Community preparedness is critical in the case of an emergency (such as: a natural disaster, earthquake, fire, flooding, automobile accidents, terrorist attack, war). Having a network of local residents and professionals, who are familiar with the community on-the-ground and who have good working connections with national emergency service providers, means that individuals are able to get the help they require quickly and efficiently.
This program focuses on Palestinian-Arab communities in East Jerusalem. While Emergency Networks were created in Jewish West Jerusalem “top-down”, by the local government, there was no such process in East Jerusalem, where the legitimacy of government is very limited. Our approach is “bottom-up” – strengthening and empowering Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem to initiate independent teams and networks. As a result, communities gain confidence in their ability to take care of themselves. The program fosters community solidarity and cultivates communication within the neighborhoods. And it improves skills of leaders and community professionals, which will have a ripple effect throughout the city.
While the networks are proud of their independence and efficiency, they are fully aware of their dependence on larger systems and authorities when it comes to long-term assistance. They learn to act for the first 48-72 hours independently, but they also invest time and energy in defining practical links to facilitate regional on-the-ground response activities. This model is now understood to be better than the “top-down” model, and we fond ourselves promoting it in Jewish West Jerusalem and other places as well!
The East Jerusalem Emergency Readiness Networks
The East Jerusalem Emergency Readiness Networks in Palestinian neighborhoods are trained by a local Palestinian organization (“the Jerusalem Emergency Readiness Teams”), supervised by the JICC and in coordination with local service providers and other organizations. They enable responses to begin within neighborhoods with the use of local manpower, significantly cutting down emergency response time. They also facilitate cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian aid providers. This program relies on local expertise and facilities – doctors, nurses, paramedics, social workers, engineers, operators of tractors and other heavy machinery, local schools and community institutions – and the use of local resources. The network also minimizes obstacles that can slow Israeli and Palestinian response time. In addition, this system also empowers and galvanizes local residents.
The Network began as a JICC initiative 3 years ago, had emergency teams in 6 neighborhoods by the end of 2013. In 2014, the network will double itself, covering 12 Palestinian neighborhoods. There has been a very positive response, and many other local Arab organizations have requested to join the project.
In the snow storm of December 2013 the program proved quite successful. The Networks succeeded in recruiting all the local 4×4 vehicles, tractors and other heavy machinery to clear away snow and provide aid to individuals in need. The Networks were covered in a number of media outlets.