Lowering Ethnic Barriers in Jerusalem

The Jerusalem deputy general inspector is bringing together Arab cab drivers and municipal parking inspectors to reduce tensions between them. The municipality’s human resources department is training its managers to better integrate Ethiopian-Israelis into the municipal workforce. And the director of a local museum is curating an exhibit on the individual’s responsibility for injustice in society.

These are just three of the concrete initiatives that emerged from Lowering the Walls: Leaders Combatting Racism in Jerusalem, a training program led by Shatil in partnership with IDC Herzliya, for 16 leaders from the public and private sectors. Participants came from various backgrounds: religious and secular Jews, Mizrahi and Ethiopian Jews.

Despite their differences, they had one thing in common: the authority or influence to change people’s attitudes, actions, and day-to-day lives in a multicultural city that is too often marred by racial tensions.

The course focused on the critical role of bystanders in enabling racism, prompting many participants to realize that they could take action in their own lives. For example, Michal Greenwald works with the Jerusalem Municipality. Though her job does not formally involve pushing the municipality to hire more Ethiopian Israelis, she was inspired by the program to take on this important initiative.

Participants were unanimously enthusiastic about the tools that they gained and the personal connections made within the group. “This course was very important to me and I felt honored to participate,” said Merav Maor, executive director of Jerusalem’s Museum on the Seam. “I would like to see as many trainings like this as possible.” Assaf Carmon, deputy general inspector of the Jerusalem municipality, was equally pleased. “It was very enlightening… I hope to participate in more Shatil trainings. Wherever you need me, I’m your soldier.”

Connections made during the training are already having an impact in the capital. Carmon responded to a request by NIF grantee Ir Amim, which works for an equitable and stable Jerusalem, to address complaints from Arab taxi drivers concerning the racist attitudes of city parking inspectors. Thanks to his Shatil training, Carmon has begun to address the issue by holding dialogues between the drivers and members of the city’s parking department.

It’s one small but important step towards easing tensions in Jerusalem and creating a truly shared city.


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February 2016