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The Canadian Jeiwsh News

Thursday, November 20, 2014

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A Jerusalem update

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In May, The CJN interviewed Ben Erely, Dana Merzel and Omer Shafrir, three young Israeli idealists who are working to “build” Jerusalem (“Idealists rebuild Jerusalem,” CJN, June 14). They are involved in a unique program called Building Community, under the joint auspices of The Jerusalem Fund and city hall, in what we described as “the close and cluttered neighbourhood of Kiryat Hayovel.” It is primarily an impoverished, down-on-its-luck neighbourhood where thousands of people from diverse backgrounds live clustered and crowded lives.

Merzel and Shafrir worked out of a community centre on Stern Street, one of the city’s most notorious redoubts of street toughs and neglected byways.

In typically energetic and youthfully positive manner, they described their mission as trying to “build the human tissue” of the neighbourhood. They are determined to “foster among the residents a sense of confidence and belief in their own skills and abilities, planting in them the notion of inter-connectedness among all the residents of the neighbourhood, strengthening the sense of common interests and a shared future.”

It was therefore a very heartwarming pre-Rosh Hashanah message that The CJN received from Shafrir, in which he updated the paper on the completion of a recent project in the neighbourhood.

Shafrir was walking along the pleasant walking path on the edge of Stern Park in the furthermost, lower part of the street when he happened upon a grimy, garbage-laden, neglected portion of the park.

Out of the corner of his eye, however, he saw evidence that someone had been trying to beat back the tide of the rising garbage, trying to care for what was then entirely neglected.

“Ah. There is potential here,” he thought to himself. “There is someone here with whom we can work.”

With a bit of luck and blessing, Shafrir found that someone, a humble, low-profile resident of the neighbourhood. Together, they were able to recruit other local residents. Shafrir also managed to scrounge some expert advisors and resources from city hall. In just a short time, he and the humble resident had managed to assemble a volunteer team of neighbourhood residents – old and young, children and grandchildren – to fix what was broken. They succeeded in creating the Stern Garden of the Stern Park on Stern Street in Kiryat Hayovel.

Below is a photo showing a resident and his daughter working on the garden.