Promoting Tolerance in Jerusalem

Making Souls Festival – Making Room for Mental Health Issues in the Public Sphere

When we talk about increasing tolerance in Jerusalem, we’re not just talking about tolerance for different cultures, ethnicities, and religions. We’re talking about everyone in society, including those who are coping with mental health issues.

Making Souls Festival

Making Souls Festival

Over the past year and a half, as part of our Grassroots  Campaign for Tolerance, our Michal Shilor has accompanied – Nefashot (souls in Hebrew) – a group seeking to break down stigma about mental health issues by creating spaces for awareness and dialogue in Jerusalem´s public sphere. For the past two years Nefashot  has held events on Jerusalemite Day of Diversity. This year, in celebration of World Mental Health Day on October 10, Nefashot, with the support of the JICC, produced Ossim Nefashot – the Making Souls Festival. The festival featured 19 events, beginning Sunday, October 7, and running through Friday, October 12.

Mental health issues affect all segments of society

Mental health issues affect all segments of society

The events included: talks, discussions, lectures, exhibits, performances, and more. About how mental health issues affected motherhood, their people’s personal journeys and experiences, their art, their stories, and even a baking workshop.

Don't know what this is but it looks cool

Double sitgma

All were organized by organizations, places and especially people who have joined forces together to achieve one goal: to raise public awareness about mental health in our city while reducing  stigma against people coping with mental difficulties. The events include lectures, shows, movies, information booths, learning days and more.

Speaking about how mental health issues touch lives everyday

Speaking about how mental health issues touch lives everyday

Many thanks to the organizers. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Ronni Diler, one of the organizers, noted, “This might sound over the top, but I feel like my life has completely changed since I’ve become involved with [the JICC’s tolerance efforts]. I’m a purebred Jerusalemite and I always felt connected, but over the last year I’ve come to know more and more people and initiatives that are doing amazing things, with lots of good will and cooperation. There’s no doubt that without our guide (we are only 1 1/2 years old), Michal Shilor we wouldn’t have gotten to this place.”

"Mom Is Not Crazy" performance at AACI

“Mom Is Not Crazy” performance at AACI

Yaniv Rosenfeld Cohen, another organizer, said, “A year and a half ago Nefashot was born. I didn’t know how it would turn out, and if I’d have the strength to develop it. But I hoped that I would have enough courage to try something completely out of the mainstream. Nefashot was born with a goal to fight stigmas associated with mental health, and was an attempt to create a human and authentic encounter. Since then those who know me know that I am very passionate about this initiative and it’s one of the most significant things that I’ve been involved with. I’ve had the fortune and honor to have a number of extraordinary people helping me. They are the people working day and night to try and create a better and more tolerant city in Jerusalem. The missing part of the puzzle is Michal  Shilor [and the JICC], who decided to accompany us despite her crazy schedule. Without her un-ending optimism and energies I have no doubt that the picture would have looked entirely different. The 19 special events that [took place] this week would not have been possible without the people who decided to make this city better. I take my hat off to every one of them.

At the Jerusalem Cinematheque

Performance at Beit Taylor, Kiryat Hayovel


Sivan Regev said, “So excited that this week is here! So many partners, [including the JICC]. And to all those who came with initiatives, those that we’re implementing now and those that we’ll continue to develop, and to those to ask me, and spread the word, and ask me to send them a flyer so they can tell others. A sea of wonderful people. Thank you everyone!”

Something at Heichal Shlomo

Full house at the Clubhouse

Here’s a little summary video with the highlights of all the events (in Hebrew):


Click here for the entire list of events (Hebrew).

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation, to the Natan Fund, and to the UJA-Federation of New York for their support for our efforts to increase tolerance in Jerusalem.

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Zion Square – Open for Tolerance

Zion Square is the heart of downtown Jewish Jerusalem. All of our efforts to advance tolerance and fight racism in Jerusalem began in Zion Square. We’ve reported here and here about the Jerusalem Municipality’s recognition of the importance of the Square, and of its recent re-design and renewal of the Square according to principles that foster connecting with one another, and tolerance.

Picturing a re-designed Zion Square in the news

Picturing a re-designed Zion Square in the news

“The new design of Zion Square turns it into a place that makes connections, and advances tolerance and mutual respect,” noted Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in a recent article on the opening. “The renewal of the Square is another stage in strengthening the city center.” You can read the Hebrew article here and here.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation, the UJA-Federation of New York, and Natan who are helping us advance tolerance in Jerusalem.

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Congratulations 0202 on Winning the Intercultural Achievement Award in Media!

Congratulations 0202 for winning the Intercultural Achievement Award in the media category!

Shira and Shir, 0202, with all award winners

Shira and Shir, 0202, with all award winners

As published on the Austrian Foreign Ministry web site:

Intercultural Achievement Award presented by Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl

On 6 September 2018, the Intercultural Achievement Award (IAA) was presented for the fifth time. The award honours inspiring projects in civil society that foster intercultural dialogue and coexistence. This time, Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl presented the prize for sustainability to a project from Mozambique. Ambassador Jörg Wojahn, the Representation of the European Commission in Vienna, and Secretary General of the OSCE Thomas Greminger used the dialogue-based work of their own institutions as a starting point and awarded prizes to projects from Ukraine and Tunisia.

The Intercultural Achievement Award (IAA) was established in 2014 as a key project in Austrian international cultural policy. It aims to identify and honour innovative, practice-oriented projects in the area of intercultural dialogue at an Austrian and an international level and, in doing so, to make a contribution to current global issues.

