“The City of Tomorrow” – Shared Living in Mixed Cities is the third in a series of conferences exploring life in mixed cities that have been organized by The Jerusalem Foundation and The Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace. The conferences took place from October 20-22 at the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center in Mishkeot Sha’ananim.
The first conference (November 2012), was dedicated to the theoretical concept of rights to the City, which establishes the equal status of all residents of mixed cities and searches for the best procedures to make municipal services equally accessible to their various populations. The second conference (October 2013) focused on multi-culturalism in mixed cities.
The third conference focused on the topic “Shared Living in Mixed Cities of the Future”. The decision to focus on this topic stemmed from a desire to encourage out of the box thinking, to explore creative solutions to current problems, and to prepare ourselves for a future full of new possibilities and challenges. The conference examined life in mixed cities in light of the many changes occurring in the world as a result of economic, political, social, technological, cultural and other developments. The flow of refugees and migrants, economic globalization, national conflicts and other processes create unprecedented changes in the urban space.
The different sessions engaged with the impact of progress on different human realms from the perspective of life in a mixed city. Topics included: “Human Diversity in Renewed Cities”, “Future Social Planning in Mixed Cities”, “Employment, Transport, and the Dimension of Time in Mixed Cities”, “Sustainability”, “Neighborliness and Its Relevance for the Future”, “Future Education”, and “Personal, Social, Gender and Political Identities”. The full program can be seen at: http://mixedcity.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/schedule-conference-29.9.15.pdf
Certain parts of the conference were geared towards specific audiences, in order to enhance the conference’s relevance towards initiatives that are already underway in Jerusalem. For example: About 50 planners from the Jerusalem Municipality and local community councils were invited to attend the first day of the conference, which dealt with issues such as: Human Diversity in Renewed Cities; Future Social Planning in Mixed Cities; and Employment, