The Yerushalmit Movement

The Yerushalmit Movement is building a vibrant, inclusive, civil society in Jerusalem, a "Community of Communities" that empowers residents of diverse backgrounds to find common ground and work together to develop grassroots initiatives to effectively address economic, social and cultural gaps.

Location: Jerusalem
Year founded: 2009

Description

Since 2009, The Yerushalmit Movement has been empowering social activists and fostering pluralism in numerous neighborhoods throughout Jerusalem with the aim of strengthening the City’s human capital, improving quality of life and preventing negative migration. We encourage the growth of new local leadership and promote pluralism, especially in the Public Space. Through our grassroots approach we are empowering the City’s residents to become their own agents of change, reinforcing messages of shared society, community building and collective impact. We work to empower the growth of Jerusalem as a vibrant, pluralist and inclusive city that reflects the unique variety of its citizens and will begin to bring this successful and vital model of shared society to impact Israeli society on a national level.

Our vision for Jerusalem is a city that embodies its status as the Capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people and a center for the three main monotheistic religions while ensuring that all its residents benefit from quality of life, economic, social and cultural prosperity and shared society.

Our strategic plan is to transform Jerusalem and promote the City as this “Community of Communities”, a City of and for all its residents. We develop connections and relationships with social activists in all of Jerusalem’s sectors, including East Jerusalem and the Ultra-Orthodox sectors. We work through civil society to promote civil activism to define what our role should be, how we can effect change and connect the vastly different communities that exist in the City, through creation of common space and partnered activity.

The people of Jerusalem, together with all those who love and care for the City, reflect the full spectrum of Israeli society. The City’s residents, in their broad diversity, comprise a microcosm of both the wealth and the challenge to be found in shared society in Israel, socially and politically. Jerusalem is unique in that her Peoples share the City’s “space” on a daily basis in the most authentic, rather than symbolic, way. In most neighborhoods, the Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) population, in all its streams and with all of its current issues, interacts with the secular and non-Haredi religious populations, each searching for their “place” and seeking their own piece of paradise. Ethnic diversity expresses itself differently in each neighborhood and the Jewish population increasingly encounters her neighbors, the Arabs of East Jerusalem, who come to and gather in neighborhoods of Jerusalem situated beyond their side of the separation wall.

This steadily increasing interaction between the City’s diverse groups has led to a variety of social processes: Since 2007/8 we have witnessed the development of extremism, of hatred and racism, both in the right wing Jewish population and in East Jerusalem. On the other hand, tolerance and open-mindedness has flourished in tandem since the summer of 2014, with cross sectoral groups of activists seeking coexistence in the City, looking to expand their communities’ boundaries and stepping up to confront nationalist and racist activity throughout the City. Some of these currents began and are grounded in the City Center’s neighborhoods and these are not always connected to or in rapport with peripheral daily life. It is exactly this ability, the capability of local neighborhood residents, the City’s driving force, to develop an in depth understanding of their communities’ troubles and aspirations and create appropriate, viable plans to address them - it is this asset that we at The Yerushalmit Movement seek to platform and empower, providing resources for realization of activity.

This growing inter-communal interaction necessitates hands on, active involvement to ensure that each sector values both the other's identity and living together and the common good, thus moderating the forces of extremism. When conflicting groups interact (whether the conflict be of nationalist, economic, cultural or any other nature), racism, stereotyping and xenophobia are the psychological default. Deep down, each group simply wishes that the other would disappear. As a result, Jerusalem’s public space is becoming increasingly disconnected from its peoples and avoided by all sides. The Yerushalmit Movement is dedicated to developing an understanding that “we are all here to stay, no one is going anywhere” through our community organizing activity.

Vision:

We envision Jerusalem as a “Community of Communities” that function and thrive side by side in mutual respect, cooperation and tolerance. A City that empowers grass roots leadership, leading to tremendous growth in impactful social, cultural and political activism, that enables and conveys the possibility and actuality of cooperation between diverse sectors and vastly differing identities. Actual cross-sectoral social activism, as the very definition of Jerusalemite activism, is our model for exemplification regarding the establishment of local and national political collaboration that is based on appreciation of the common good.

