Identity Groups and Conflicts

Cultural Competency Weaved into the Fabric of Sha’are Zedek Medical Center

A woman comes to the hospital to deliver a baby, and her husband is the one who speaks to the doctors. How do you best communicate? How do you make sure that the woman’s needs are being met, while respecting the cultural mores of the patient, which dictate that the man does the talking?

This is just one of the examples discussed last week in a cultural competency training seminar that was held at Sha’are Zedek Medical Center last week, for 15 staff members from the gynecology clinic.

Staff training staff at Shaare Zedek

Staff training staff at Shaare Zedek

But this seminar was different than other seminars. This one was led by Sha’are Zedek staff, in a regularly-scheduled staff meeting.

We reported here and here about our two Training the Trainer courses, which sought to enable in-house staff at the different health services in Jerusalem to present the principles of cultural competency / sensitivity to other staff members. In discussions with Sha’are Zedek, it was decided that short introductions, during regularly-scheduled meetings, would be the best way to ensure that as many staff as possible were introduced to the basic concepts of cultural competency.

The staff meet a wide range of ethnicities and cultures in their work in the outpatient clinics and delivery rooms. The seminar seeks to help them respond to the needs of patients and their families in a way that is culturally sensitive to all of Jerusalem’s diverse population groups.

In light of the response to this seminar, staff are already planning the next, this one to the reception staff of the general outpatient and eye clinics. Congratulations to Sha’are Zedek, for being one of the few hospitals that have made cultural competency training part of its business-as-usual in staff meetings.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its partnership in developing the cultural competency program since 2008!

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Learning Arabic with Experience – Our Own Anwar Ben Badis featured in the Times of Israel

On Sunday, January 21, 2018, one of our veteran Arabic teachers, Dr. Anwar Ben Badis, was featured in an article in the Times of Israel news site. Below is the text, here is a link to the original article (and here is a link to a .pdf version). Looking to learn Arabic yourself? Our classes are full this year, but watch our website (https://jicc.org.il/heb/center-for-arabic-instruction/) for further details for next year!

Anwar Ben-Badis

Anwar Ben-Badis

Al-salam alaikum! Is it finally time for Israelis to learn Arabic?

Teachers and language schools are noticing a rise in the number of locals learning Arabic, although attitudes and angles depend on who’s teaching, and where

In the 20 years linguist Anwar Ben-Badis (emphasis ours) has been teaching Arabic, he’s heard nearly every reason why Jewish Israelis choose to learn his native language.

 There are liberals and lefties hoping for peace and a way to bridge gaps.

There are right-wingers and settlers; one settler eventually left the West Bank and moved into Israel proper.

Even President Reuven Rivlin studied with Ben-Badis, as did Knesset member Benny Begin.

His students are generally Jerusalemites who, as residents of a simultaneously mixed and divided city, brush up against their Arab neighbors at the supermarket, the mall and the movie theater and want to be able to say “excuse me” in Arabic (aläafw), or “I only speak a little Arabic” (anaa ataHaddath faqaT qaliil min aläarabiyya).

Perhaps they also want to know what the imam is calling from the minaret at 4 a.m.

His students, some 300 this year, study three hours a week — plus homework — hoping to achieve a comfortable level of spoken Arabic.

Actually, learning a little Arabic is something of a trend right now, particularly among adults who have  time to spare and believe that when your neighbor speaks a different language, it’s important to know what they’re saying.“It’s important to me to help them understand that it’s very acceptable to learn Arabic, even though it’s the language of the enemy,” said Ben-Badis. “I’m trying to help free the Israeli student from thinking of it as the enemy’s language, but rather as a way to connect with me. It’s not obvious to them.”

The Jerusalem municipality offers continuing education language classes each year in Arabic and Hebrew, as well as Spanish, Italian and Yiddish. There isn’t generally a huge demand for Italian, said Hagit van der Hoven, who heads the continuing education department, but the Arabic classes are always full.

This year, the municipality opened Arabic classes to its staff as well. “We figured that was the right thing to do,” said van der Hoven. “In Jerusalem, we have joint lives, and we just need it.”

In Tel Aviv, Ishmael Ben Israel, the linguist co-founder of A.M.A.L. — Spoken Arabic for All, a nonprofit that places Palestinian university students in elementary schools in and around Tel Aviv to act as ambassadors of Arabic culture — is also the CEO of LingoLearn, a for-profit, online language learning site. He has hundreds, maybe thousands of students currently studying Arabic, said Ben Israel, whose “hippie” parents named him for the eldest son of the biblical Abraham, a prophet and patriarch in Islam.

Ariel Olmert, the son of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, founded Ha-ambatia, or The Bathtub, a private language school with branches in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Having added Arabic classes to its French offerings four years ago, the school now has 400 students learning Arabic. It creates its own educational materials and aims to make language acquisition a living, breathing endeavor.

In the 20 years linguist Anwar Ben-Badis has been teaching Arabic, he’s heard nearly every reason why Jewish Israelis choose to learn his native language.
There are liberals and lefties hoping for peace and a way to bridge gaps.

There are right-wingers and settlers; one settler eventually left the West Bank and moved into Israel proper.

Even President Reuven Rivlin studied with Ben-Badis, as did Knesset member Benny Begin.

His students are generally Jerusalemites who, as residents of a simultaneously mixed and divided city, brush up against their Arab neighbors at the supermarket, the mall and the movie theater and want to be able to say “excuse me” in Arabic (aläafw), or “I only speak a little Arabic” (anaa ataHaddath faqaT qaliil min aläarabiyya).

Perhaps they also want to know what the imam is calling from the minaret at 4 a.m.

His students, some 300 this year, study three hours a week — plus homework — hoping to achieve a comfortable level of spoken Arabic.

“It’s important to me to help them understand that it’s very acceptable to learn Arabic, even though it’s the language of the enemy,” said Ben-Badis. “I’m trying to help free the Israeli student from thinking of it as the enemy’s language, but rather as a way to connect with me. It’s not obvious to them.”

Actually, learning a little Arabic is something of a trend right now, particularly among adults who have  time to spare and believe that when your neighbor speaks a different language, it’s important to know what they’re saying.

The Jerusalem municipality offers continuing education language classes each year in Arabic and Hebrew, as well as Spanish, Italian and Yiddish. There isn’t generally a huge demand for Italian, said Hagit van der Hoven, who heads the continuing education department, but the Arabic classes are always full.

This year, the municipality opened Arabic classes to its staff as well. “We figured that was the right thing to do,” said van der Hoven. “In Jerusalem, we have joint lives, and we just need it.”

 

In Tel Aviv, Ishmael Ben Israel, the linguist co-founder of A.M.A.L. — Spoken Arabic for All, a nonprofit that places Palestinian university students in elementary schools in and around Tel Aviv to act as ambassadors of Arabic culture — is also the CEO of LingoLearn, a for-profit, online language learning site. He has hundreds, maybe thousands of students currently studying Arabic, said Ben Israel, whose “hippie” parents named him for the eldest son of the biblical Abraham, a prophet and patriarch in Islam.

Ariel Olmert, the son of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, founded Ha-ambatia, or The Bathtub, a private language school with branches in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Having added Arabic classes to its French offerings four years ago, the school now has 400 students learning Arabic. It creates its own educational materials and aims to make language acquisition a living, breathing endeavor.

“It’s a complicated story why Jews don’t speak Arabic,” said Olmert. “Our idea was that we needed to do it with joy, not because we have to, or because it’s the right thing to do.”

Ben Israel thinks one reason for the heightened interest is the TV show “Fauda,” about an undercover army unit that operates in the Palestinian territories. All the operatives speak Arabic fluently, and Arabic is regularly heard on the show.

“’Fauda’ was a big thing, it created a lot of buzz,” said Ben Israel. “It’s now cool to speak Arabic; young people see these undercover guys and they’re singing a song in Arabic and it’s something they want to emulate.”

That wasn’t the case when he was a kid. Ben Israel, now 38, first learned Arabic in high school from a female soldier, which seemed reasonable at the time but later didn’t make sense to him.

“The militaristic connotations of learning Arabic aren’t normal,” he said.

He wants the study of Arabic to help young Israelis think about a civil shared society, and see Arabic as a language of peace, not of war.

Ditto for the teachers he employs, who are native Arabic speakers.

Amal Gaoui, a student at Tel Aviv University who teaches at Tel Aviv’s Gavrieli elementary school, likes that her young students, fourth graders, don’t come with any preconceived notions.

That is, for the most part. When she taught them the term “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is great” and is often heard in conjunction with terrorist attacks, the students all looked at each other and laughed, said Gaoui. “They said, ‘Hamas says that.’”

This led to a conversation about good people and bad people. “It’s not just learning words,” she said, “but to understand why we’re learning this language.”

Ben Israel often hires Arab women working from home to teach in his online school.

“They’re making a living, and they now have this relationship with Jews,” he said. “At the schools, for the vast majority of the pupils, it’s actually the first time they’ve had any meaningful relationship with Arabs at all.”

Canadian immigrant Lee Gancman teaches Arabic to small groups of adults through the language school he founded, Damascus Gate. Gancman learned Arabic in college, later attending programs in Jordan and Damascus before making his way to Israel.

His students are Jewish Jerusalemites, who want to converse with vendors at the Mahane Yehuda market or chat about the weather with their butcher.

When Gancman advertises on Secret Jerusalem, an open Facebook group known for a startling array of posts on everything from finding bacon in Jerusalem to finding owners for stray dogs, he ends up with long threads about why people want to learn Arabic.

“You’d be surprised by the students,” he said.

It’s his religiously observant students who come into contact with Arabic speakers more often, generally in the Old City, said Gancman. “Secular students say, “‘I don’t know where to find Arabs.’”

Who’s your teacher?

The Jerusalem municipality’s Arabic teachers are Jewish, professional instructors who have been teaching the language for years, said van der Hoven.

When prospective students ask Ha-ambatia’s Olmert about his Arabic teachers, he tells them, “Our teachers speak Arabic as their native tongue. I’m not about race.”

About half of the students at Ha-ambatia are descendants of families where Arabic was one of the language and want to connect to their roots, said Olmert.

At the same time, while a fifth of Israel’s population speaks Arabic, the book most commonly used to teach spoken Arabic was written in the 1960s by a French priest, he pointed out.

“It’s actually a really nice book; he is a real lover of the language,” he said. But it’s written in Hebrew phonetics, which creates difficulties, he noted.

“It’s an exhausting process to learn a language,” said Olmert, who comes to the teaching of language through his study of French literature, and nine years of living in Paris. “There are the problems and paradoxes of learning spoken Arabic; Arabic is the language that’s everywhere and nowhere. We want our students to be able to speak and not get too caught up in the rules.”

Back in Jerusalem, Ben-Badis doesn’t shy away from the politics of learning Arabic; perhaps it’s the stubborn Jerusalemite in him.

He believes his native tongue should only be taught by native Arabic speakers who also understand the Israeli character.

“You’re teaching not just the language, but the culture,” he pointed out. “We’re in a particular region; the minute an Israeli Jews decides to learn Arabic, it’s not just a language, it’s a culture, it’s holidays, it’s the everyday stuff. They have no idea.”

This linguist, a PhD from Hebrew University who also interprets and teaches Aramaic, is unusually equipped to handle the Israeli student.

Raised in the north by his Muslim mother and Christian Arab father, Ben-Badis headed to Jerusalem for college, the city his mother hailed from, where his maternal grandfather studied at Hebrew University when classes were being held in Kiryat Moriah.

He lives in the neighborhood of Baka, up the block from his grandmother’s original stone house on Yehuda Street, now situated next to a Bnei Akiva youth group center and two religious Jewish public schools.

“My connection to this place isn’t as a visitor. I’m a son of this place. I know almost every corner of this city,” he said.

He is married to a Jewish American woman who was raised in Israel, and his father-in-law is a Reform rabbi actively engaged in interreligious peace building. Their 3-year-old daughter speaks Arabic, Hebrew and English, and Ben-Badis introduces her to his classes as “100 percent mixed, not half and half.”

“Jerusalem is exactly my daughter with all its shades,” he said. “We’re very tied to this city because we’re very similar to it, and therefore very close to it. I didn’t choose Jerusalem.”

He teaches Arabic with a similar flavor, “with his truth,” he said.

For most Arabic teachers, it’s a challenge to work with Jewish Israelis because it’s difficult to deal with Israeli chutzpah, particularly during stressful times when there are attacks or wars.

“Israelis don’t like to listen, they don’t like to be told what to do, they think they know everything,” said Ben-Badis. “I treat them like students. It’s not easy to learn a language, and I demand a lot. It creates a lot of back and forth and we work hard. But they’re not the boss here, I am.”

One student, a retired army colonel, told Ben-Badis he gave directions to Arabs his whole life and it wasn’t natural for him to reverse the process. Sometimes a student will ask Ben-Badis to write something on the board, but will say it in Hebrew, in the form of a command, and Ben-Badis won’t follow those orders.

“The powers are different in here and that’s how we progress,” he said. “I am who I am here. I’m Anwar, and I use my language as a resistance, to protect my identity.”

When he speaks Hebrew, it’s with a lilting set of rolling ‘r’s and harsh ‘ayin’ pronunciations, as he deliberately brings an Arabic flavor to the Jewish language.

“I don’t hide my Arabness — I show it everywhere,” he said.

He was once attacked on an Egged bus while speaking Arabic with his nephew. When his brother, a doctor in Haifa, went to help at a Gazan hospital during the 2014 war, Ben-Badis showed his students the WhatsApp texts he received from him, leading to difficult conversations and reactions.

An Israeli policeman was once sent to Ben-Badis’ classroom to check that he wasn’t teaching anything insubordinate.

None of it has stopped Ben-Badis from trying to expose as much of his culture as possible.

When his own parents were younger, Ben-Badis used to send students to spend the night at their house in order to speak Arabic and be exposed to their way of life. They often came back saying, “We never knew Arabs were like this.’”

“The meeting of Israelis with Arabic is more than a language class if the teacher is an Arab, it exposes them to the culture and realities of life,” he said.

In the Classroom

It’s 1 p.m. on a Wednesday, which means it’s almost time for the second class of the day at Jerusalem’s Islamic Art Museum, the elegant, art-filled building in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood, where Ben-Badis teaches some of his weekly classes.

His students shuffle in, including an American-born Peace Now activist, a former Tel Aviv University professor of art history and a couple of twenty-somethings sprinkled among the mostly grey haired students. The earlier class included a journalist and a former ambassador.