The media project “0202: Points of View from Jerusalem” received the award in the media category. The project’s approach is to enable access to information from East Jerusalem and Haredi Jerusalem, to combat prejudiced reporting and to raise awareness about the perceptions of others.

0202 Director Shira Laurence described it thus:

There were many distinguished guests, including diplomats and civil society professionals from Jordan, Tunisia, the Ukraine, Italy, Cameroon, Nigeria, and more. Everyone who spoke Arabic or Hebrew in the audience came up to us to thank 0202 for the new approach that it brings to the table. Congratulations to us all – we’re on the map!

It was also reported on by the English-language Vindobona, a web site of Vienna International News. 0202 was also featured in this article, on the web site of the German language Die Presse newspaper, one of Austria’s major newspapers.  It was published in the print version of the newspaper on September 7, 2018.

Die Presse article September 7, 2018

Die Presse article September 7, 2018

Click here to see more pictures of the event. They made a video as well:

And here’s the transcript of the translation:

This year’s Intercultural Achievement Award in the category “Media” was awarded to the project “0202 – Points of View from Jerusalem”. 0202 runs Facebook pages and an integrative online platform which offers access to information from East and Haredi Jerusalem, in English, Hebrew and Arabic. The online news platform enables residents from different neighborhoods of Jerusalem to get in contact with one another. Here they can consume news and opinions from their neighbors in their own mother tongue. 

Member of the jury: “It is very important that the Media Prize exists because facts are often overlooked, and well-analyzed facts lead us to a better understanding of a situation or of a position in a conflict. Media also naturally play an extremely important role in intercultural dialogue and contribute to understanding one another.”

This project’s approach is to facilitate barrier-free access to information, to oppose prejudiced reporting, and to create consciousness for the perception of the other. Thus, a space for intercultural dialogue is created which enables, as a first step, a virtual encounter.

Here’s the Twitter post of Talya Lador, Israeli Ambassador to Austria:

And her Facebook post:

Many thanks to the jury of the Intercultural Achievement Award! And many thanks to 0202’s ongoing supporters – the Jerusalem Foundation, the Leichtag Foundation, the Rayne Foundation and Natan!

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2018-10-22T18:30:06+00:00September 15th, 2018|Blog, Promoting Tolerance in Jerusalem|

Window to Mount Zion – Documenting the Dajani Cemetery

Mount Zion is home to cemeteries from almost every religious community in Jerusalem. The Dajani cemetery (which we’ve written about here and here) is the only Muslim cemetery in the area…

For more than 500 years, the Dajani family served as custodians of King David’s mausoleum in Mount Zion. Over the course of their custodianship, the family built a neighborhood in the area and buried their deceased in a cemetery around King David’s mausoleum. Members of the family often served as public officials in the city of Jerusalem, and made a significant contribution to Jerusalem’s history. Some of the family’s prominent members are buried in the Mount Zion cemetery. These members include Mr. Aref Al-Dajani, a high public official in Yemen during the reign of the Ottoman Empire who served as Jerusalem’s Mayor, and Mr. Hasan Sidqi Al-Dajani, a renowned lawyer and socio-political activist who lost his life in the mid-1930s in a politically motivated assassination.

Dajani family, at cemetery

Dajani family, at cemetery

We’re happy to announce the completion of a special project – the documenting of the graves of the Dajani cemetery. A few months ago, together with several daughters of the family, we began documenting the Dajani cemetery in Mount Zion and the results are published online in Arabic at, and in Hebrew at It’s part of a larger cemetery documentation project, of a number of these fascinating cemeteries. Here’s a link to the site:

Here’s a post from Window to Mount Zion’s Facebook page:

Many thanks to our partners in action for the success of this program.

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Promoting Tolerance All the Way to Australia

Michal Shilor, our Coordinator for the Grassroots Campaign for Tolerance, was just the focus of an article on the Australian web site, +61J: Broadening the Conversation. In the article she spoke about her work at the JICC promoting tolerance, Jerusalemite  Day, her founding of 0202, and Jerusalem as the World Capital of Tolerance.

0202: Showing all sides of Jerusalem

0202: Showing all sides of Jerusalem

You can see the original article here. And here’s the text:

Found in translation: Activist puts Hebrew, Arabic speakers on same page

By Ittay Flescher

IN THE SUMMER of 2014, Michal Shilor was studying social work. On the night before her final exam on The Components of a Welfare State, she heard kids yelling “Death to Arabs” outside the window of her apartment in the Nachlaot neighbourhood of central Jerusalem. She thought to herself: “How can I be studying for something that’s supposed to be about social change and how a state should give equal rights to everybody while this is happening outside my window and I am doing nothing?”

Realising that her need to do something was more important to her than studying for an exam, she went outside and followed the group of boys and men to Kikar Tziyon (Zion Square), the centre of the city’s economic and cultural life. On one side of the square stood the far-Right group Lehava,yelling ”Death to Arabs” and “Mohammed is Dead” with further calls for revenge, following the burial of three Israeli boys that had been kidnapped and brutally murdered by Hamas.

That same night, news had also emerged about the fate of 16-year-old Palestinian who was kidnapped, beaten and, while still alive, set on fire by three Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem. The men justified the murder to police as a response to the abduction and murder of the three Jewish teens.

On the other side of Kikar Tziyon, Shilor saw a large Left-wing rally chanting loudly against fascism and racism. She found herself sitting in the middle with a small group of friends, singing songs and lighting candles, feeling isolated by the aggression of both sides.

