Jewish Religious Denominations

Cultural Competency within the Haredi community?

When we talk about cultural competency, it’s usually about helping service providers serve a range of minority groups better. Or it’s about one minority group learning to work better within the majority’s ‘system.’ But what about one minority group within itself?

This was our focus when we held a cultural competency workshop for women lecturers at the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) in early July. The JCT is an institute of higher education that targets Orthodox and Haredi men and women, in separate campuses and in single-gender classes, focusing on engineering and computers, management and life and biological sciences (such as nursing).

Teaching cultural competency at the JCT

Teaching cultural competency at the JCT

The lecturers came from a range of disciplines – business administration, mathematics, law, nursing, and more, and themselves represented a variety of cultures and religious observances.

From the outside, the Haredi world might seem monolithic and singular. But when you look more closely that world is extremely diverse, and cultural competency skills are necessary in teaching, especially if the lecturers do not come from that world, which was the case for some in the workshop. Some lecturers spoke about how they looked for course content that was appropriate for the students, including examples that the students could relate to. Another lecturer spoke about how her students address her in the third person, as is the norm in the Haredi world. Yet another told that the teaching style expected in the Haredi world leaves little room for spontaneity in the classroom, which is quite different than what she’s used to in other ‘general’ frameworks. And yet another, a lecturer in economics, told about an incident of a male colleague. He wanted to present the Brazilian economic model to his female students. He typed in “Brazilian model” into Google, and got quite a different result than he’d planned.  While everyone in the class was quite embarrassed, workshop participants agreed that the matter would have been considered much more serious if it’d been a class of only male students….

This is just one example of our continued work in the field of cultural competency, in Jerusalem and throughout Israel. We would like to extend our gratitude to the Jerusalem Foundation, for its continuing support of Cultural Competency in Jerusalem since its inception a decade ago.

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Santé Israël – Bikur Olim (Bikour Olim)

There are some 100,000 French-speaking immigrants living in Israel. What do they do if they need extra help in navigating the health care system?

Training to help French-speaking immigrants

Training to help French-speaking immigrants

Santé Israël is here to help, with its Bikur Olim project. In French, it is written Bikour Olim.

Bikur Olim (a play on the phrase, Bikur Cholim, which means visiting the sick) is piloting in Jerusalem. Operating in cooperation with the Qualita organization that assists French-speaking immigrants in Israel, and with the generous support of the Pharmadom Foundation, the program seeks to help and accompany French-speaking immigrants to access their rights – in the health system, at the Municipality, at the National Insurance Institute, and other service providers.

At the second meeting at the JICC offices

At the second meeting at the JICC offices

In June we held 2 training sessions for program volunteers, one at Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center and the other at our offices on Mount Zion. In the first meeting the volunteers met Estelle Rubenstein, Director of Social Services at Hadassah Ein Kerem. Estelle advised the volunteers on how they can accompany patients and families at the hospital, and how to help them access their rights without expressing their personal opinions. Aviva Yoselis, MPH, from the Shira Pransky Project, presented skills on effective three-way communication between a doctor, a volunteer and the patient.

Parts of the presentation at the second meeting

Parts of the presentation at the second meeting

The second session was led by our Cultural Competency Desk Director, Orna Shani. Orna concentrated on dilemmas that might arise as during the accompanying process, the role of the volunteer in a meeting vs. straight translation, and the different stages of accompanying a client.

They are now producing a flyer, and during and after the High Holiday season they’ll begin offering their services. Can’t wait to see the good they’re going to do.

With calling cards and everything

With calling cards and everything

 

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Celebrating a Year of The Little Prince

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” goes the quote that is most often attributed to world-renowned anthropologist, Margaret Mead.

And this was said without knowing Jerusalemite activists. The only difference between Jerusalemite activists and Rottweiler dogs is that eventually,  Rottweilers ease up….

Picture with everyone

Assessing how far we’ve come

On Wednesday, July 11, the main core of Little Prince – Cleaning Up Jerusalem Together activists –  some 70 Palestinians, religious, secular, ultra-Orthodox Jews – got together for a joint meeting. It wasn’t just any joint meeting. It was to celebrate the first full year of activity of the Little Prince project, and to assess where we’ve come, and where we’re going. Many thanks to Muslala, which provided the perfect ambiance for the meeting and the work groups afterward.

