February 10, 2009

Update from Jerusalem

Briefing from Arnon Mantver, Director of JDC-Israel

Shalom all,

The Fragile Ceasefire
Rockets continue to fall on Israel's Southern Region sporadically, violating the fragile cease-fire. I met with Menachem Wagshal, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Welfare and their point person for everything connected to emergency situations. He told me the following: "JDC is not just another NGO for us. You are a strategic partner, before, during and after, emergency situations. You were essential in providing care of the elderly and disabled. We acted quickly by building upon JDC's existing programs."

We agreed to immediately appoint a representative from each of our respective organizations to create to plan for immediate mobilization for the next crisis, which we hope won't come. We moved very quickly during the War in Gaza, which only proves that we can move even faster next time with proper planning. While JDC-Israel's uniqueness lies in the fact that we develop services but don't deliver them, in a time of emergency, we can put this operating principle aside and deliver badly needed services to populations in crisis.

Promoting Excellence
Another JDC-Israel operating principle is that we work to disseminate innovative programs and services throughout the country. But JDC-Israel doesn't have a monopoly on social innovation. We've imported a number of innovations from the U.S. – such as Strive and NFTE. The Better Together program is based on many of the principles of the Harlem Children's Zone. Other innovations are home-grown, developed by Israeli NGOs. Thus it is in JDC-Israel's interest to encourage and promote innovation in the social service system.

This week Ashalim will be awarding four $2,500 prizes to social entrepreneurs who have exhibited excellence in innovating services for children and youth at risk. The recipients represent programs which help parents of young children cope with severe crisis within the family; foster leadership among marginal youth living in Israel's poorest neighborhoods; bring together youth criminals with their victims in an effort to prevent recidivism; and provide support to children and youth whose parents are foreign workers in Israel.

Community Gardens Celebrate Tu B'shvat
JDC-Israel has also adapted a program which is popular in the U.S. and Canada -- Community Gardening. Establishing a community garden builds relationships between diverse groups living in close proximity, promotes inter-generational understanding, and helps the environment. JDC is using the gardens as a means to upgrade Israeli neighborhoods with high concentrations of immigrants. The Ethiopian immigrants love the gardening as it brings them back to their agrarian roots and enables them to make use of the skills they learned as youngsters. As this week marks the holiday of Tu B'shvat, the Jewish New Year for trees, the community gardens will be hosting a variety of events designed to promote connections between immigrants and their veteran neighbors around the issue of nature and the environment.

By the next time I send an update, we will have a new Government in place. JDC will continue to cultivate the excellent working relationship it has with senior government professionals, most of whom continue through government transtions. We will also reach out to the new professionals who will assume key positions and build lasting relationships with them, for the good of Israel's most needy populations. I will keep you posted.

Regards from Jerusalem,

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