We strive to create a reality throughout the neighborhoods whereby residents work together to improve their quality of life, utilizing cross-sectoral social activism tools, creating opportunity not only for improving living conditions and reducing social disparity, but for breaking down stereotypes, creating broad based social partnerships and for actualizing the potential of the City’s social diversity. Public spaces and arenas enable all the City’s populations to interact, allowing place for social and cultural connection and dialogue.Grass roots civil society activists who share this vision are able to enact change through understanding sectoral difference and through opportunity to spearhead collaborative activity in a way that municipal or governmental bodies could never achieve. However, making such change a sustainable reality is dependent on the ability of civil society to translate it into political reality at the corresponding levels.

We believe that the central guiding principle of the Jerusalem experience should be creation and safeguarding of pluralist space for all of her communities. This principle is founded on a deep appreciation of the values of human dignity and the right to equality, together with a commitment to the Jewish concept of Jerusalem as “a City that unites together”, a City in which a diverse human tapestry is woven together in harmony. We believe in the power of the individual and their community to overcome social and political challenges through direct encounter and via leadership that draws its strength from its ability to represent a broad spectrum of voices and create inter sectoral connections and bridge identities. Two types of local leadership are needed in order to develop social collaboration of this kind: leadership that serves (community organizing) and communal leadership.

We play a unique role in creating this reality through facilitation of discourse and developing solutions that address the common good as part of civil political practice. We are building a civil communal force for practical social change, through cross-sectoral community organizing that directly influences policy formation in the corridors of power. We operate on three main levels:

1. Cross-sectoral community organization

2. Transforming public space into points of encounter

3. Promoting policy for the common good, on parliamentary levels and in the media.

Each of these modes of activity stands independently, but they are also closely related. Indeed the processes involved in community organization often require combining these modes of activity in the public sphere in order to widen circles, reaching engaged residents who comprehend the process. On the other hand, activity that transforms the urban public space into a meeting point, produces in turn a community of professional activists who are dedicated to the vision of a “Community of Communities”. This leadership community enables expansion of activity and provision of services empowering community organization in local neighborhoods. These two modes of operation present as a conduit for formulation of policy by decision makers and public figures that promotes the common good.

DETAILED METHODOLOGY:

Cross-Sectoral Community Organization:

The Yerushalmit Movement’s unique use of community organizing tools, in conjunction with The Shacharit Institute, is based on our relationship to community organizing as an opportunity for decreasing alienation, for identifying common denominators and for forming an identity as a “Community of Communities”. Our strategic focus is on the joint physical, educational and cultural needs of the City’s inhabitants.

Community organization is comprised of four stages:

a. Building relationships and trust

b. Identifying common needs, serving all residents (of all identifications and sectors), that have not been addressed.

c. Researching the problem and focus on the issue

d. Promoting solutions that provide a response to the needs of the full spectrum of residents, by all those very residents.

Transforming the Public Space into a Point of Encounter:

A space for encounter and dialogue between City residents on shared values and differing worldviews.

Primary Tools:

a. Creation of dialogue circles that provide concrete opportunity for inclusion of all sectors, enabling direct discourse between them.

b. Community building events as a means for enabling social, cultural and political encounter.

Policy that promotes the Common Good at Parliamentary Levels and in the Media;

Primary tools:

a. Development and distribution of inclusive work models for implementation in the field.

b. Arranging guided tours and delegation field visits to places in which these models are actually being implemented.

c. Providing a media platform for highlighting successes that result from the application of these models.

It is important to note that all modes of operation are affected by and affect the Movement’s value and ideology based partnership with urban faction groups (currently “The Yerushalmim”). Currently there is distinct organizational separation between these entities. Organizational agendas are set separately and completely independently. However, we believe that all social action that strives to establish its values and achievements as a sustainable reality, requires partners who share the same ideological compass and who are willing to protect and act in its vein within the political arena.

The Yerushalmit Movement’s Goals:

1. To expand the circles of City residents who understand and act according to the principles of cross-sectoral activism as a means to promote the common good.

2. Ongoing transformation of Public Spaces in Jerusalem, from places of random and detached encounter to places of profound discourse and direct encounter with the other.

3. Development and implementation of innovative models for resource distribution and for shared living in mixed neighborhoods.

4. Increasing awareness that these principles and practices are stymied and must find expression in political arenas, so that political bodies and decision makers will be able to back social action which operates according to these principles.