Another picture with everyone

Strategizing on where we’re going

It was exciting to see all of Jerusalem’s sectors represented, from at least 10 neighborhoods. It was exciting to see the cross-sector cooperation within and between the different work groups.

Small group 1

Activists broke up into small groups according to project

The members broke up into 4 work groups: Supervision and Enforcement, Sanitation Policy and Infrastructure, R & D, and Education and Awareness-raising.

The conference belonged to the different activist groups, and even though it was a rare opportunity to meet most of the current candidates in the Jerusalem mayoral race (in alphabetical order) – Mr. Ofer Berkovitz, Rabbi Yossi Deutsch, Minister Ze’ev Elkin, Adv. Yossi Havilio, and of course Acct. Moshe Leon. The candidates were polite and according to prior agreement with them, listened to the activists, without giving “opening remarks” or talk during the main session. It showed respect for us and for them. None of them left without promising (of their own accord) to make Jerusalem a symbol of a clean city in Israel, and that it’s top priority for them. The Jerusalem activists will be there in the following months – and afterward – to make sure that this commitment is heard again and again, and is eventually translated into clear outcomes, no matter who wins the mayoral race.

small group 2

Work emphasized cross-sector cooperation when beneficial

There were a lot of points and ideas that were written in the work groups. In light of the conference a Cleanliness Platform was written, which will be signed by all the mayoral candidates. We would like to thank everyone  who showed the activist power of Jerusalem, which can be an excellent resource for the Municipality and the mayor, if they know how to work with them.

small group 3

All to clean up Jerusalem – together

It never ceases to amaze us how a process that was begun by a group of Palestinian women from East Jerusalem (see MiniActive’s ‘We won’t live in filth!‘ campaign) spread to all sectors throughout Jerusalem, leading to this tidal wave force of activism for a clean Jerusalem!

Leading up to the conference we made a short video:

 

Here’s the original Facebook post summarizing the conferece:

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support for developing activists in Jerusalem!

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Mount Zion – Remembering Oskar Schindler and the Holocaust – Together

There are those who say that the conflicts between the different religions on Mount Zion go back 500 years, when the Muslims expelled the Christians from the Room of the Last Supper, which is in the David’s Tomb complex. And the Christians blamed the Jews for this occurrence.  There are those who say that the inter-religious conflict began 1,000, 1,500, or even 2,000 years ago, depending on which event you count as the beginning.

What’s for sure is that up until a few years ago, the tension could be felt among the different organizations on Mount Zion on a daily basis, and this tension was known to erupt and develop into difficult, even international, incidents.

Plaque honoring Oskar Schindler, at the Chamber of the Holocaust

Plaque honoring Oskar Schindler, at the Chamber of the Holocaust

Over the past two years, thanks to the Window to Mount Zion program (see it’s website here, and specifically the one about the graveyards of Mount Zion), the atmosphere has been different. Drastically different. Window to Mount Zion has enabled the residents of Mount Zion, despite their different religions and different approaches to religion, to respect one another and to help one another, both on a day-to-day basis (we call it the ‘cup of sugar’ relationship), and on broader issues, such as cooperating to clean up a local Muslim cemetery, and to release a joint letter of condemnation when that cemetery was desecrated, as well as working together to ensure that the cemetery was cleaned and better prepared to prevent further incidents.

Despite our new neighborly relations, we were still pleasantly surprised when the Diaspora Yeshiva called and invited us to an event commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27), which was to honor Oskar Schindler, who is buried in the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion. They asked us to invite representatives from the different Christian orders on Mount Zion. The Franciscan and Benedictine monks were touched to be invited, and we were honored to be a part of a moving ceremony. The ceremony began at Schindler’s grave and ended at the Holocaust Memorial, where a plaque in honor of Schindler was unveiled. Both Rabbis and Monks lit remembrance candles.

Here’s the link to the ynet article, (in Hebrew) which includes a short video about the ceremony.

And here’s the Facebook post in Hebrew:

Congratulations to Window to Mount Zion for bringing about this revolution in inter-religious relations on Mount Zion!

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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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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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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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Meaningful Trash Talk in the City Center

Usually the term “trash-talk” is used when sports competitors try to psych each other out to get even a little competitive edge.

We, together with activists from all sectors and populations, have also been doing a lot of “trash talk” lately, but this kind is critically important to how we view our city. And to how we smell – and experience – our city.