Toward the end of each year, Ben-Badis takes his students on tours, as part of the process of learning the language. They visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque, stop in at some Arabic libraries in East Jerusalem, and join iftar meals and hear Sufi music during Ramadan.

“We’re not in a normal situation where learning the language is just to connect, it’s something else entirely,” said Ben-Badis. “It’s the difference between the Jewish student learning Arabic and a Palestinian from East Jerusalem learning Hebrew. Jews can live and earn a living without Arabic but an Arab needs Hebrew as a tool of earning a living. For Jews, Arabic is a bonus, it’s a privilege, because he’s the one in power.”

Teaching the language to Jewish Israelis, he said, isn’t about coexistence or bringing peace. In fact, said Ben-Badis, coexistence isn’t a word that he uses any longer.

“I want to help people, no matter who, get to know me better, Anwar, and my nation and my family and the people around me,” he said. “I’m not trying to convince them to change, I’m just trying to open a window or a door. I don’t want to be their friend, I’m showing them something else through the language. The language is a tool.”

(emphasis theirs) The language schools mentioned above can be contacted through the following links: LingoLearn, Ha-ambatia, Damascus Gate and Anwar Ben-Badis through the Jerusalem Intercultural Center. There are also learning language exchanges available through Facebook.

Congratulations Anwar!

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support of our Arabic-language classes.

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Close the Garbage Can! Campaign Gets Underway

How do you go about getting people to close the lids on the garbage cans and put them back in their place after emptying? Have breakfast, of course. So on January 4, some 40 sanitation workers, from truck drivers to shift managers to department directors, and Haredi activists from Bayit veGan, had breakfast together to discuss how to make the streets of their neighborhood, cleaner.

It was far from obvious that this meeting took place. There are many differences between these two groups – religious, ethnicity, nationality, gender, occupation, standard of living. Despite these differences, everyone present wanted to see – and work toward – a cleaner Bayit veGan.

This initiative is part of our Little Prince project, which seeks to advance a range of initiative to help make Jerusalem’s streets cleaner. The garbage can initiative was first presented at our Open Space Technology meeting that we held in May 2017, led by the Neighborhood Cleanliness Committee of the Haredi neighborhood of Bayit veGan.

Breakfast with the Neighborhood Cleanliness Committee

Breakfast with the Neighborhood Cleanliness Committee

This breakfast was the culmination of a long process of discussing the extent of the problem, the root of the problem, and possible solutions to the problem. We helped the women of the committee reach the conclusion that, in order to improve the situation, it was critical to develop a relationship with all involved, and not just be seen as complainers. Thus, the breakfast idea was born.

The idea was to invite all the local sanitation workers together with their managers to learn about the garbage collection from their standpoint. The local community center, alongside the community social worker and the community center director, invited all to breakfast at the community center.

So many attended there was barely enough food

So many attended there was barely enough food

The breakfast itself was a huge success. We were prepared for 5 workers, and 25 – 30 showed up – including all the regular workers, some substitutes, the managers, and the regional manager for Bayit veGan. Everyone cleared the air in an unusually good-natured meeting – residents complained about cans having their lids opened, how the trucks block the streets, how the cans are put back in different places. The workers complained that cars parked on the sidewalks and blocked access to the cans and other issues. Each ‘side’ brainstormed about ways they can help each other make the streets of Bayit veGan cleaners again. All came away with a fantastic feeling that despite the great differences in identity – ranging from Muslim Palestinian and Ethiopian Israeli to Haredi – bridges were built that laid the groundwork for future cooperation. And ultimately, cleaner streets.

Keeping our streets clean means so many things to so many people. From construction waste to littered parks to shutting the lids on the garbage cans in the streets, and having workers put them back in their place after they’d been emptied. Brainstorming and planning together about how to advance these issues in our individual communities – that is the beauty of the Little Prince. It is an example of wonderful, uniquely contemporary Jerusalemite, cooperation. We all live in Jerusalem and want to see it cleaner – for all of us.

Here’s the post from Facebook that was published on the Jerusalem Tolerance Facebook page:

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Summing Up Tolerance Week

We’ve already described and listed here the 30 events that took place during Tolerance Week (November 10 – 18).  Here’s how our Michal Shilor, Coordinator for the Grassroots Campaign for Tolerance, described it:

In the last week, we broke records of emotion:

Jerusalem wore its holiday clothes

She removed her masks

And was just herself:

Authentic Jerusalem, made up of her communities,

Jerusalem of Jerusalemites, of all who love her.

Tour of the Old City of Jerusalem during Tolerance Week

Tour of the Old City of Jerusalem during Tolerance Week

During the last week Jerusalem celebrated Tolerance Week – the holiday that is davka the most appropriate for our city. Davka the city of political and religious and national and international slogans, davka for the city – for those who don’t know her – that is seen as the symbol of all that is opposite of tolerance.