Target Audiences:

The Movement seeks to work together with activists and residents from all sectors and neighborhoods in Jerusalem. In the Jewish neighborhoods, all our programs engage with residents of all the existing sectors and communities, in order to empower a process of confidence-building within the community. In this way, whether our activity is specifically focused on women or on young families or on various delineated issues, it is always carried out with a mixed, cross sectoral group. Alongside this guiding principle, in the coming years some of our activity will center around development of leadership and strengthening community in Haredi society and in the communities of East Jerusalem. This is part of our long-term vision for civil society partnerships. However, our goal of working with these sectors inherently undermines our ability to work with them in a cross sectoral forum in the early stages of relationship building and activity.

Projects and Main Objectives 2017 – 2020

  • A New Civil Society Force
  • Pluralist Ultra-Orthodox Community Leadership
  • East Jerusalem: Community Leadership and Resilience
  • Meeting Place
  • Women Changing Jerusalem
  • Campaigns and Public Awareness:
  • Resource Development
  • “50 Reasons for Hope” - Program to mark the 50th anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem
  • Yom Yerushalayim: The Alternative Jerusalem March
  • Shira Banki Seminar for Youth Leadership
The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership: From the Destruction of the Temple to Rebuilding our Society

About

“Twice in her history Israel was unified, sovereign and independent. And twice she fell, within a period of less than 90 years. Are signs of history repeating itself beginning to appear for our third Israel of today?” Rino Tzror, in “The Third Commonwealth has lost Control”

Jerusalem teen Shira Banki’ z”l’s murder last year at the Gay Pride parade, by an Ultra-Orthodox extremist, sent shockwaves through Israeli Society. Immediately following the news of Shira’s passing, the Yerushalmit Movement together with the “Rashut Harabim” Coalition and the support of the ROI Schusterman Community (Grassroots Grant), organized a public Shiva and vigil in Zion Square. Professionally facilitated dialogue circles enabled thousands from across the social, political and religious spectrum to meet 'face to face'. These encounters proved to be healing and transformative for many, enabling participants to reach beyond sectoral barriers to their shared humanity. Throughout the seven days of the Shiva, Zion Square was transformed from a place of violence and racism to one of reconciliation and hope. When the Shiva ended, there was a yearning for more and the “Meeting Place” initiative was born. Ever since, every Thursday night, the Yerushalmit Movement and it's ever growing supporters have filled Zion Square with music, art and dialogue. Each week, Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, straight and gay, locals and passers-by join together in peaceful dialogue on various controversial issues affecting Israeli society. Even as recent terror events deepen fears in Jerusalem, people have continued to come to Zion Square to meet one another face to face and hold onto hope.

Leading on from Meeting Place’s success this year, we continue to work on innovative and unprecedented partnership with the Banki family to bring different sectors and ideologies together in the Square, to share positions and encounter the other. The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership aims to engage the cream of Israeli youth, the most motivated and effective young leadership of the Israeli Scout Movement, in taking the lead in creating initiatives and activity for shared society and “tikkun olam” (repairing the world). Shira z”l’s murder was motivated by intolerant opinions, extremist thinking, fear of difference and senseless hatred. There are clear similarities that can be drawn between this murder and the social processes that brought about the destruction of the Temple. In partnership with The Israeli Scouts and The Hartman Institute we will immerse this future leadership of Israeli Society in meaningful, in depth study of Israel’s past and present, learning from our past and what it can teach us about facing the challenges of the present. Each young leader will then formulate their own connection, to create a personal plan of action, relevant to each individual’s background and position in the Youth Movement.

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

The seminar continues a process of “repair” following the tragic and society shifting events of last summer. By focus on the major rifts in Israeli society and the parallels in our history, we will engage Israel’s youth leadership in a process of reflection and motivation, thought and planning, asking themselves what should they be doing, as individuals and as an impactful Youth Movement, to safeguard Israeli Society as an open, caring, democratic society that respects difference, an inclusive society that is in constant dialogue and that will not repeat history and break apart again.

