|Student Activism in Jerusalem, March 19-20, 2009|
The Seminar for Student Activists in Jerusalem was organized in partnership with the Student Union of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as many other organizations who were involved in all stages of the seminar – participating in its steering committee, facilitating workshops, conducting tours, publicizing the event, and more. It was initially scheduled to be held earlier during the academic year, but the steering committee decided to postpone due to the war in Gaza. Many students were directly affected by the conflict, and felt that they could not conduct the seminar in the midst of the war. When the seminar was finally held in March, special attention was paid to the war in Gaza, providing students with a much-needed space to voice their emotions and concerns.
The Jerusalem seminar provided a setting for learning about the social, economic and political situation in Jerusalem, and aimed to provide broader background to the specific social engagement of student activists in the city. Students participating in the seminar got to know another side of Jerusalem through learning about particular social problems. In this way, the seminar further exposed students who are currently not engaged in community action to social issues, with the aim of provoking them to become engaged. The seminar also allowed students to become acquainted with organizations working in the city. We believe that the inter-organizational relations formed as part of the seminar will become a platform for fruitful cooperation.
Dozens of students from a range of institutions of higher education, a range of disciplines, organizations and programs, participated in the seminar. Many of them had not participated in similar activities previously, and in this sense the seminar was particularly successful. Student feedback was positive and wholehearted. They noted the seminar was thought provoking, and exposed them to questions and issues that they would not have encountered through other frameworks. They expressed interest in similar activities in the future. Students were particularly impressed with the range of organizations involved in the seminar, the workshops and the tours, and in particular a workshop held about the obstacles to exercising rights in East Jerusalem, which attracted many participants.
The first day of the seminar opened with greetings from Partnership coordinator Najwan Khateeb and student union representative Noam Wiesner, followed by a plenary panel with Prof. Shlomo Hasson of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Geography Department and Rami Nasrallah of the International Center for Peace and Cooperation in Jerusalem. The two spoke of "Jerusalem as an Open City – Past, Present, and Future," raising the question of what Jerusalem might look like in the future, and sharing a joint vision for the city. Following the session, participants separated into six concurrent workshops facilitated by students and representatives of social change organizations including the Jerusalem student organizations "New Spirit" and "Meluna," and social change organizations "BeMaagalei Zedek," the "Atta (giving) Center" which provides services to residents of East Jerusalem, and "Singur Kehilati (Community Advocacy)". Workshops discussed housing issues in Jerusalem, art and social change, education in East Jerusalem, obstacles to human rights in East Jerusalem, community advocacy for social change, poverty and employment, and more. The workshops were followed by a night city tour focusing on youth at risk, organized by the Legal Clinical Education Center at the Hebrew University's Faculty of Law, inspired by David Grossman's book, Someone to Run With, as well as a screening of the film project "Gaza/Sderot – Life in Spite of Everything," which documented everyday life in Gaza and Sderot prior to the outbreak of the war.The seminar continued the following morning with five concurrent study-tours: urban ecology in Jerusalem, access of physically disabled to businesses and institutions in the city, East Jerusalem and the Separation Wall, the right to adequate housing in East Jerusalem, and an acquaintance with the ultra-orthodox (“Haredi”) neighborhoods and the Haredi community model.