Most Arab-Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are entitled to full rights regarding health and welfare services, but many of them do not receive these rights, even though such rights and benefits guaranteed by law. In many cases, cultural and political barriers are making it harder for people to navigate through bureaucracy. Also, since the status of East Jerusalemites is different than most of Israeli citizens (e.g., most of them are regarded as Permanent Residents and not as full citizens), it might be harder to apply the laws to their specific cases.
The Atta’a Assistance Center for the Rights of East Jerusalem Residents was founded by the Jerusalem Foundation in 2004, with a goal to help Palestinian-Arab East Jerusalem residents to navigate the legal and health systems and other national agencies. Since 2015, it is under the JICC aegis. It offers:
- Ongoing One-on-One Work with Residents: Information and assistance with forms, correspondence and official documents when dealing with institutions such as the National Insurance Institute (NII), Interior Ministry, healthcare organizations and the Jerusalem Municipality. In 2016, Atta’a took care of 859 cases, 70% than in 2015. Many of these came from Facebook (232), and the remainder came from visits to the 3 drop-in stations throughout east Jerusalem. These cases are taken care of by the 14 volunteers (up from 7 in 2015), overseen by the Project Coordinator and Rights Consultant.
- Mass Awareness Raising: through community meetings throughout east Jerusalem, at different community centers such as Issawiya, Wadi Joz and Abna al-Quds in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. They also printed thousands of flyers and distributed them at key locations – the different community centers, National Insurance Institute and Ministry of Interior, East Jerusalem Branches, and more. This year the Atta’a Internet presence has grown considerably, with nearly 8,500 ‘likes’ on its Facebook page, and thousands entrances into its new web site, many of which led to a booklet on explanations about Ministry of Interior regulations. This booklet was also published and distributed throughout east Jerusalem.
- Networking and Partnerships: Atta’a is unique in that it is considered completely independent, yet it works with everyone in an attempt to improve everyday lives for residents: municipal agencies; Israeli government agencies, such as the Ministry of the Interior, National Insurance Institute, HMO’s, Ministry of Health; non-profit advocacy/human rights organizations, some of which have difficulty in contacting the ‘establishment.’ Thus, Atta’a is critical in building necessary relationships.
Atta’a handles hundreds of individual requests each year, workshops and lectures for thousands of high school students and adults. Targets the entire Arab population of Jerusalem.
Atta’a is unique in that it is a grassroots capacity building program, empowering East Jerusalem residents to demand their legal rights for themselves. It guides residents in filling out and submitting forms for themselves; it teaches residents how to draft and send their own letters; and it teaches them to gather the necessary information and documentation, and represent themselves. At the same time, Atta’a also teaches residents to know when a lawyer is required to sign and stamp documents for submission, and when one is needed for more thorough care. It also works with government bodies – National Insurance Institute, Jerusalem Municipality, Ministry of the Interior – to improve their cultural competency and facilitate improved access to rights.