The Deliberative Democracy model seeks to engage residents  – from all different groups and sectors – in the future of their neighborhood and city, enabling them to take ownership of their communities and influence the future. It seeks to celebrate the unique diversity in Jerusalem’s neighborhoods with a pluralistic approach, allowing all groups to have their voices heard, while respecting that of others. It helps residents and professionals develop responses based on needs on the ground, from large-scale community assemblies to smaller task teams to dialogue groups to MiniActive programs. Both residents and professionals learn to conduct processes on their own and solve problems creatively, using cultural competency and other tools to maintain long-term sustainability. Diverse populations are targeted – from Jews of Ethiopian origin to veteran immigrants to Ultra-Orthodox Jews to Palestinian Arabs – as well as mixtures of all groups. As a result, potentially divisive issues can instead be unifying, community diversity can be an asset rather than a detriment, social gaps may decrease, collective identity can be strengthened, and most importantly, participants take ownership of, responsibility for, and partnership in the future of their neighborhoods, as well as the city of Jerusalem.

Deliberative Democracy refers to a state when all members of a community are empowered to play a meaningful role in decisions that affect their daily lives, such as education, health and municipal services, housing, and the like. The JICC works to systemically improve and broaden inclusive decision-making in Jerusalem by empowering formerly disengaged populations to take part in the decisions that affect their community. Using the Deliberative Democracy methodology, the JICC works with a wide variety of communities – Palestinian, new immigrant, Haredi – to ensure that residents see themselves as stakeholders, who by definition see themselves as empowered to collectively discuss and implement optimal solutions for their community.

Long-term Community-wide Deliberative Democracy

The JICC has begun a wide scale effort to engage entire communities in deliberative democracy processes. Over the past few years, residents and professionals have developed responses to problems and issues through large-scale community assemblies, led by joint resident-professional Leading Forums and smaller Action Groups, have followed up decisions with actions on the ground. Thus far the JICC has been working in Baka’a, Talpiot-Arnona, Abu-Tor, Mekor Haim, Gilo, Rehavia, Kiryat Hayovel, Kiryat Menachem, Givat Messua, Romema, and more.

This program is developing differently in each neighborhood, within each community council. Together with the residents and community and municipal professionals, we are planning and developing processes according to each neighborhood’s characteristics and adapted to the specific issues each neighborhood is most concerned with. Our goal is to bring all the voices of all the different identities in the community to be part of a decision-making group and to enable each resident to advance ideas and initiatives that are important to him. Our work centers on 4 types of activity:

  1. Creating a set space for discussion and entrepreneurship. We began working with community-based groups in Abu Tor – North Talpiot and Arnona in late 2012, which are part of the Greater Baka Community Council. In light of the successes in those areas, we started working with residents in Mekor Haim and Romema in early 2013. We continued working with these groups throughout 2013. Activities include town meetings, formation of task teams to address issues such as neighborhood planning, safety, parking, environmental issues and more. In the Haredi – Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Romema, after 350 men and women met to discuss a range of problems, the community center, under the JICC guidance, is helping residents to follow up with task teams on some 35 issues. In addition to the task teams, the MiniActive project is taking care of a number of smaller problems as well.
  2. Solving problems or resolving conflicts in the public sphere, which affect joint living space. Examples of this kind of work include: Parking on specific residential streets in Gilo; Public – Private Spaces (PPS’s), also in Gilo, helping residents come together to take care of public green spaces, together.
  3. Inter-group relations (Haredi – non-Haredi, conflicts between different streams). In both Rehavia and Kiryat Hayovel we have brought about dialogue processes between Haredi and non-Haredi residents. In Rehavia, such open and honest dialogue about such sensitive issues has not been seen in years. As a result of this dialogue process, residents – community leaders in both secular and Haredi communities – formulated an Agreement of Understanding, which lay down the principles of action for all residents in the neighborhoods. In Kiryat Hayovel, too, significant strides were made in smoothing rising inter-group tensions. In both cases, the spectrum of viewpoints, discussions and decisions were transparently presented. Residents and professionals learned to accept and welcome diversity, cultivating leadership that is sensitized to the complexities of Jerusalem’s diverse society. Our successful work with the Haredi – non-Haredi residents in Kiryat Hayovel has gained the attention of the general population, and the current director of the community center has invited us to begin working in Kiryat Hayovel in a more intensive manner. We have also been invited to begin working in the Haredi area of Meah Shearim.
  4. Planning processes or building a community vision. We are currently working with the neighborhood of Talpiot – Arnona in helping them build a community vision. We have also been asked to work with four community councils – Gonenim, Baka’a, and Ginot Ha’Ir – which all border the new Railway Park, to formulate a joint vision for the Park.
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