What do others think of people like me?

What do others think of people like me?

During the last week, Jerusalem re-centered itself. She peeled away all the layers of slogans of all who think they know her, and said:

“I am of my residents.

I am of my people.

I am of my communities who choose to live with me,

to love me and to walk in my streets.

And I bring them together. And I make them feel good. And we live together.”

Learning Talmud and Hadith together

Learning Talmud and Hadith together

Jerusalem Tolerance Week began last year, and this year nearly doubled itself, with 30 events – initiated in schools, by activists, and organizations that chose to celebrate the multicultural diversity of Jerusalem, and to bring people together who don’t usually meet.

And it was really, really exciting.

I would like to thank you for the pleasure of helping you, watching how you create the real Jerusalem with a lot of energy and in full faith.

Coming together to learn about one another

Coming together to learn about one another

I was brought to tears by the event that brought together formerly religious Haredi Jews and Muslims.

I skipped for joy when Runners without Borders told me that they can’t invite more people to the Jewish-Arab race because there were already 800 (!) runners registered and the police requested that there not be any  more.

Running for Tolerance and Peace

Running for Tolerance and Peace

I wasn’t able to take the smile off my face when I met  Ruth Kristina Vasileva a minute before a joint learning session of Hadith and Talmud, especially after I saw the amazing people who came to study  together!

I didn’t believe how the mental health community creates an encounter with the outside world through board games and soup in the coolness of the Jerusalem autumn.

I was so excited to hear a poets’ exchange that brought together different identities through poetry.

That even the Citypass light rail company  joined the adventure and create a tour that connects the mental health community, Haredi women artists and the African community of Jerusalem on the light rail line.

At the Tolerance Stop on the light rail line

At the Tolerance Stop on the light rail line

And I saw secular, formerly religious Jews and Haredi Jews being angry at two Haredi newspaper editors, all the while speaking about tolerance and shared living, despite the disagreements.

And I was finally able to participate in a meeting with deaf people.

That Itamar Farhi again brought us an event of tolerance stories to the Katamonim, a place where life is so complicated and woven together that it screams for it.

I met a group of people – Armenians, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Palestinians, Israelis, Americans – who decided to eat a meal together to get to know one another better.

I was able to take part in a Sigd ceremony. There were so many events of Story Along the Way that made the story of Ethiopian-Israelis so well known around the Sigd Holiday.

Sigd ceremony

Sigd ceremony

We were able to provide a platform to inter-religious events.

I couldn’t believe that even light rail stations and the area in front of the Jaffa Gate became places of encounter.

We had a Jewish-Arab backgammon tournament and a religious-secular Jewish encounter on Saturday.

Backgammon tournament

Backgammon tournament

Sentences in Arabic, Hebrew and Yiddish peppered the public sphere.

And there were all sorts of other routine events in Jerusalem – in schools, in soccer clubs, and more – that simply brought people from all the different streams to remember that Jerusalem belongs to its residents. To all its residents.

Listening and learning

Listening and learning

Jerusalem? Jerusalem is the tolerance capital of its people.

We all live here in Jerusalem

We all live here in Jerusalem

Here’s a compilation of posts translated into English from the 0202 Facebook page:

 

And the original post in Hebrew:

And here’s Jerusalem Tolerance’s post and list of all the different initiatives:

 

Many thanks to the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support in advancing tolerance in Jerusalem!

 

 

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Cultural Competency on the Light Rail

It’s been said that Jerusalem’s light rail is one of its prime examples of multiculturalism.

Citypass, a model of multiculturalism

Citypass, a model of multiculturalism

The Citypass company, which operates the Jerusalem light rail, has become an important partner in working to improve tolerance in and around the light rail, including the Tolerance Station outside the Municipality, our Building Jerusalem with Lego stop on Jerusalemite Day, to Tolerance Traing-based tours during the Jerusalem Tolerance Week. But one of their most important initiatives was the series of cultural competency workshops that we ran throughout November 2017 for their 7 customer service representatives.

That is when tensions are high, and it comes out in the conversations the customer service representatives have.

The Customer Service desk

The Customer Service desk

It’s not easy working in customer service, since they are the ones dealing with people who’ve been fined or have complaints. When tensions are high, politeness takes a back burner. “We deal with things like, ‘That dirty/smelly/ stupid Ethiopian ticket checker gave me a fine'” said one of the workers. “How do you respond to that?”

In the workshops, the workers learned how to respond to these and other comments that are based on stereotypes. The training included principles of interpersonal communication that deflects tension-ridden comments.

During one of the four training sessions

During one of the four training sessions

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continued support of Cultural Competency since its inception in 2008.

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Coming Together to Take Care of the Dajani Cemetery

We wrote here about our efforts earlier this year to clean up the Dajani Cemetery on Mount Zion. We are proud of and grateful for our partnerships with the different institutions on Mount Zion, organizations and authorities that made this project possible.

