Here in Jerusalem, the new year was welcomed with mixed feelings. While we hope for better times ahead, we are still in the midst of war and carry the trauma of recent events. Jerusalem is still hosting tens of thousands of evacuees, unable to return home three months since the war began. Thousands of men and women are still serving as reservists, leaving their families and businesses behind. Our new normal includes terrible losses and disrupted routines, with no clear end on the horizon.
Our ability to partner with civil society organizations and institutions in Jerusalem is a beacon of hope amidst this turbulence. Viewing the sincere and inventive efforts of culture and community organizations, networks and individuals is truly inspiring, and we are grateful for the support of our friends in Israel and around the world which enables us to continue backing these ventures and making a difference for so many people in the city. While we continue to respond to emerging needs, especially those of the most vulnerable amongst us, we are also thinking about the day after and taking care of a long list of arts and culture institutions that are facing huge challenges.
As the situation continues to change and develop, we have continued to adjust our programming with it. Many of the programs which the emergency fund has supported have continued, these are some that we have not previously been able to highlight.
Biotechnology studies for evacuee youth at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Youth-Division Belmonte Science Laboratories Center. High School pupils from Israel’s southern town of Sderot were unable to complete the practical component of their biotechnology studies, specifically because not all schools offer this course, and not all the pupils are currently living together. The Jerusalem Foundation partnered with the Belmonte Labs to host and tutor the pupils, enabling them to carry out their individual lab project which is a matriculation requirement. Over 4 days, the pupils stayed in the Belmonte Center, experimented and studied with Hebrew U student tutors. While the Israeli Ministry of Education funded part of the program, it could not cover the full costs; thus, JF support was invaluable in helping these teens achieve academic success.
“Mind-Body” Skills Group for Evacuees by CMBM Israel at Mishkenot Sha’ananim: The horrific events of October 7 and the ensuing war have left difficult memories and caused mental and emotional harm to many. Suppression of these memories and neglecting treatment of these harms can only lead to serious symptoms and potentially long-term disorders. CMBM Israel is an experiences nonprofit that supports trauma victims using an evidence-based model of stress and trauma relief. We supported Mishkenot Sha’ananim in hosting a Mind-Body Skills Group for practicing self-care and building resilience for survivors of October 7 attacks, including full boards at the Maurice M. Dwek Guesthouse. Participants experienced 6 workshop sessions over 2 days, practicing mindfulness, meditation, movement and more as therapeutic means, as well as enjoying cultural respite music concerts.
Open Space for evacuee youth: The prolonged stay in hotels is a challenge for many families and especially youth; they were torn from their homes, routines and frameworks, many after viewing or experiencing devastating events. Parents are wary of allowing their teen children to travel alone in a new city, yet the crowded feeling in the hotels and the lack of schedule increase tensions, leading to engagement in negative behaviors such as vagrancy and alcohol consumption. The Municipality in collaboration with community centers welcome evacuee youth to supervised open spaces where they can engage with friends, participate in structured activities and enjoy free time playing games such as foosball and table tennis. JF joined this meaningful initiative by adding a creative layer – workshops to restore equipment and furniture that are donated to the spaces by Jerusalem residents. The donations are collected by the municipality and upgrade jointly by evacuee youth and local at-risk youth, supervised by artists from Hamiffal Art Collective.
Kiryat HaYovel Volunteer Headquarters: the outbreak of war, unprecedented evacuation and mass military call-up disrupted the routine of many families, creating new struggles and needs. On the other hand, an inspiring amount of people sought to lend a helping hand wherever possible. To balance the needs and support, Rashut Harabim launched a local headquarters in Kiryat HaYovel. The headquarters provides support on four fronts: food and equipment drive for two weeks, in coordination with the city-wide headquarters, staffed by volunteers and managed by Rashut Harabim staff; coordinating cadres of volunteers to support vulnerable populations – single mothers, elderly and families of reservists; community activities for boosting morale, including craft workshops, dance and music sessions, plays and more; and coordinating donations for lone soldiers living in the neighborhood.
The Double Impact program continues to be one of the most important and essential programs for the coming months. The evacuee hotels are very crowded and naturally create feelings of tension and it is proving difficult to hold formal or informal educational activities on site. Long hours spent in small hotel rooms lead to difficult behavioral problems and stress within families, with friends and with other people. There is a great challenge in conducting school in a building that is not set up for learning spaces and there is difficulty in releasing pent up energy and tension, especially these days, and so ‘getting fresh air’ mental and physically is even more vital. Excursions and outdoor activities will be one of the greatest needs of the refugees, especially for children and youth at risk, and they will also serve the needs of the education system and other vulnerable populations in Jerusalem.
The Double Impact program is taking place in some 35 art and culture institutions across the city, including the Tisch Family Zoo, the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium, the Botanical Gardens, the Ein Yael Archaeological Garden, the Bloomfield Science Museum, the Yellow Submarine, the Tower of David Museum, the Cinematheque and the Train Theater. So far, some 71,000 evacuees and Jerusalem residents have participated in the program.