A Zionist organization has launched a unique initiative in Jerusalem to improve the lives of the Arabs living in the eastern part of the city, with an understating that if Israel wants full sovereignty over its capital it must invest in all its neighborhoods.
The Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS), with a stated mission of promoting and strengthening Israel’s Jewish character and its democratic nature, has launched the assistance plan under the banner “sovereignty creates responsibility.”
The IZS says that after more than five decades after the unification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967, the union of the city has not yet been completed and its future is still uncertain. Through prolonged neglect, many of the neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem have become “no-go zones” for Israeli authorities and ridden with violence and poverty.
Seeking to ensure that Jerusalem is not de-facto divided, the IZS has taken upon itself the mission of improving the lives of some 300,000 Arab residents of Jerusalem. Their belief is that by contributing Jerusalem’s Arabs they can reduce the ongoing alienation between the State of Israel and the local population.
A little less than a year ago, the IZS established two centers of operations, the first in the Tsur Baher Community Center, and the Integrated Service Center in Issawiya.
In the Arab neighborhood of Tsur Baher, Israeli volunteers operate a center that aims to narrow the gap between the Jerusalem Municipality and its Arab residents. The activists provide information and practical help such as translation and help filling out forms for the municipality, social security, employers and other official bodies. The center has addressed 150 petitions for help in the last six months.
Most of the issues the activists deal with are the result of a lack of knowledge and understanding, enhanced by the language and culture differences, which this program aims to bridge, the IZS says. Surmounting the barriers could open new doors to the Arab population and reduce friction between them and the authorities.
Similarly, the IZS provides Hebrew lessons as a way to empower and integrate the Arab residents. Some 80 students currently attend these classes.
Ramadan Dabbash, head of the community administration in Tsur Baher, said that the community enjoys the services provided by the Israeli activists, which “they give with all their heart.”
“This is exactly the form of coexistence and equal rights, that they can help the locals… I feel they are strong for me,” he said.
“I see the residents here turning to them in all fields and asking for their help, and receiving services from them, and people enjoy it,” he added.
IZS activist Nicolas Nissim Touboul summed up the project’s objective by stating that “only the strengthening Israel’s sovereignty in its positive aspects can lead to the development of the city and the improving of the quality of life for all its residents.”
This post was compiled in Israel by TPS 🇮🇱 Subscribe to our Israel Insider Newsletter