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Program Description

The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership will take place in the week leading up to Tisha B’Av 2017 (with a modest pilot taking place this year on August 11th-12th 2016 which we hope to thus expand in 2017 to become the flagship seminar of the Yerushalmit Movement). It will engage 120 10th graders, hand-picked Israeli Scout leaders from across the country, who have demonstrated their leadership capability and motivation to enact change in their communities and society, locally and nationally. Based in Jerusalem at The Hartman Institute and developed and run in conjunction with them and the Israeli Scout Movement, the program will include lectures, discussion groups, guided study tours (including visiting points of tension in the City and meeting activists and community representatives), an upfront meeting with Shira Banki z”l’s parents, encounter circles in the Public Space (First Station) and much more.

Session topics will include:

A Jewish Democratic State: The tension between Jewish and democratic values and Modernity – Resolving the conflict.

Extremism – Where does it Lead? – Social activism, taking a stand and working to change the current state of affairs

Jerusalem Society Panel: Diversity in Jerusalem – Haredi (Ultra Orthodox) and Secular, Arab and Jew, Religious LGBT, Orthodox and Reform Rabbis

Repairing Society and Creating an Ideal Society – The Call to Action

The Book of Lamentations (Megilla Eicha) – What is its relevance today? Warnings and the relevance of history.

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Demonstrated Need

The program aims to strengthen our process of initiatives to repair society after the murder of Shira Banki z”l, bringing Jerusalem and Israel’s peoples together in dialogue and encounter. Our goal is to impact society through practical application of the ability to “agree to disagree” and actualize shared society.

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Program Accomplishments

“Meeting Place” has succeeded in bringing together Jerusalemites of all backgrounds and ideologies to face and encounter the other and begins to sow the seeds of shared living in a shared society. (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moqJMtWeNlE )

This initiative transformed into a regular Thursday night fixture, dedicated to Shira z”l’s memory. In February, in a historic decision, in partnership with the Yerushalmit Movement and the Banki family, the Municipality of Jerusalem agreed to make the memory of Shira Banki and the values of tolerance, pluralism and respecting the other an integral part of the heart of Jerusalem, by redesigning and renovating Zion Square. This marks the tremendous success of this grassroots initiative and the propagation of the values that we as an organization believe in and are dedicated to strengthening in Jerusalem. The official announcement for the Municipality’s architectural design competition, updated to include our vision, was published in the Israeli media. Our model of generating social change through grassroots organizing, together with simultaneous high-level political engagement, has connected the will of the people to the executive power of government, with both sides winning, together.

“Meeting Place” was featured in Ha’aretz. The article puts our initiative into context and explains how our work is succeeding in transforming the Square into a place of pluralism and tolerance in the memory of Shira Banki z”l. (Link to Ha’aretz article: Gay Pride Murder Inspires Grassroots Movement to Reclaim Jerusalem Landmark)

As this initiative only began in June 2015, we are still in the early stages of this project, yet have made enormous strides in this short amount of time. Effectiveness has been measured by the consolidation of the initiative’s activity in the Square as a constant and continuous presence and the Square having become recognized and actively utilized as central meeting point for inter sectoral encounter and dialogue both by the people of Jerusalem and by the Municipality. We have also partnered with many organizations on this project including: The Open House, Chavruta (an organization for the religious LGBT community), The Jerusalem Municipality, Gesher, Elul, Reshut Harabim and the ROI Schusterman community. The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership will actualize our new partnership with The Hartman Institute and The Israeli Scout Movement.

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How do you measure the success of your program?

“Meeting Point” has and continues to be an overwhelming success. The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership is a new project directly emanating from this success. The success of the seminar will be measured by number of applicants and feedback immediately after the seminar, together with a six month follow up survey on the seminar’s effect on participants’ engagement and activity as youth movement leaders and their impact on their neighborhood and society.

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Women Changing Jerusalem (Meurevet Yerushalmit)

About

“Women Changing Jerusalem” is a ground breaking model of civic collaboration for Israeli Society through the power of women to find solutions to the challenges of both daily life and inter sectorial conflict, opening doors previously shut to its participants in the realm of inter sectorial dialogue and encounters and social change. The program is innovation at its best, transforming disadvantages into advantages, utilizing the unique multicultural fabric of the City's communities to empower cross sectoral women's leadership through a community organizing approach that builds practical solutions for the common good based on trust and empathy. The WCJ network provides a platform for sharing educational and cultural resources and encourages the wider community to share the City's public space promoting tolerance and pluralism and enabling each and every sector to feel at home.

