Short background: Mr. Fouad Abu-Khammed, a businessman who was on the JICC board for many years, is one of the main lay-leaders of Tsur Baher – a Palestinian/Arab village in South-East Jerusalem. The JICC helped Abu-Khammed in establishing a connection between the lay-leaders’ education committee that he heads in the village, and Jerusalem municipality high officials. As a result, a unique process for improving the education system in Tsur Baher has been instigated, and a project coordinator, Carol Kasbari, was hired especially for this task. With the help of the Jerusalem Foundation and the Municipality Education Department, results are being seen on the ground. The JICC played a significant role in creating an enabling setting for the inter-cultural talks between the sides, which in Jerusalem are so often linked to global politics. At this point, the JICC serves as a consultant to the process and as an inter-cultural problem solver.
Today, we held one of the monthly meetings at the office of the head of the municipality Education Department. Representatives of the Tsur Baher lay-leadership, the Jerusalem Foundation, the municipality, and of course ourselves, heard Carol’s report on the achievements to date. Following a year and a half of discussions, many of which dealing with issues of inter-cultural communication and conflicts, today’s meeting revealed growing tendency for partnership and for understanding of the shared mission. Although many current solutions focus on “low hanging fruits”, these are very important, for example investment in laboratories and in classroom assistance. The strategic plan will have to tackle issues such as quality of teaching, violence and discipline. The role of the principals in leading the process was emphasized, but it is important to note that one of the original challenges in Tsur Baher was the lack of trust between these principals and the residents (although some of the principals reside in the village).
In November we will hold another meeting, and we’ll be able to see whether the positive attitude is still sustained in this important process.