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SUSTAINABLE NEIGHBORHOODS

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A Sustainable Vision for the Ganim Neighborhood

Background

The Jerusalem Green Fund has joined the Reshit School, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and the Ganim Neighborhood Council in an initiative that seeks to address the risks facing the weaker sector of the neighborhood, in a way that will engage the entire community.

Ethiopian families who arrived in Jerusalem were initially housed in temporary caravan sites, and when these were dismantled, most of the families settled in the Ganim neighborhood. However, insufficient preparation was made for their absorption and social integration. 

A tragic generation divide emerged, when the parents of children who received the schooling they themselves had been deprived of in Ethiopia, lost the parental authority and respect so essential for a healthy family structure. In addition, the parents’ inability to provide for their families only made things worse, and the resulting rebellion of the kids, on top of their very real need to earn money themselves, has led too many Ethiopian teenagers into the trap of drugs, prostitution and other forms of organized crime.

The Reshit School, together with the Urban Kibbutz team that moved into the neighborhood in the 90’s, had worked hard to overcome the challenges they found in a neighborhood still reeling from the vast North African wave of immigration in the 50’s and 60’s.  With the influx of Ethiopians into the neighborhood, there has been a feeling of lost ground and a call for partners in meeting the new challenges.

Plan of Action

The neighborhood leadership would like to restore parental authority to Ethiopian parents, using agriculture as a medium which draws on their skills and wisdom from Ethiopia, where they had been both proud farmers and respected parents. This is how the idea of an “edible neighborhood” came about, setting a goal that would not only achieve this, but would also engage all the residents and institutions in the Ganim area. It is hoped that eventually nearly all the residents of Ganim (about 20,000) will participate in growing fresh fruit and vegetables locally and in developing a local food culture, providing employment for youth at risk as well, thus helping to raise the socio-economic level of the hundreds of Ethiopian families, while leaving a more positive neighborhood footprint. 

First Steps Taken

The first steps have already been taken, without waiting for help from the outside. The inherent resilience of the community has enabled it to adopt measures, which need to have some additional support in order to reach out and benefit the entire community. Thanks to the generous support of the Lisa and Maury Friedman Foundation, together with the Jerusalem Green Fund the Reshit school has reached out to the wider school community with “a window box providing food” for each neighborhood family. Through this initiative the children are becoming ambassadors for the concept of a “food secure neighborhood…” This initiative is already in its second year.

The Urban Kibbutz has established a small community farm in addition to the wonderful greenhouse and growing area within the school grounds. There are two active community gardens in the neighborhood, one supported weekly by SPNI guides in order to strengthen the activities and engage senior residents in active care for their neighborhood. Some of these elderly now feel part of the project and we plan to increase their involvement, giving them a sense of leadership in the initiative.

Another initiative catches kids attempting to leave the school system and prevents them from becoming drop-outs. Some of them go to work in the community farm. The young drop-outs who work and study there, both catch up on their homework and learn the ground rules of small business management.

Another serious stakeholder, a vegetarian food store chain, has entered the arena. This business is providing the raw material for youngsters to earn a modest living by preparing wooden packaging for their deliveries.

An Ethiopian women’s circle brings together women who practice and pass on the authentic skills of Ethiopian embroidery. This embroidery circle will be hosted at the school.

Moving from Pilot Projects to Embrace the Entire Neighborhood.

In order to enter the next critical phase of work in the Ganim neighborhood, we seek partners to invest in the future vision that the community would like to develop. Indeed, we believe that if we succeed in Ganim, this model for a sustainable neighborhood could be implemented in many additional communities, both in Jerusalem and throughout Israel.

Timna Raz coordinates these activities on behalf of the Jerusalem Green Fund.