As conversations began to emerge between these groups and the many passers-by, Shilor and her activist friends decided to return to Kikar Tziyon every night to have discussions with people about their different visions for Jerusalem.

That discussion became “Speaking in the Square,” a forum  that has created a space for complex one-on-one conversations every Thursday night for the past four years and hese  turned Kikar Tziyon into a place that is no longer violent.

Shilor was not finished. “I’m talking to the far-Right activists, saying things that my Jewish friends are telling me about what Palestinians think and feel, but all of my knowledge about the Arab residents of my city (who make up 37% of Jerusalem’s population) comes from Jewish eyes.”

She turned to Facebook, which is used heavily in East Jerusalem, to do some research but couldn’t speak or read Arabic. Her solution, with the support of several cultural and philanthropic organisations, was to build  a team of Hebrew and Arabic speakers who  could find and translate the most viral political and social posts from East and West Jerusalem on a daily basis.

Four months later, the Facebook page 0202 Points of View From Jerusalem went live and has since become one of the most important sources of information for Jerusalem activists and residents alike (the numbers refer to Jerusalem’s telephone area code, 02, and by using it twice, the name conveys connection with the other side of the city). A year later, a page translating posts from Haredi Jerusalem was also added to the project.

The head of 0202 is Shira Laurence, who moved to Jerusalem 10 years ago from the United States. Laurence heads a team of half a dozen part-time staff who manage around 35 translators, most of them volunteers. A self-described “language nerd”, Laurence wrote her senior thesis for Middle Eastern Studies on Jerusalem.

She says one of the most significant achievements of the site involved driving lessons in the Arnona neighbourhood of West Jerusalem, which has a mostly modern Orthodox, Jewish population.

Arnona is popular for people learning to drive in Jerusalem because it’s a relatively new and spacious precinct with wide streets, and much easier than the often small and crowded streets of East Jerusalem. In June 2015, signs went up in Arnona bidding driving lessons on Shabbat and Jewish festivals. Shortly after this announcement by the Jerusalem City Council, there were hundreds of Facebook posts in Arabic from residents and driving instructors in East Jerusalem complaining about how the decision was discriminatory as it prevented them from teaching or learning how to drive at a time that suited them.

When posts of complaint in Arabic where translated to Hebrew by 0202, it eventually led to the council allowing Arab driving instructors to work in the neighbourhood on Shabbat.

The issue received almost no coverage in Jewish West Jerusalem until these posts where translated to Hebrew by 0202, which eventually led to the council reversing the decision.

Dalia Goodhardt, who recently made aliyah from Melbourne and now works on the social media team at 0202, says being part of the team has broadened her horizons about Jerusalem. “Editing posts, especially from Haredim, has exposed me on a regular basis to different narratives of what Jerusalem means to different people. At times it is challenging, as I often translate posts whose views I don’t share, but I always edit neutrally so the reader can make up their own mind.”

Goodhardt, who attended Beth Rivkah Ladies College before majoring in Arabic at Melbourne University, added: “Working at 0202 has given me a better understanding of the Palestinian narrative, giving me more empathy to respect their viewpoints, even though I don’t always agree.”

WATCH: Hagai Agmon Snir, Director of the Jerusalem Intercultural Centre and Board member of 0202 speaks to Plus61J about the importance of Jews in the city learning Arabic.

Shilor says: “Our city is roughly a third Arab (Muslim and Christian), a third Haredi, and a third modern Orthodox or secular. We meet each other in the streets, on public transportation, in restaurants, in hummus places, in garages, in taxis. There are over 500 activist events that celebrate diversity every year.”

Shilor notes that on a tense Jerusalem Day this year, following President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy, with violent clashes on the Gaza border and the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Naqba (the “catastrophe” of Israel’s independence) all occurring in the same week, there were over 80 events promoting tolerance in the city. She believes these events created a different, “authentically Jerusalemite” narrative of the day.

WATCHJerusalemite Day of Diversity, 2018

“Just as a city which has infrastructure for bike lanes hosts cycling events, includes a growing community of riders and attracts people from abroad to experience the ‘bicycle capital of the world’, so too, Jerusalem can become the tolerance capital of the world, despite the serious and unresolved political-diplomatic issues facing the city,” Michal Shilor wrote in the journal Fathom.

Shilor’s Facebook translation page is a grassroots attempt to help the different groups within Israeli society speak with one another and discover that more things unite than divide them. For people who call Jerusalem their home, It’s a small but important step in the right direction.

Main photo: Michael Shilor (left) and Shira Laurence

WATCH – Chen Amram presents: Jerusalem – the World Capital of Tolerance

Jerusalem’s light rail has new destination: Teaching Arabic (Tablet)
ELHANAN MILLER With coexistence in mind, the train’s operators will dedicate July to encouraging Israelis to open up to a language too few speak

Follow the 0202 Facebook page in English

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation, the UJA-Federation of New York, and the Natan Fund for their support of promoting tolerance in Jerusalem. Many thanks to the Leichtag and Rayne Foundations and the Natan Fund for their specific support of 0202.

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Window to Mount Zion – Since When Does Dinner Make Headlines?

Since when does dinner make headlines?

Enjoying dinner in the JICC garden

Enjoying dinner in the JICC garden

When those at the dinner include Jews, Christians and Muslims, all ‘residents’ of Mount Zion in one way or another.

