Political asylum seekers in Jerusalem? Who, what, why, when, and how?
While award-winning movies (and, unfortunately, more frequent news reports) have been made about issues concerning refugees and asylum seekers living in Tel-Aviv, they constitute a significant community in other areas of Israel, one that many of us are very unfamiliar with. Recently, the JICC, together with the Jerusalem Municipality, have been working to better answer their needs by maintaining a municipal hotline for refugees and asylum seekers. You can read more about our involvement at the relevant page on our site and on a previous blog post.
As a way to kick off more comprehensive and effective treatment of and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem, our municipal hotline, in partnership with the Haruv Institute and the CIMI organization, held a day-long conference. It was held on April 1, 2014 and focused on the issues, dilemmas and responses available for asylum seekers and refugees in Jerusalem.
The conference was attended by 40 professionals in the fields of education, healthcare and welfare in Jerusalem. “There was a wide diversity of participants,” said our own Tal Kligman, is responsible for the JICC’s activity regarding refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem. “They came from the Municipality, from welfare services, from the Ministry of Health, from hospitals, and more. There was such a feeling of camaraderie in the air, one of ‘we’re all in this together,” she continued.
The day was divided into two parts: learning and acting. It began with a panel introducing different perspectives of the lives of asylum seekers and refugees in Israel in general and in Jerusalem in particular – from the legal background, to medical issues to intercultural dilemmas that are faced on an ongoing basis. The panel was followed by speakers from UNWRA, the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, and a social entrepreneur who had established a volunteer network to help refugees in Jerusalem.
In the second part of the day, participants divided up into discussion groups to discuss different issues in the fields of employment, realization of rights, children and education, welfare, and healthcare. We’re planning follow-up meetings to enable participants to continue to follow through on a number of initiatives that were discussed during the conference.
The day ended with a performance of “One Strong Black”, an extraordinary play that was created by a group of Sudanese asylum seekers, who are striving to initiate social change through dialogue and openness. The play dealt with the actors’ daily reality, from their escape from Sudan through all their stages of coping living in Israel, and presents a unique, surprising and witty perspective of the asylum seekers community life in Israel. After the play there was a panel discussion with the actors. You can see parts of this play here:
The conference was the opening of what is intended to become a series of meetings to jump-start initiatives to help the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Jerusalem and its environs. In future meetings we’d like to expand even further the diversity and scope of the participants, to reach as many relevant stakeholders as possible.