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

Women Changing Jerusalem involves engaging a unique gathering of populations to work together towards common goals, a cross sectoral forum of women from all spheres of Jerusalem society, in a women’s leadership program for neighborhood activists', together with a series of public events, both aimed at empowering cross sectoral community leadership active in mixed neighborhoods and strengthening the feminist discourse among decision makers.

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Program Description

Target Population & Participant Demographics: Women from Jerusalem’s neighborhoods who constitute representation of a wide variety of sectors of Israeli society – i.e. Ultra-Orthodox, Secular and Modern Orthodox women from all ethnic and cultural groups, who have a proven record of social activism and community engagement and seek to take on a more significant role in shaping a shared society in their neighborhood and in the City at large.

Three new groups located in three diverse mixed neighborhoods will be launched on 2017/8, bringing together 100 women community leaders from a full spectrum of sectors to address the most pressing issues affecting women in Jerusalem.

The program comprises:

  • Female Leadership in Neighborhoods - Group sessions working towards the creation of a cadre of female leadership and promotion of joint neighborhood projects.
  • The 'Women of Jerusalem' Forum – Working together towards collaboration in daily urban issues such as education, infrastructure, community and more.
  • Shifting the Discourse - A series of public events, aimed at strengthening the discourse among decision-makers.

Goals for 2017-2018:

1. Establish a cadre of nine groups of potential women social activists, comprising two to three cohorts, in three selected neighborhoods, totaling 100 participants.

2. Each group will choose one joint program to enact in the public sphere and the Movement’s will support and mentor its implementation.

3. Participants who exhibit the strongest leadership potential will be recruited to or be directly involved in community initiatives aimed at transforming the neighborhood into a “Community of Communities” and at developing solutions that address the common good.

4. Creation of a leadership network (comprised of the leaders that stand out in each neighborhood) who will work together with the Municipality’s Division for the Advancement of Women to address and platform the needs of women and young families.

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Demonstrated Need

Women are the first to suffer from insufficient urban services for families and children on the one hand and from religious extremism and social exclusion on the other. The lack of women in prominent leadership positions in the Municipality has meant that the needs of women and young families have not been a City priority for many years. Issues such as education, security, resources for early childhood and the needs of working mothers, have all been neglected. Our experience over the past five years has showcased how the empowerment of women as agents of change and community leadership and increasing the presence of women in the public discourse leads to impactful social change in the community. The current program builds on this experience, encouraging and empowering women throughout the City to take ever increasing roles as community organizers, social activists and agents of change. In addition, in a polarized environment such as that which exists in Jerusalem, with divides between Jew and Arab, Secular and Orthodox and the wealthy and the poor, collaboration between women activists from different sectors can serve as an innovative and inspiring civic bridge. With a bottom-up approach that avoids the macro political issues, “Women Changing Jerusalem” effects grassroots change in the different communities of Jerusalem, fostering new relationships and interactions between them.

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Program Accomplishments

Due to our success there has been great demand for expansion of the program to additional neighborhoods in strategic locations across the City, from center to periphery, providing representation citywide and a model for national emulation.

The events in the public space run by our participants have engaged hundreds of local city residents. Our new women activists’ work in their communities is reaching thousands and is effectively changing the discourse in their neighborhoods and citywide. Thousands are also impacted through our program advertising and awareness campaigning as well as through our work with our partner organizations

“Women Changing Jerusalem” received the honor of being chosen to be part of the Arison Foundation’s Kulanana program for 2016 that includes mentoring, support and symbolic funding to boost initiatives for shared society: http://www.ruachtova.org.il/kulanana. This is a significant expression of confidence in our project and its ability to empower women to enact social change and inter organizational and inter sectoral collaboration.

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How do you measure the success of your program?

In 2016 we succeeded in establishing five groups (Kiryat Hayovel , Nachlaot, Ramot and Gilo). Our qualitative evaluation (interviews and questionnaires) indicated that participants benefited greatly from the experience of encountering the “others” who live in their City, creating relationships with women they would otherwise not have encountered on a personal, professional or leadership level. The group experience succeeded in breaking down stereotypes, with participants discovering a myriad of common issues, the power of their ability and the importance of working towards the common good. Our new women activists’ work in their communities reaching thousands. Additional thousands are also impacted through our program advertising and awareness campaigning as well as through our work with our partner organizations.


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