Today everyone looks calm and relaxed; but this was far from the case just a few years ago, before Window to Mount Zion began, when inter-religious tensions on Mount Zion were at an all-time high. We’ve come long way. At the meal, we discussed new ideas and initiatives to help those who live on and visit Mount Zion.

Kol Hakavod!

Here’s the post from Window to Mount Zion’s Facebook page:


Many thanks to our partners in action, Search for Common Ground.

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2018-08-24T09:31:35+00:00July 25th, 2018|Blog, Mount Zion, Promoting Tolerance in Jerusalem|

Arabic Week on the Jerusalem Light Rail

On many modes of public transport in Israel – at the Ben Gurion International Airport, on the Israel Railways – you hear announcements in Hebrew and English. But not Arabic. Even though a full 20% of Israeli citizens – and over 30% of Jerusalem residents – speak Arabic as their mother tongue, and even though Arabic is an official language in Israel. (And English isn’t).

Yet on the Light Rail in Jerusalem – reflecting Jerusalem’s unique makeup in which 37% of the city’s residents are native Arabic-speakers – all signage and announcements are in English, Hebrew and Arabic equally. As our director Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir said recently in this article on Tablet, “the light rail is the spine of Jerusalem’s tolerant tendency.”

This week, we, together with Citypass, the company that operates the Light Rail, and Madrasa, a free web based school for spoken Arabic, went one – or several – steps further. Introducing: Arabic Week on the Jerusalem Light Rail! There were posters in the stations, the ticket-checkers have been handing out phrase books with words and phrases. It’s been one big Arabic celebration!

'Have a good trip!' in Hebrew and Arabic

‘Have a good trip!’ in Hebrew and Arabic

Here’s a video from the launching of Arabic week, at the Davidka Square station in downtown Jerusalem:

There’s also the official video made by the Citypass company (in Hebrew and Arabic):

There were even free Arabic lessons at the Citypass service center in downtown Jerusalem, including by our own Suha, veteran Arabic teacher in our Language Center.

Arabic lesson with Suha (photo: Yisrael Weil)

Arabic lesson with Suha (photo: Yisrael Weil)

We’re proud that this week had its roots at the JICC – some of the Citypass managers are studying Arabic with us this year, and got the idea both from the Arabic week at the Knesset during the same week, as well as from our own Arabic week in late March. (See here for more about that.) You can download the entire phrasebook here. You can see the posters that were hung in the train stations here. There is also an online quiz game in Hebrew and Arabic, which you can play here.

Example of one of the posters. Did you know that the word "blouse" is also used in Arabic?

Example of one of the posters. Did you know that the word “blouse” is also used in Arabic?

Just one more example, making Jerusalem the World Capital of Tolerance!

Many thanks to Citypass, the company that operates the Light Rail, and to Madrasa, a free web based school for spoken Arabic, our partners in action. And many thanks as well to the Jerusalem Foundation, the UJA-Federation of New York and the Natan Fund for their ongoing support of the Language Center and for our Grassroots Campaign for Tolerance.

Want to read more about Arabic Week? Below is the full text of the Tablet article. You can read the online version here. The week was also covered in the Hebrew-language Ha’aretz daily newspaper (You can read that article here), and in the local Jerusalem newspaper (Hebrew article here). There was another Hebrew-language article on the Mako news site, as well as this article, from a second local Jerusalem newspaper. Arabic Week was also covered on the Al-Monitor web site, which seeks to cover news from all over the Middle East.  The text of the article follows the Tablet piece.

The Tablet article:

Jerusalem’s Light Rail Has New Destination: Teaching Arabic

With coexistence in mind, the train’s operators will dedicate July to encouraging Israelis to open up to a language too few speak

Many Israelis feel frustrated with their inability to communicate with their Palestinian neighbors in Arabic. But now they have a chance to practice their salaam aleikums at any Jerusalem tram stop.

Citypass, Jerusalem’s light rail operator, has declared the first week of July “the Arabic language week on the light rail.” Signs explaining the Arabic equivalent of “validate your ticket” and “have a safe ride” have been placed at stops along the tram’s red line, which stretches from Yad Vashem in the southwest to Pisgat Ze’ev in the northeast. Passengers can also register for free colloquial Arabic lessons at the company’s service center downtown, to better understand the Arabic pamphlets handed out by ticket conductors throughout the week.

In Jerusalem’s largely segregated public-transportation system, the tram already stands out as a binational and bilingual oasis. With three stops in Arab East Jerusalem, the tram has become an essential means of transport for the city’s 330,000 Arab residents, who comprise 37 percent of Jerusalem’s total population.

Unlike the national rail system and Jerusalem’s bus service, stop names are announced in Arabic on the tram, as well as in Hebrew and in English. That’s not self-evident. In 2011, member of Knesset Lia Shemtov of Yisrael Beiteinu demanded that Arabic be removed from the trams, arguing that “united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state. Why instate this precedent now?” City Hall rebuffed her claim, saying that “the light rail serves all Jerusalem residents, Jews and Arabs alike.”

“We thought it would be nice to expose the Jewish public to the Arabic language,” said Yaron Ravid, CEO of Citypass. “We employ people from East Jerusalem both in operations and maintenance, and make an effort to reach out to the Arab community.”

Ravid said his company goes to great lengths to make information accessible to passengers in Arabic on its website and Facebook page, trying to cater to the special needs of Muslim residents.

