The Canadian Jeiwsh News

Friday, September 4, 2015

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Building Jerusalem (3)

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The location of the historic building in which the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center (JICC) is housed is itself a metaphor for the mission and the work of the center itself and its staff.

The center’s website describes its location as being “on the seam lines between the city’s major identities.” The English translation of the idiomatic Hebrew fails to adequately convey the true meaning of the short text.

The JICC is in the Old City of Jerusalem on Har Zion (Mount Zion), part of the invisible weaving of the ancient/modern, multi-communal neighbourhood of Christians, Muslims and Jews that binds the different groups together in a delicate modus vivendi.

The term “culture” in the centre’s name, The CJN was told by its director, is a misnomer if understood in the sense of arts and entertainment. Rather, it means different, identifiably distinct, ethnic groups. The centre’s mission has many components. But its key purpose is to act as a resource in helping Jerusalem’s diverse populations live together peacefully if not always in harmony.  Over the years, it has become perhaps the country’s pre-eminent instrument for bridging communal gaps, calming roiled communal emotions, bringing clarity to misunderstandings and simply, healing social wounds that arise from time to time in Jerusalem.

The CJN visited the center last month.

The first observation one makes after meeting its director Hagai Agmon-Snir is how much he resembles writer/actor Steve Martin. The second observation, very quickly after the first, is how interesting and engaging he is. Agmon-Snir is totally and entirely dedicated to finding ways to make the complicated and complex community that is Jerusalem, work. It is therefore, not surprising that the Jerusalem Foundation supports the center and its vital work. For they do share a common purpose.