Cleaning up a special grave

Cleaning up a special grave

In November, we were unfortunately called to action again in defense of this cemetery. This time after head stones had been smashed and grave sites desecrated.

Dajani Cemetery, after the damage

Dajani Cemetery, after the damage

In response, the residents of Mount Zion released a statement in three languages:

The statement of the residents of Mount Zion

The statement of the residents of Mount Zion

Recently headstones were smashed and grave sites were desecrated at the Muslim cemetery on Mount Zion, belonging to the Dajani family. The cemetery is adjacent to David’s Tomb on Mount Zion – a holy site for many people. Esteemed Jerusalemites, members of the Dajani family, are buried there.

We, the religious and civic organizations and the residents of Mount Zion, together with Dajani family are shocked and hurt by the desecration of the memory of the deceased, and by this violent act.

We call upon the police to locate the perpetrators and to bring them to justice. Moreover, we call upon the authorities to renovate the headstones and the neglected cemetery urgently, as well as to improve on-site security. We will assist in any manner possible.

Signed:

Diaspora Yeshiva

Jerusalem Intercultural Center

Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Harp of David

Custody of Holy Land

Rachel and Boaz Cohen

Dormition Abbey

Jerusalem University College

Dajani Family

A few days after this was published (and picked up in the Arabic press as well), trucks from the Jerusalem Municipality came to clean the weeds and trees that had accumulated in the vandalized cemetery.

In addition, new and better security cameras were installed for the police in an attempt to prevent further damage.

Municipal workers doing the heavy cleaning

Municipal workers doing the heavy cleaning

On the following Friday, members of the Dajani family, volunteers from the Dormition Abbey and from the Tag Meir organization, helped to clean up and improve the area. Muslims, Jews and Christians worked side by side to bring the cemetery back to its former condition as much as possible.

Improving and protecting the cemetery as much as possible

Improving and protecting the cemetery as much as possible

 

News of this incident made the Arabic, Hebrew and English press as well.

AlQuds November 21, 2017 article

AlQuds November 21, 2017 article

Here’s the text of the article that was published in the December 22, 2017 edition of the national Ha’aretz newspaper. (Here’s the link to the article, and a .pdf of the text.)

When a Jerusalem Cemetery Is Desecrated Yet Again, Jews, Muslims and Christians Team Up to Clean It
The often-vandalized Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem’s Old City is neglected by the authorities

Shakked Auerbach, December 22, 2017

White fragments from smashed headstones were interspersed with the yellowed autumn leaves spread over the Muslim cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The graves of the Dajanis, the Palestinian family entrusted by the waqf (Muslim religious trust) with caring for the site prior to 1948, next to what is traditionally thought of as David’s Tomb, had been vandalized more than once in the past. But this time the perpetrators did not make do with scrawling graffiti – they also smashed five large headstones into smithereens.

“The Dajani family, according to their tradition, and written testimonies, protected David’s Tomb for nearly 600 years,” says Dr. Gadi Gvaryahu, chairman of Tag Meir, a coalition of Jewish groups that seek to counteract hate crimes. “Unfortunately, the headstones are frequently desecrated. It happened a few weeks ago, but it’s a recurring phenomenon.”

Following the most recent act of destruction, all the groups that have a presence on Mount Zion – Jews, Muslims and Christians – banded together to denounce the vandalism and issue a statement, which called on all the relevant authorities to take responsibility for the cemetery. “Many Jerusalem dignitaries are buried in the cemetery,” the letter stated. “We, religious and civilian institutions and tenants on Mount Zion, are shocked and grieved at the desecration of the honor of the dead and at the violent act We call on the authorities to restore the headstones and the cemetery forthwith.”

Tag Meir also declared a joint cleanup day, on Friday, December 8, and launched a campaign to raise funds for the renovation of the site. According to Gvaryahu, the Muslim cemetery, in addition to being a target of nationalist attacks, does not receive the same kind of publicly funded care that other Old City religious sites do.

“Because of its location, this place is very neglected and dirty, like a backyard, or a public garbage can. So we decided to go there,” says Gvaryahu. It’s not the first time that voluntary groups have undertaken to clean up the cemetery, but it requires regular maintenance.

“We hope that all the authorities will mobilize to deal with the cemetery,” says Merav Horovitz-Stein, coordinator of the “Window to Mount Zion” project run by the Jerusalem Intercultural Center, which aims to heighten public interest in and activity on behalf of the site. “There are graves there of a family that safeguarded David’s Tomb. This story is part of the history of Jerusalem.”

The recent cleanup campaign was testimony to the cooperation that has existed for years between several institutions on the mount that have been attacked by nationalists and religious extremists.

Gavaryahu: “A large number of volunteers from the Dormition Abbey came, as well as Franciscan clerics and also representatives from the church at Tabgha [the Church of the Multiplication, on Lake Kinneret]. There is much symbolism in the fact that representatives from Tabgha and from the Dormition came. The Dormition was vandalized four times by the [ultranationalist] Tag Mehir group, and Tabgha was once [in June 2015], as we all remember.”