“On Ramadan we put our trams at the disposal of worshipers on Temple Mount,” he said. “On Thursday evenings throughout that month our employees distributed dates and water at our stops. We do nice things.”

Vida, a veiled woman from the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Ghosh working in Citypass’ customer service, said she was excited about her language being celebrated on the streets of West Jerusalem.

“It will do a lot for Arab-Jewish coexistence in Jerusalem,” she opined. “Today we have ticket conductors who speak both Arabic and Hebrew, so people on the train don’t face any language barrier.”

Like the rest of Jerusalem, the light rail has also suffered from political violence in recent years. During riots following the murder of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir by Jewish terrorists in July 2014, three East Jerusalem stops were vandalized and set aflame. Arab residents sporadically hurl stones and Molotov cocktails at trams traveling through the neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina, often halting service across town. Most recently, in April 2017, visiting British student Hannah Bladon was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist.

But at the Arabic-language-week launch at Davidka Square the atmosphere was festive. A teenager dressed in a lion costume—the city’s symbol—was handing out ice pops to passersby, as a musical group played traditional Palestinian music outside the company’s main service center.

“Jerusalem has experienced difficult times, but contrary to its public image, Jerusalemites really believe in the value of tolerance,” said Hagai Agmon-Snir, director of the Jerusalem Intercultural Center on Mount Zion, whose Arabic teachers will offer free classes to passengers.

According to a poll carried out by the Intercultural Center ahead of Jerusalem Day last month, 82 percent of Jerusalem residents said they were pleased with the city’s ethnic diversity, with 96 percent reporting daily exposure to people of a different religion or national group.

“There are currently very few reports of hate crimes on the tram,” Agmon-Snir added. “The tram is like the spine of Jerusalem’s tolerant tendency.”

Mordechai Friedman, 24, dressed in ultra-Orthodox garb, was collecting brochures specifying the many achievements of Citypass, while teaching Hebrew speakers how to say “it’s like Europe here” and “let’s sit over there” in Palestinian dialect.

“It’s a wonderful initiative,” Friedman said. “I work with people from East Jerusalem, but unfortunately don’t speak Arabic.”

“It’s always interesting to learn about other cultures,” he added. “I think we could solve many problems if we had a common language. I think we should teach Arabic to pupils just like we teach English, starting from kindergarten.”


From Al-Monitor:


Jerusalem tram seeks to fast track Arabic learning for Israeli Jews

Jerusalem Light Rail launched an initiative this week to promote Arabic language learning among Israelis in the city. It’s the first such campaign in the tram system’s seven years of operation.

Although around 20% of Israel’s population is Arab, Arabic comprehension among Israeli Jews is very low. A survey published July 4 by Israeli-Arab coexistence group Sikkuy found that a mere 8.6% of Israeli Jewish adults have a working knowledge of Arabic compared to more than 60% with the same competence in English.

The tram, which began operating in 2011, runs through the heart of the contested holy city, from Jewish neighborhoods in the west to Palestinian neighborhoods in the east. Along the way, it passes the Old City with its holy sites, the bustling Mahane Yehuda Market, Palestinian refugee camps and Israeli settlements. Though construction of the light rail was fiercely opposed by Palestinians, it has become the city’s main artery, carrying about 160,000 passengers a day, a large portion of them Palestinian residents of the city.

Jerusalem is Israel’s most populous city, home to 856,000 people, around 40% of them Palestinians. Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war and annexed it, a move unrecognized by the overwhelming majority of the international community. Palestinian East Jerusalemites have residency, but not citizenship. The Palestinians insist that East Jerusalem be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

The campaign to promote Arabic is being sponsored by the privately owned CityPass, which operates the light rail, the Jerusalem Intercultural Center (JICC) and Madrasa, an online Arabic school for Hebrew speakers. JICC director Hagai Agmon-Snir called Jerusalem a “center of tolerance” in the day-to-day lives of Jews and Arabs, a fact sometimes obscured by occasional outbreaks of violence.

“A short ride on the train shows that there are passengers of every sort on the train. There are Jews and Arabs, ultra-Orthodox, secular, religious, Muslims, Christians, Armenians, tourists, young and old, students,” CityPass spokesman and marketing director Ozel Vatik told Al-Monitor. With the train serving all the city’s populations, he said, the initiative’s goal is to bring Israelis and Palestinians together.

East Jerusalemites have greater exposure to Hebrew in their daily lives — as some 35,000 work in the western part each day, Agmon-Snir said — than Jewish Israelis have to Arabic. He said that the project’s aim is to cultivate familiarity and respect among Israelis for the Arabic language and Arabic speakers.

For Arabic Language Week, ticket inspectors have been handing out booklets with words and phrases in Arabic along with their Hebrew translations. Although some of the phrase book’s expressions are useful, teaching Hebrew-speaking passengers polite expressions, such as “Pardon me” and “Would you like my seat?,” others are questionable. “It’s like Europe here” and “How nice it is to sit in the air conditioning,” have little practical use and are more likely to cause puzzlement.

CityPass also sponsored two free Arabic-language courses at one of the central stations outside Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market. They were booked beyond capacity.

Posters featuring Arabic words along with their Hebrew pronunciation and explanations are being displayed at stations throughout the city. Some of the posters were defaced within days at several East Jerusalem stations along the city’s traditional divide. In one instance, the Arabic words for “light rail” were crossed out and the “Arabs out” scrawled in Hebrew below it.

