Jerusalem’s everyday reality has become increasingly complex over the past few months, but that the same time, some wonderful things are happening in the field of cultural competency. About a month ago, we began a long-term process to make Jerusalem’s Hadassah Academic College culturally competent. It will be the first academic institution in Israel to undergo this process, and it is happening in Jerusalem.
We began with a number of in-depth discussions with different department heads and administration, since we had to adapt our curriculum, which has been developed for the health care system, to the needs of the College. These discussions culminated in an all-day seminar for 30 department heads and administration on September 30. The workshop included principles of cultural competency, as well as a number of simulations, which enabled participants to experience specific culturally sensitive situations, and have guided discussions on methods of dealing with different intercultural challenges. Much of the discussion centered around issues in relation to the college’s Arab student body, which comprises 15% of the total student population. One of the main issues discussed were the obstacles of communication and language gaps between students and lecturers. They focused on a number of sensitive points, from the admissions interview, to regarding the different approaches toward education, and more. The next step will be for the participants to decide on a broader plan of action – who else will participate in the training workshops, and what other steps will the College take in becoming culturally competent.
How did Hadassah come to this? They are very minded about diversity. They have a very diverse student body, and, since they are located close to the seam line between East and West Jerusalem, on Nevi’im Street which designates the border between the secular neighborhoods and the very Haredi neighborhoods of Geulah and Meah Shearim, diversity and multi-culturalism is on their mind. The summer war and ongoing general tensions in Jerusalem made the need even greater.