I have decided to write to you especially now, in these days following Jerusalem Day, since it received attention across the world and not all of the attention was necessarily for the benefit of our beloved and unique city.
The city’s special day, Jerusalem Day, has been ‘overtaken’ in recent years by political fringe elements who seek to exploit this special day. Jerusalem Day could and should symbolize Jerusalem as a source of inspiration, harmony and shared living. Some of the extremist elements do not even live in Jerusalem, yet they manage to silence the voices of reason and dialogue of the many people who do live in the city and strive to find ways to live together.
In the lead-up to Jerusalem Day, I conducted interviews with two leading newspapers, the online Ynet paper of Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz. In light of the upheaval of the last few days, I want to share a summary of these interviews with you. In these interviews, I emphasize our unwavering conviction and commitment to promoting the city of Jerusalem as a model for shared living, for learning to live side-by-side, for respecting and embracing the city’s diversity and for nurturing this very diversity as the city’s greatest asset and inspiration. Shared living in Jerusalem is an integral part of all of the Jerusalem Foundation’s work, and our efforts derive from our belief in, and commitment to, reducing gaps between the city’s diverse populations and providing equal opportunities for all.
Despite all the background noise and maybe especially thanks to the naysayers, we at the Jerusalem Foundation are firm believers in our work, in our mission and in the optimism that drives us every day. Like the headline of my interview to Haaretz, we may not see the light at the end of the tunnel but we do see the light in all that we do at the Jerusalem Foundation every day, anew.
The Life and Soul of the City, Ynet
“The Jerusalem Foundation strives to promote through dialogue the fact that Jerusalem’s greatest asset is her diversity – Arabs, Jews, secular and religious people”, explains the President of the Foundation, Shai Doron. “As a Jerusalemite, I believe that this diversity is not a disadvantage but, in fact, the very opposite, Jerusalem’s greatest strength and characteristic. The Jerusalem Foundation constitutes the added value of the city and, if it were not for the Foundation, the city would lack a soul, inspiration, creativity. Our efforts and work are all based on the conviction that – one day – this place will become a model of shared living.”
At present, the Foundation is promoting a trailblazing initiative called “City as a School”, where classrooms as traditional study spaces are replaced by studying at the Science Museum, the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem Aquarium, the Biblical Zoo and more. It arose out of the coronavirus. “In partnership with the Jerusalem Municipality, we are now leading this important initiative for educational inspiration, not as a one-off experience but rather as a study framework to stimulate a desire for knowledge and curiosity among all 290,000 of Jerusalem’s children”, explains Doron. He describes another important initiative by the Foundation. “For the third year in a row, we are advancing the Al-Mada program, to encourage the study and enjoyment of the exact sciences for younger schoolchildren (3rd to 6th graders). This is a partnership with the Israeli Center for Excellence in Education, the Jerusalem Municipality and philanthropy. More than 40 schools – both Arab and Jewish – are participating in the program including 14 ultra-Orthodox Talmud Torah schools.”
According to Doron, this widespread momentum is taking place with enormous support by the Mayor of Jerusalem. “The Jerusalem Foundation could not have a better partner than Moshe Lion, the Mayor. He is the first mayor, after the legendary Teddy Kollek, who truly understands the essence of our crucial partnership, and its potential for leverage of philanthropy to and for the city. Donors today only make donations to designated causes and seek to support partnerships that will make a difference to the city. In this respect, Moshe Lion is the ultimate partner for the Jerusalem Foundation.”
A Ray of Light, Ha’aretz
“We may not see the light at the end of the tunnel but we do see the light in all that we do at the Jerusalem Foundation every day, anew,” says Shai Doron, President of the Jerusalem Foundation.
“The greatest asset of Jerusalem is her diversity,” explains Doron. “When I leave my home to go for an hour’s stroll, I meet so many different types of people, communities, languages and cultures. Jerusalem can be – one day – a model of shared living. It is a diverse, fascinating and inspirational city, and there is nowhere in the world like Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Foundation promotes three key areas – communal strength, creative culture and future leadership – in its mission to nurture shared living among all the diverse communities in the city, reduce gaps between them and offer equal opportunities for all. These values are reflected in every project and program that the Foundation is spearheading in Jerusalem.”
Doron continues to describe the Foundation’s work. “The Jerusalem Foundation successfully initiates, leads and implements long-term, trailblazing projects whose impact on the city is really game-changing. Right now, we are pioneering construction of the first ever community sports center in east Jerusalem. It is being built in the Beit Hanina neighborhood and will be run by local community leaders. And we are already planning the second sports center in the east of the city, in the neighborhood of Sur Baher. I also want to mention that we are about to build the Hassadna Jerusalem Music Conservatory in the Germany Colony neighborhood; it will become a musical home for children and teenagers from across Jerusalem’s diverse neighborhoods and communities.”
Nurturing Jerusalem’s next generation, Doron says, is equally important. “Our Keren Lee fund – by the Foundation’s Israeli supporters – promotes new entrepreneurial ventures by creative young people through generous seed grants. The idea is to foster a cohesive community of creative young people who are dedicated to staying in and bolstering Jerusalem.”
Jerusalem Foundation President