Through the Little Prince – Cleaning Up Jerusalem initiative, we’ve been mentoring activists from all over the city. In our unique model of advancing grassroots activism throughout the city, we’ve been working with groups from the ‘regular’ Jewish (religious / secular) sector, the Haredi sector, as well as the Palestinian sector of the city. As in many of our activities, we are there to help, follow-up, and support. But the real work comes from the grassroots – and to those residents we tip our hat!

One of the more active groups has been one led by residents of the City Center, who deal with a range of issues, from garbage collection to restaurant exhaust, and more. Some issues are caused by their proximity to the Mahane Yehuda market and its numerous stalls and restaurants. Some are due to its location in the city center, in the heart of Jerusalem’s commercial and business district.

On September 27 the group held an organizational meeting at the local community center, in which they discussed the different problems as well as potential solutions.

Meeting to discuss solutions

Meeting to discuss solutions

A month later, the group held a protest at city hall, and as a result the mayor asked to receive a detailed report about the health and sanitation hazards the residents face. Here’s a collage of pictures from the protest:

October 26 at the Municipality

October 26 at the Municipality

They also decided to form a resident forum on sanitation in the community. In continuation of this process, on November 9 the forum held a tour of the Mahane Yehuda market for 50 people.

November 9 tour of Mahane Yehuda

November 9 tour of Mahane Yehuda

Here’s a Facebook post that describes the tour, which took place on November 9:

This is the whole text of the post:

‘Following the smells of urine and smoke’ –

Last night we held a tour, the first of its kind, joined by 50 participants, to get a closer look at what is going on in the backyards and houses of the Mahane Yehuda market area.
The participants in the tour heard, smelled and saw the serious hazards in the area, and left with deep impressions. During the tour, we met with various professionals who gave their opinions, along with residents who painfully told of how they were forced to suffer daily from serious environmental hazards, including strong and polluting smells from illegal chimneys and unsafe gas cylinders, sanitary hazards, unreasonable noise and threats to our personal safety. One of the places that shocked the participants most was during a visit to a family home, where businesses installed chimney and compressor openings from all sides directed at the family’s windows, including the children’s room.
This is one of a series of tours that are expected to take place in order to raise social awareness of what is happening in the area. We will continue to work together until an appropriate response is given to the quality of life, health, and safety of the residents.

The City Center group has also managed to convince the Municipality to give a thorough cleaning to the streets:

 

As part of the Little Prince initiative we’re following the efforts of City Council members, Deputy Mayors and other city officials to push for a cleaner city. There are many more than what we’re able to post here. Here’s a video posted recently of a City Council meeting:

 

We’ll keep you posted on future developments.

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From Gilo to the Center in 15 Minutes

Have you ever taken a bus from Gilo to the central bus station in Jerusalem? Better have a good book and a lot of patience – because today it’ll take you more than an hour, regardless of traffic. How long does it take in a car when it’s not rush hour? Oh, about 15-20 minutes.

What?!?!?!?! 5 times as long if you don’t have a car?!?!

Thanks to an active group of Gilo residents, together with the Gilo Community Council, and with our assistance and that from the 15 Minutes organization that seeks to offer good, fast public transportation all over Israel, the Ministry of Transportation has promised an express bus from Gilo to the central bus station in 2018. Most importantly, this line will be in addition to existing lines, not instead of. This decision was published on the MyNet Jerusalem web site, and in the Kol Ha’Ir newspaper, which carries local Jerusalem news. Here’s the article in print, and here’s a link to the online article.

Kol Ha'Ir Headline: Gilo: New Bus Line from the Neighborhood to the Central Bus Station

Kol Ha’Ir Headline: Gilo: New Bus Line from the Neighborhood to the Central Bus Station

 

All the partners in action worked superbly together to bring this about – bringing the issue to the press and raising public awareness, bringing in key public figures, organizing a trial run with representatives from Gilo, 15 Minutes, the Dept. of Transportation, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Egged Bus Company, and more, until the decision was made. We were there to support the activists, proposing new strategies and tactics, making connections to move the process along, adding positive energy to feed the momentum. We will also be there to make sure that follow through to the end.

Gilo residents meeting with 15 Minutes in October

Gilo residents meeting with 15 Minutes in October

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its support for our activities to advance deliberative democracy in Jerusalem.
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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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