Jerusalem Light Rail prides itself on being the only public transportation system in Israel that broadcasts announcements and posts notices in Hebrew, English and Arabic. Vatik told Al-Monitor that the rationale behind Arabic Language Week was to help bridge the language barrier separating Palestinian and Israeli residents of the city.

Most East Jerusalemites who spoke to Al-Monitor outside the Damascus Gate were unaware of the campaign. Mohammed Abu Khdeir, an engineering student from East Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood, told Al-Monitor that while the intent of the Arabic campaign was positive, its execution could have been better.

“Look at this poster. One word of Arabic and nothing else,” Abu Khdeir remarked, pointing to a sign explaining the Arabic word for meat. “There’s no way to know what this is about.”

Asked what Arabic phrases he thought Israelis should know, he paused pensively before replying, “Nobody has ever asked me that before.” He suggested that the light rail try a similar initiative to help East Jerusalemites learn Hebrew. Hebrew is not taught in East Jerusalem schools, which have a Jordanian curriculum, but a growing number of East Jerusalemites are investing in learning the language to help them navigate life with Israeli Jews.

Vatik said he has received a lot of feedback from Arabic Facebook users on the CityPass site asking for a Hebrew-language initiative, and he hopes to launch one in the near future.

“In the end, we’re riding together, and we live together in this city, and it’s not a bad thing to be familiar with the other’s language. I think there’s a lot of good in it,” Vatik said.


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2018-07-14T06:46:11+00:00July 7th, 2018|Blog, Courses, Language Center, Promoting Tolerance in Jerusalem|

Can Jerusalem Become a Capital of Tolerance?

Can Jerusalem Become a Capital of Tolerance?

Jerusalemite Day of Diversity, Sunday May 13, 2018

Jerusalemite Day of Diversity, Sunday May 13, 2018

Our Michal Shilor, Coordinator for the Grassroots Campaign for Tolerance and organizer of Jerusalemite Day of Diversity on Jerusalem Day, says ‘yes, absolutely!’ Read her column in the Fathom, a highly respected, leading on-line publication. Here’s the link, and here’s the full text:

Michal Shilor believes Jerusalem should be known as ‘the tolerance capital of the world.’ She works at the Jerusalem Intercultural Center as ‘Activism for Tolerance’ Program Director, consulting for more than 80 independent, grassroots initiatives from across the city. She is also the founder and chairwoman of 0202 – Points of View from Jerusalem, which provides unedited, unfiltered narratives from East, West, and Haredi Jerusalem, in Hebrew, English, and Arabic.

This past May, Jerusalem experienced its potentially most dangerous week. There was Jerusalem Day, which celebrates the unification of Jerusalem in 1967 and signifies its occupation simultaneously. A day later, the American Embassy moved to my city. And one day after that fell Nakba Day – marked by my Palestinian neighbours as the day of their catastrophe (Israel’s independence). And all just before the first day of Ramadan, when more than a third of the city fasts until sundown every day for a month and things seem to slow down, even for the Jews.

Although this series of events could have turned Jerusalem into a war-torn city, they did not, because, although many people are unaware of this development: Jerusalem is changing in ways that mean it has the potential to become the tolerance capital of the world.

This is a new development. After the city was reunified or captured (depends how you look at it) fifty years ago, East and West Jerusalem remained divided de-facto; separate lives, different languages, clashing narratives, During the decades that followed, Zion Square, the heart of West Jerusalem, became the centre for protests and for hatred. The Black Panthers, an Israeli protest movement of second-generation Jewish immigrants from North Africa and Middle Eastern countries, demonstrated in the square, protests sometimes ending in clashes with the police, arrests, and injuries. The city suffered terror attacks that took the lives of 22 and injured 90. In 1995 the square hosted the infamous protests in which a picture of then Prime Minister Rabin in S.S. uniform was held aloft. And in the summer of 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, shortly after the murders of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and of Muhammad Abu-Khdeir, Zion Square once again became a centre of protest with right-wing and left-wing factions taking over the square, each yelling their slogans (‘death to Arabs’ and ‘revenge’ on one side; ‘down with fascism’ and ‘Bibi, resign’ on the other).

But then something changed. A couple of right- and left-wing college-aged students – myself among them – decided this wasn’t any way to deal with the turmoil of our country. Much to the disbelief of the protestors in the Square, we sat down smack in the middle of the warring protest groups, and started singing songs of mourning, lighting candles and playing the guitar. Some protesters aimed their anger at us in the form of cigarette butts, beer bottles, and spitting; but some sat down and joined us. In retrospect, we made history by simply starting to talk. At the outskirts of the singing circle, a barrier between the protesters, and us were discussions – real, tough discussions. And these discussions changed Zion Square forever.

‘Speaking in the Square’ is an initiative we started in July 2014 and continued over the next three years. We came to the square week after week, to create dialogue, to encourage tolerance, and to create a space in the public sphere where all opinions could be heard. During those three years, Zion Square saw no protests; only spaces for mutual solace and understanding. When 16-year-old Shira Banki was murdered in Jerusalem’s Pride Parade in 2015, her public shiva consisted of nightly dialogue circles for seven straight nights – in Zion Square rather than at the spot she was stabbed. In 2016, the municipality officially renamed the square as the centre for ‘dialogue and tolerance,’ and even asked architects to submit proposals for ideas how to make the space even more available for dialogue and tolerance. Alongside these changes, across the entire city small, grassroots groups blossomed and new ideas for promoting tolerance emerged. Jerusalemites began to see their city’s diversity as an asset.