One of the volunteers in the campaign, Katharina Bloebaum, 33, from Germany, was delighted to discover her coworkers speaking Arabic, German, English and Hebrew.

“It was a good feeling to meet with so many people from different countries and to clean the cemetery together. I think it is a sign of solidarity,” said Bloebaum, who arrived in Israel a year ago to work on behalf of Jerusalem’s Church of the Redeemer, a Lutheran institution. “This way we will understand the way of life and thinking of each person. And that is very valuable.”

A spokesman for the Jerusalem Municipality stated that the owner of the Mount Zion cemetery is the Israel Land Authority, which is also responsible for its maintenance. The spokesman added that the municipality had no knowledge of any desecration of the cemetery.

The lands authority stated: “The ILA and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority are working to clean up the cemetery and improve the situation there, including dealing with the damage done recently to the headstones there. It is our hope that we will already be able to see results in the near future.”

Many thanks to all who helped. May this be the last of these types of incidents. Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their ongoing support of this program.

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MiniActive – Story of a Corner Garbage Dump in A-Tur 2017

This is the story that has a happy ending, thanks to the involvement of MiniActive and local residents.

This is what the kids saw at the entrance to their kindergarten

This is what the kids saw at the entrance to their kindergarten

A new kindergarten director noticed a severe sanitation problem, basically right outside her door. There was an area that was not only filled to overflowing with household garbage, there was quite a bit of construction waste there too. In addition, the supporting wall to the kindergarten, which is adjacent to this ‘corner garbage dump,’ is in danger of collapsing, due to the garbage and construction nearby that dug beneath the wall.

 

Discussing how to improve A-Tur together

Discussing how to improve A-Tur together

Whose responsibility was it to clean this situation up? That’s a good question – City sanitation is definitely the Municipality’s job. But are they responsible for the construction waste, when it was there because of private construction? What about the supporting wall of the kindergarten, which is rented from a private owner by the Municipality?

 

Working together to make A-Tur cleaner

Working together to make A-Tur cleaner

MiniActive, the residents and the Municipality discussed these issues back and forth over a full month. On October 31, the municipal director for sanitation in East Jerusalem toured the area with residents in A-Tur. They came to an agreement of who will do what:

  1. The residents would properly dispose of the construction waste and repave the area.
  2. The Municipality agreed to sweep the streets regularly and to empty the garbage receptacle every two days.
  3. The residents, together with the kindergarten landlord, will collect money to re-build the faulty wall.
  4. The residents also agreed to cordon off an area for garbage, so that it won’t spill out onto the street.
The 'after' picture - all cleaned up and re-paved

The ‘after’ picture – all cleaned up and re-paved

Congratulations A-Tur! We’ll keep you posted on further developments.

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

Here’s the ‘before’ situation, as picked up by the 0202 Facebook page:

Here’s the final product in English, from the 0202 Facebook page:

And here’s the original post in Arabic:

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Atta’a – East Jerusalem’s Go-To for Information and Assistance

Do you know how to get here?

Ministry of Interior Municipality office

Ministry of Interior Municipality office

This is the Israel Ministry of Interior office, within the Jerusalem Municipality complex, where Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem can go to change their address and register newborns.  At the beginning of October, the The Atta’a Assistance Center for the Rights of East Jerusalem Residents posted a short video on exactly where it is inside this rather large complex of buildings, and exactly how to get here. Here’s the video:

 

This 1 1/2 minute video got over 20,000 views! (11,500 on the Atta’a Facebook page, and the rest as a result of the 138 shares)

Indeed, over the past year, Atta’a has become the go-to source of information for East Jerusalem Palestinians on issues regarding the Ministry of Interior, the National Insurance Agency, and more. Google “Ministry of Interior, East Jerusalem” in Arabic and you would expect to get the government agency. But what really comes up first? Atta’a.

Over the past year and half, since the launch of Atta’a’s new web site, Atta’a has become the authority for East Jerusalem Palestinian residents. Uniquely, Atta’a provides information that is geared to the needs of East Jerusalem residents, providing them with information regarding their Jerusalem residency status, family unification issues, etc., that affect only East Jerusalem residents. There are sites that explain in Arabic but often they are geared toward Arabs who are full Israeli citizens. There are also sites geared for residents of the Palestinian Authority, but these, too, are not relevant for Jerusalem residents. And residency issues affect them not only vis-a-vis the Ministry of Interior, but also in health care, welfare, social security, education and more. Explanations on the Atta’a site seek to be easy to understand, cutting through the bureaucracy as simply as possible. Atta’a provides step-by-step demonstrations in filling out different forms and going about different procedures, and is there to individually help residents when needed, both online and in person.

