How do I explain wandering through history? We wandered through ancient streets, the bustling market place, elegant shops, old monasteries, a church that took care of Napoleon's troops, the wishing bridge, spectacular views and waterfront cafes.
Hebrew. Arabic and English abounded. Kafiyas next to prayer shawls. Menorahs next to shmatas. An excavation site dating from Byzantine times housed a modern jewelry store. A metamorphosis is occurring. As dilapidated turns into trendy condos; forgotten buildings turn into sidewalk cafes.
And yet, one can't help wonder about the hidden and not so hidden past and present. War torn Israeli flags greet visitors on approach to old Jaffa, and signs for Palestine hang from shops. An old synagogue appears near trendy clothes and chess players arguing in Arabic.
Rick and I stopped at one of the waterfront restaurants for lunch.. "The Old Man and the Sea" restaurant. Upon sitting down our tables filled with salads and pita. It was a fairly trendy restaurant- and packed.. with Arabic spoken more than Hebrew and yet not an Arabic menu in sight.
Such a contradiction of sights and tastes and smells and sounds. I find myself hoping that the burgeoning economy there will bring a joint spirit. I didn't feel it though. It just seemed as if parallel communities were sharing the same space, rich with history and spirit and yet so separate.
I'm still optimistic though.. cause throughout I felt so at home with it all and so very hopeful.
This past year the Foundation went through an extensive strategic planning effort for its grants program. The result was a shift to a grants impact model whereby we identify particular areas for funding where we can have strategic impact. One of my charges in coming to Israel is to explore potential projects for funding.
Last year, we received 66 grant proposals, 36 of which were from Israel, most for programs addressing at risk youth. Little Tucson, alone, is just not going to be able to make a dent. So I'm approaching my visit with two lenses... 1) What is happening in our sister cities of Hof Ashkelon and Kiryat Milachi- where they do rely greatly on our funds and 2) What can we fund that will strengthen the country as a whole. Security in the region is paramount and there is no better way to enhance that security (in my humble opinion) than to enhance the relationship between Arabs and Israelis.
Having worked in the field of community relations for some 15 years I'm fairly opinionated on programs that work and those that don't (shocking I know).. so I'm very anti-dialogue where you sit around and talk at each other and similarly anti- paternalistic programs where one group is helped by the other and "should feel appreciative".. and very pro working together on issues of common concern where you get to know and care about each other along the way.
I bring this up as we met with representatives this morning from one such group - Healing Across the Divides. This is a group that was founded 7-8 years ago by a US doctor, Norbert Goldfield. The board is comprised of Arab and Israeli and American Jewish doctors who seek to enhance health care access in Israel. They, along with the Cleveland Jewish Federation support programs that work on community based health collaboratively with similar programs. So there are Israeli/Bedoin programs; Arab/Israeli programs etc.. that seek to, again, improve healthcare. The groups work together, share resources, problem solve and provide service.
The coordinator of the project is Peter Levy. He brought with him Maya Ohana from 1 in 9.. who provides educational programming to increase breast cancer testing. She is working with both Arabs and Israelis with special work with Orthodox women. Orthodox women have a higher rate of breast cancer as they don't discuss either breasts or cancer, don't do self-examinations and are too busy seeing to their families to get to the doctor.
The Cleveland Jewish Federation is a lead partner with Healing Across the Divide and provides a 2/3 match to a 1/3 match. Peter is anxious to expand the number of partners they have as it leverages dollars, brings expanded expertise and enhances the educational understanding of both those involved in the program as well as the funders.
This is just one of the many groups that I'll be meeting with, but I'll admit to being fairly blown away by the program- especially when Peter raised the prospect of identifying a collaborative for funding in our sister cities. Thank you Steve Sim for the introduction!