The seeds that were planted in those years are now growing fast. A recent survey (link in Hebrew) found that 82 per cent of Jerusalemites believe it is important to meet people who are different from them; 95 per cent reported that when they meet someone not from their nationality or religion who needs help, they help; 70 per cent reported not having a problem with living in a building with neighbours from a different sector; and 64 per cent wanted their municipality to be comprised of Haredi, Arab, religious and nonreligious members. When people in the streets of Jerusalem were asked what they thought of Jerusalem as ‘the Tolerance Capital of the world’ their responses were astonishing and belie the city’s bad reputation.

That doesn’t mean there is not intolerance, of course.

East Jerusalem is considered occupied by international law, and its residents aren’t granted Israeli citizenship unless they go through a tortuous process that usually lasts several years. They have to prove their residency, which can be revoked for reasons like living or spending too much time outside of Jerusalem, and they need special documents in order to travel outside of Israel. There is racism, there are disputes, and different communities often find it difficult to converse with one another, let alone legitimise narratives different than their own.

Still, 160,000 of us – Jews, Arabs, asylum seekers, LGBTQ, blind, disabled, Ethiopians, right-wing, left-wing – ride the light rail every day, and there are so few racist events reported that there is no active record of them (we checked!). Our city is roughly a third Arab (Muslim and Christian), a third Haredi, and a third modern orthodox or secular. We meet each other in the streets, on public transportation, in restaurants, in hummus places, in garages, in taxis. There are over 1000 activists in a network for tolerance in the city; 500 activist events that celebrate diversity every year; 80 organisations who work towards promoting tolerance in the city; and two coalitions of activists and organisations. On Jerusalem Day alone – a day disputed and uncomfortable for most Jerusalem residents, and best known for the controversial ‘Flag Parade’ that goes through the Muslim quarter – there were over 80 events that promoted tolerance and created a different – I’d argue an authentically Jerusalemite – narrative of the day.

Just as a city which has infrastructure for bike lanes, hosts cycling events, includes a growing community of riders and attracts people from abroad to experience the ‘bicycle capital of the world’, so Jerusalem can become the tolerance capital of the world, despite the serious and unresolved political-diplomatic issues facing the city.

Chen Amram, a local slam poet and activist says we should dare to call Jerusalem the Tolerance Capital of the world. When considering my vision for Israel, my hope is that it will follow in Jerusalem’s footsteps – that the vast array of different groups within Israeli society will find a way to dialogue with one another, and find that more things unite us than divide us.

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

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0202 Coming Full Circle – West Jerusalem News in Arabic

We’ve updated over the past 3 years about the progress of the web site and Facebook platform 0202 – Points of View from Jerusalem, which we’ve been mentoring as part of our Grassroots Campaign for Tolerance. The overarching goal of 0202 is to make Jerusalem’s vastly different populations accessible to one another and the world by encapsulating news and community events and translating and explaining them to the ‘other.’ All without commentary or political agendas.

0202 Showing all sides of Jerusalem

0202 Showing all sides of Jerusalem

It started with 0202 – A View from East Jerusalem, which translates news and Facebook sites read by many Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem into Hebrew. This amazingly popular Hebrew Facebook page has become the go-to resource for journalists and city council members, and even East Jerusalem residents themselves, looking for a daily digest for news.

0202 A View from East Jerusalem

0202 A View from East Jerusalem

It then moved on to 0202 – A View from Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jerusalem, which brought news items from Haredi print newspapers and web sites to the general Jewish public, items never before made available to religious and secular Jews.

0202 A View from Haredi Jerusalem

0202 A View from Haredi Jerusalem

The next step was 0202 – Points of View from Jerusalem in English, which summarized both pages above in English on a daily basis. It also translated articles and posts from ‘general’ Jewish West Jerusalem, enabling English-speakers to view all of Jerusalem in one click.

0202, the English page

0202, the English page

The last page, which launched earlier this month is 0202 – West Jerusalem in Arabic, which summarizes local and national news items and translates them into Arabic. Here’s the link, take a look!

0202 new Arabic page

0202 new Arabic page

The new page was covered on the Mako Hebrew news site. You can read the article here.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation, the UJA-Federation of New York, the Leichtag Foundation and the Natan Fund for their ongoing support of our efforts to promote tolerance in Jerusalem, and to the Natan Fund, the Leichtag Foundation and the Rayne  Foundation for their specific support of 0202.

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Jerusalemite Day of Diversity in the World Capital of Tolerance

This is the third year that 80 tolerance events took place over 36 hours of Jerusalem Day – events that were created by activists who care for the city, who are happy for its diversity, and who want to celebrate Jerusalem Day in a way that expresses the soul of our city, with grassroots messages of Jerusalemites, by Jerusalemites and for Jerusalemites. Together, we proved again that Jerusalem is not a mixture of political and religious slogans hanging above our heads, but a city that’s been blessed with a broad and interesting human diversity. These events proved that Jerusalem is indeed the World Capital of Tolerance…And if you’re an activist for tolerance from anywhere in the world and want to get to know a bustling and effective community that influences the entire city – you should come to Jerusalem, and almost every day you’ll have something to see, someone to meet and something to learn.

This is how our Michal Shilor, Coordinator of our Grassroots Campaign for Tolerance, described this year’s Jerusalemite Day of Diversity in her column in the weekly Hebrew-language newspaper, Yediot Yerushalayim. She further summed up the day in a Jerusalem Post article:

Jerusalemites are taking responsibility for Jerusalem Day…there is a different way to celebrate and mark Jerusalem Day, and that there is space for all opinions and all people in this city.

