Monday, April 2, 2012

Jerusalem...Something Good Is Happening Here

Happy April to all - and yes it's been exactly a month since my last post, so excuse the silence but let's get to it.

One of the many reasons I chose to make aliyah to Jerusalem is the vibrant and growing young adult culture. Across Israel, cities and towns are losing their young adults to "the center" - that is Tel Aviv and its surrounding suburbs. The beaches and nightlife are of course major factors, but the primary reason is that Tel Aviv is the country's economic center, so people move there for work. It's a phenomenon that the Boston-Haifa Connection Young Leaders is working to change in Haifa and promotes culture and opportunities for young adults to stay in Haifa past graduation from the University of Haifa or the Technion.

Jerusalem, for all its wonders, faces many challenges and divisions - between Jewish and Arab, Haredi and non-Haredi, and the haves and the have-nots, among others. Our capital city has gone through some tough times in recent years - with all-too-frequent suicide bombings during the Second Palestinian Intifada/Terror War of 2000-04, coupled with divisive city politics. However, Yerushalmim, or Jerusalemites, are proud of their city and the past few years have given rise to several grassroots organizations that are determined to create space for young adults to thrive and prosper in a pluralistic and open city.

Last night, I attended the opening meeting in a series called "Mifgashim B'Yerushalayim/Meetings in Jerusalem", organized by The Jerusalem Challenge, a think tank that seeks to connect the various young adult groups to see where they intersect, and how to continue developing this kind of social activism.

The event was a panel discussion featuring two social entrepreneurs who have done quite a lot in this regard, Kobi Frig, the creator of the Balabasta Festival in the Shuk; and Elyashev Ish-Shalom, owner of the Salon Shabazi, a local pub/cafe in Nachlaot that got its name because the couches on the inside are supposed to make up for the fact that apartments in Nachlaot are so small many people don't even have living rooms to put their couches. They discussed some of the challenges they faced getting their initiatives off the ground, while noting how much more lively the city feels today than it did just three or four years ago. Far too often people lament that Jerusalem is boring or that the conflicts weight too heavy, but the truth is that inspiring people like the two that spoke last.
After the event, I went with a couple of others to Salon Shabazi where we chatted with Ish-Shalom a little more and enjoyed a beer at the outside tables.

The Municipality has seized on this cultural renaissance, using the tagline "Jerusalem: Something Good Is Happening Here"(I've also seen "Something Special Happens Here"), and it's true. Just last week, I went to a music festival held outdoors in the Old City. Over the course of three nights, the city hosted dozens of musicians who performed for free on stages throughout the Old City, from the open plaza just inside Jaffa Gate to the Open and Closed Cardo. It was one of those "Only in Jerusalem" events that gets me excited to be part of the action now.

And a bit belatedly, I am posting a portion of a blog entry I wrote for the Boston-Haifa Connection about the recent Jerusalem Marathon. Follow the link at the bottom for the rest of the article.

More Than A Marathon

As we turn the calendar from March to April, welcoming Spring by preparing for Pesach, it’s also an indication that one of Massachusetts’ greatest traditions is only weeks away, the 116th running of the Boston Marathon. While Boston is the oldest and most elite marathon in the world, a city whose history dwarfs even Boston’s attracted attention – and runners – for its recent competition.
created at: 2012-03-26The 2nd Annual Jerusalem Marathon brought thousands of runners, Israelis and tourists alike, to Israel’s capital city on March 15th. And following the Boston-Haifa Connection Steering Committee meetings, which OTZMAnik Billie Hirsch blogged so beautifully about, several past and present BHC members connected to Israel in a new way by participating in different parts of the Jerusalem Marathon: Continue reading the full post here.

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