduction Night in Ultra-Orthodox Haredi Ramot

Isn’t it nice when someone gives you a helping hand? This helping hand becomes even more significant when talking about preventive health and home safety, where that help can save your life, or the lives of your loved ones.

Speaking about Health in Ramot

Speaking about Health in Ramot

According to the Israeli Task Force for Advancing Preventive Medicine, “Modern medicine has found solutions to many medical problems, but it has not found cures for most chronic illnesses. Advancing health in the population and preventing sickness are therefore an important part of medicine today.” The Beterem organization reported that in 2014, 40% of all child fatalities caused by accidents took place in the home.

Over the past few months the JICC has been developing Living Safer, Living Longer, a program to improve preventive health and home safety in all of Jerusalem’s populations. Based on the highly-successful Pa’amonim model of individual financial coaching and mentoring for home financial health, Living Safer, Living Longer seeks to provide individual mentoring, classes and workshops. Volunteer mentors will review standard checklists for major health measures such as vaccinations for children, tests for common chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardio-respiratory problems, and periodic blood tests and other procedures such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Checklists for safety measures will include childproofing homes with small children, appliances, general repair, etc. Mentors will follow-up with families periodically, to track their progress, and offer assistance when necessary in installing safety measures.

Utilizing our knowledge and experience working with all Jerusalem’s populations – religious, secular, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish and Arab, we are developing sections of the program that are culturally sensitive and adapted to each segment of the population. And of course, we are drawing on the knowledge and expertise of the Ministry of Health, the Department for Public Health at the Jerusalem Municipality, the Beterem organization, all national HMO’s, well-baby clinics, and more.

Women were fascinated by the evening

Women were fascinated by the evening

An integral part of the program is developing a volunteer Lead Team, that will plan, develop, implement – and ultimately, sustain – the project within that community. Thus, while the ‘general’ sector Lead Team is working citywide, in the Haredi sector, we’ve decided to concentrate on the Ramot neighborhood. And in order to recruit members of the volunteer lead team, it was decided, together with community professionals who were very excited about the initiative, that we will present the project at a women’s health night that took place on July 26 at the Ramot Community Center. The evening include a lecture by a General Practitioner about the importance of preventive medicine, as well as a lecture by Chani Weinroth, a renowned author and lecturer who spoke about her journey in battling cancer, the signs she saw and ignored, and how she copes today.  There were over 200 women who came to the evening, and of them, 10 were interested in joining the project, which is exactly the group-size we need to work with in this neighborhood. We’ll keep you posted!

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Continuing Support for Jerusalem Medical Interpreters at Shaare Zedek

It’s always nice to be praised by someone else. This time, it was by the Sha’are Zedek Medical Center’s social media team, after our Dr. Michal Schuster led a meeting for Jerusalem-based medical interpreters.

Dr. Michal Schuster, leading the workshop

Dr. Michal Schuster, leading the workshop

Here’s their Facebook post:

 

The meeting was held on July 19, for more than 20 medical interpreters. Most were from Sha’are Zedek, and others came from Hadassah Mt. Scopus and Ein Kerem hospitals, ALYN Rehabilitative Hospital, as well as from the Tene Briut organization. The first part of the meeting dealt with the role of medical interpreters in bridging cultural as well as linguistic gaps. In their training the medical interpreters had studied mainly how to translate medical terms from one language to another; the concept of bridging between cultures was not focused on. Michal raised several examples in which medical interpreters were faced with the need to bridge cultural gaps, and they discussed how to approach these differences. This discussion was important for the interpreters, since previously many had focused mainly on language translation, and the concept of cultural bridging, although an important intuitive aspect of medical interpretation, had not received as much attention. It was now brought front and center.

Afterward, participants split up into groups according to mother tongue. Each group discussed specific issues pertaining to medical interpretation in that language.

Thanks to Sha’are Zedek for the mention! And of course, many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued partnership in our Cultural Competency efforts throughout the past decade and into the future!

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Palestinian Municipal Social Workers Learning Hebrew

We’ve told you here and here the importance of learning the ‘other’s’ language. Hebrew-speakers learning Arabic, Arabic-speakers learning Hebrew. Our MiniActive volunteers have been studying Hebrew for the past two years, and haven’t stopped singing the praises of the course.

Studying Hebrew with Medabrot Ivrit (illustration)

Studying Hebrew with Medabrot Ivrit (illustration)

Given this success, answering a request from Palestinian social workers, from different branches of the municipal welfare office in East Jerusalem, to offer courses in Hebrew. These courses are important for them professionally in their interactions with their colleagues and the overall welfare system. Like the courses for the MiniActive women, these courses were also given by the Medabrot Ivrit (Speaking Hebrew) volunteer-based group.

Thirty-four women participated in 2 courses, 2 levels of Hebrew. The women met for 3 hours each time, for 28 meetings. They ran from 9 March to 6 July.

There are a number of success stories from this course. One social worker, who’s been working in the municipal system for 10 years, told her class how she was able to write a report in Hebrew by herself for the first time. This is one example of how these classes are enabling Palestinian women – especially professionals – to be more independent, and to be able to communicate better and more effectively with the Hebrew-speaking system. It is part of our efforts to make Jerusalem culturally competent – enabling all populations to better access – and demand when necessary – the rights that are guaranteed them by law.

The Jerusalem Foundation was a full partner to this effort, in connecting, designing, and eventually in providing the required funds.

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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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