And in this Times of Israel article Michal noted:

We’re creating a new narrative for this city. It isn’t perfect, but it’s all from a huge range of people who live here and create this day together, tagging it as a city of global tolerance, and we’ll become known for that.

Talking and doing tolerance on Jerusalemite Day

Talking and doing tolerance on Jerusalemite Day

Indeed, this year marked another successful year for the Jerusalemite Day of Diversity, which took place on Jerusalem Day, May 13. For the third year running, we, together with hundreds of activists and thousands of participants, brought Jerusalemites back into the equation on Jerusalem Day. The day featured:

  • 36 hours in which our city was decorated with hope, tolerance, special encounters with those whom we usually do not meet
  • 80 events that were initiated, created, participated in and enjoyed by you,
  • thousands of Jerusalemites from all groups in the city,
  • as part of the 500 events that advance tolerance throughout the year.

So what did we have? We had Jerusalemites’ in the Living Room, where a wide range of Jerusalemites – from an American journalist to a member of the Eidah Haredit to a formerly racist soccer fan who now works to build intercultural bridges:

American journalist Sarah Tuttle Singer tells of her experiences in Jerusalem

American journalist Sarah Tuttle Singer tells of her experiences in Jerusalem

And we had tours – of the hidden Muslim cemetery in Independence Park:

Tour of the hidden Muslim cemetery, with Emek Shaveh

Tour of the hidden Muslim cemetery, with Emek Shaveh

Of the Old City of Jerusalem:

Learning about the Old City with Eran Tzidkiyahu and Ir Amim

Learning about the Old City with Eran Tzidkiyahu and Ir Amim

There were Postcards from the Soul at the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, where people of all backgrounds created postcards with different languages:

Making postcards in all languages at the Tower of David

Making postcards in all languages at the Tower of David

Along the light rail there were several pop-up events, such as a debka dance group at Safra Square – Municipality:


A singing group at Davidka Square:

Singing tolerance in Davidka Square

Singing tolerance in Davidka Square

And a short video of them in action


Pop-up mediation from Mosaica:

Learning real-life mediation tools

Learning real-life mediation tools

Of course we can’t forget the parades – the Flower Parade, by Tag Meir:

Distributing flowers instead of hate

Distributing flowers instead of hate

And the Jerusalem March, organized by the Yerushalmit Movement, which brought together hundreds of Jerusalemites on the Railway Park:

Marching along the Railway Park

Marching along the Railway Park

Jerusalem resident Ahuva Lebor, in the above-mentioned Jerusalem Post article, mentioned:

This city is a city of love, a city of community, a city that is respectful, and this [the Jerusalem March] is the best and most respectful march where you see real love for Jerusalem.

After the Jerusalem March, participants gathered at the First Station. Later that evening the outdoor tent was filled to the brim with Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Believers Festival.

At the Believers Festival

At the Believers Festival

And here’s more from the “Believers” Festival at the First Station on Sunday night:


Educator and activist Carmiel Frutkoff commented that:

Ending the day with hundreds of Jerusalemites who deeply care for this city and its diversity, was exactly what I needed to survive the day…They say that one small candle, can give enough light to rid an entire room of darkness, just imagine what hundreds of good and compassionate people can do to our city…

Here’s his full post on Facebook:

Sunday evening also featured the Creating Tolerance: A Jerusalemite View Conference at the Reut School, which featured members of the community, MKs, and Jerusalemite activists.

Listening to different opinions at the Reut School

Listening to different opinions at the Reut School

Hechal Shlomo at the Great Synagogue also joined in the festivities, with a gallery discussion on its “This Too is Possible” exhibit, which included both Jewish and Arab artists.

From the This Too is Possible exhibit

From the This Too is Possible exhibit

Rounding out the festivities was an open mic night at the Abraham Hostel:

Open mic night at the Abraham Hostel

Open mic night at the Abraham Hostel

We’ve gotten rave reviews from many people. City council member Elad Malka wrote:

We Jerusalemites know that we live here [in Jerusalem] because of the differences and diversity and not despite them. That is why it’s so important for us to live in this city. Other places are just too boring.

Here’s his Facebook post:

Others said:

Without you none of this would have happened, and it definitely would not have become a tradition, especially not in the quality and quantity [of events and activities]. Thank you, and thanks to the general public and to all the ambassadors of tolerance of Jerusalem!

Here’s the Hebrew post:

Indeed, this year we found exactly how much Jerusalemites treasure this diversity. We recent polled Jerusalemites, which was covered by the Mako Hebrew-language news site (associated with the Channel 2 TV news station), and which showed that:

  • 82% of Jerusalemites are happy that there are different groups in the city;
  • 82% feel it’s important to meet people different from them, and 96% report that they do in fact meet people who have a different religion or nationality than them on a daily basis.
  • 70% wouldn’t have a problem living in the same building with someone from a different sector.
  • 95% of the respondents noted that they would help a person in need, even if he / she was from a different religion.

Everything was documented and updated on the Jerusalem Tolerance web site. This year there were more than 350 clicks into the site on Jerusalemite Day!

Leading up to the day two videos were made, this one, by spoken word artist  Chen Amram:


And this one, filmed in the popular Mamilla Mall and Old City market:


Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation, the UJA-Federation of New York, and the Natan Fund for their continued support in working to advance tolerance in Jerusalem.

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