The Jerusalem deputy general inspector is bringing together Arab cab drivers and municipal parking inspectors to find ways to reduce ongoing tensions between them. The director of a museum in the city decided to focus an exhibit on the responsibility of the individual in society. The human resources department of the Jerusalem municipality is beginning to train its managers in the best ways to approach and integrate Ethiopian-Israelis into the municipal work force.
These are just three of the concrete initiatives that emerged from Lowering the Walls: Leaders Combatting Racism in Jerusalem, a Shatil-IDC Herzliya training for 16 select leaders working in varied sectors in the city. The organizers chose people with authority and influence who are in positions to introduce and oversee new initiatives that can change people’s attitudes, actions and work in a multicultural city that is often a focal point for tension and racism.
One of the main insights learned became a focus of the course: Passive bystanders play a critical role in enabling racism. How can we help them become active? The insight had an immediate effect on the participants themselves. An example: Michal Greenwald, who works with the Jerusalem Municipality, is not responsible for helping the municipality with its goal of hiring more Ethiopian-Israelis. But because of her participation in the training, she decided to add this to her work plan.
Religious and secular participants, from varied Jewish ethnic groups representing the public, private and nonprofit sectors, were unanimously enthusiastic about the tools and knowledge they gained and about fruitful connections made within the group.
“I didn’t expect to, but I came away with many new insights from the course,” said Assaf Carmon, deputy general inspector of the Jerusalem municipality. “It was very enlightening….And the skilled, sensitive staff, with its endless devotion, was wonderful, as was the group and the network created. 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. Michal Greenwald offered a fellow participant the use of an existing platform – Women and Tales in Jerusalem — for the latter’s initiative to lower the walls between haredim and secular Israelis by bringing them together. Shula Mola, who promotes education for a shared society at the Center for Educational Technology connected with Greenwald and has begun offering her expertise about how to attract more Ethiopian-Israelis to the ranks of municipality staff and to effectively integrate them. Assaf Carmon responded to a request by Roi Grufi of Ir Amim, which works for an equitable and stable Jerusalem, to address the complaints he has received of racist attitudes on the part of parking inspectors by the city’s Arab taxi drivers. He began holding dialogues between the drivers and the management of the city’s parking department.
In that initiative, whose initial meeting went extremely well, three recommendations have been made: to assign more Arab parking inspectors to the city center, to examine the conduct of the inspectors accused of racist attitudes and to add more taxi stops.
Lecturer Eran Halperin, a professor of psychology at IDC, was a strong influence on the group. “He gave us an implementable, scientifically proven tool for reducing racist feelings in different populations,” said Carmon. “The level of racism goes down the moment you believe that the other can change. This was an important insight for our cab drivers initiative.”
“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.”