Likes on Atta'a Facebook page 2017

Likes on Atta’a Facebook page 2017

 

As we have seen in nearly every parameter, the demand for Atta’a is huge, and we are proud that Atta’a is rising to the cause. Here are some of Atta’a’s accomplishments in 2017:

  • The number of active entrances into the Atta’a web site increased tenfold! (In 2016, there were 3,631 entrances, and in 2017, 36,760 in 2017.)
  • The number of likes on the Atta’a Facebook page increased by 300%! (from 5,000 likes in 2016 to over 13,500 in 2017)
  • 425 questions were answered by e-mail or telephone messaging.
  • In-person consultations at the three assistance centers also increased by 60%, from 500 requests to 800.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its support of Atta’a since its founding in 2004.

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2017-12-08T14:13:03+00:00 December 1st, 2017|Attaa, Blog, Identity Groups and Conflicts, Palestinians/Arabs|

MiniActive – Celebrating a New Playground in Shuafat

It’s always nice to see the fruits of your labors.

Want to come and play in Shuafat?

Want to come and play in Shuafat?

It’s even more rewarding when these fruits have taken time in coming.

In the spring and summer of 2015, MiniActive women, especially from Shuafat and northern Jerusalem, were asked to take part in a process of public participation to plan a playground. On the one hand it was an incredibly sensitive time (things really hadn’t been the same since the Gaza war the previous summer); on the other hand, the dearth of playgrounds and open green spaces in East Jerusalem is such that this was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.

We're sure it's pretty crowded in the afternoons

We’re sure it’s pretty crowded in the afternoons

This playground was one of several that were planned throughout Jerusalem, as part of a joint project with the Jerusalem Municipality and the Bloomberg Philanthropies. (You can read here about a similar playground that was planned and constructed in Gilo, and here about the earlier process.)

Not only playground, but grassy lawns as well

Not only playground, but grassy lawns as well

The Gilo playground was renewed in 2016. And many in Shuafat, had lost faith that the Municipality would actually install the playground as they discussed. But lo and behold, one bright summer’s day, our MiniActive women were walking in Shuafat and found this, which was installed this past summer. Here’s a video of the new playground:

 

Have fun!

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

Here’s MiniActive’s Facebook posts about the discovery (in Arabic):

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2017-11-18T13:34:16+00:00 November 25th, 2017|Blog, Deliberative Democracy, Effective Activism, MiniActive, Palestinians/Arabs|

Working Together, Working Separately to Help Jerusalemites Live Safer, Live Longer

We wrote here about introducing the Living Safer, Living Longer program into the Haredi community in Jerusalem. But really, the program is not just in the Haredi sector, it’s being developed simultaneously in the Palestinian population, and in the ‘general’ (religious / secular Jewish) population. We’re especially excited about this new model for effective activism – each sector is focusing on preventive health / home safety, but each sector is developing, designing and refining the program to meet the specific needs of that community. All three sector share information and lessons learned, but the program is developing uniquely in each sector.  It is the community itself, through the volunteer Lead Teams – not the professionals – who are leading the way.

Volunteer Lead Team hearing about self breast exams from a nurse from the Bishvilech organization

Haredi Volunteer Lead Team hearing about breast self-exams from a nurse from the Bishvilech organization

We’re now getting down to business in all three sectors. There have been 5 meetings of the Haredi volunteer Lead Team, which chose to focus on preventive medicine. Thus far, they’ve learned about different issues affecting babies and toddlers, to youth, to women and seniors. Some of the lectures were given by nurses from the local well-baby clinic, and others from the Bishvilech organization, is the first and only woman to woman nonprofit organization in Israel focused on preventive medical care. (One of the lecturers was a female Haredi doctor, whose husband studies in Yeshiva, and who works at Sha’are Zedek hospital and volunteers with United Hatzalah emergency response organization. We thought she was really cool.) The team is currently in a learning stage, and are also considering learning about home safety as well. As the learning process progresses the team will come up with a checklist that will be used when going into people’s homes.

The West Jerusalem team (religious and secular Jews) has also had five meetings. They chose to focus on home safety, and learned about home safety for children from the Beterem organization, and learned about home safety for senior citizens from the Milbat organization. (They also tried out Milbat’s phone app for home safety for seniors.) They’ve already devised a checklist, and are in the process of revising and refining it. Members have even designed a logo (we’ll share it when it’s final), and are networking to bring in more participants into the program.

Introducing Living Safer, Living Longer to MiniActive women in East Jerusalem

Introducing Living Safer, Living Longer to MiniActive women in East Jerusalem

And on November 8, we held the first meeting of one of two Arab East Jerusalem teams. This 20-woman team is from the MiniActive program, one of East Jerusalem’s largest networks of volunteers, which has been working since 2012 to improve infrastructure in East Jerusalem. In this introductory session we presented the program, its importance and its principles. Right now they’re also focusing on home safety, and the next meeting next week will feature a lecturer from the Beterem organization, who will talk about home safety and children. Until then, the women were asked to photograph a place in or around their homes and ask themselves if this area really is safe for children. How would you do in such as test?

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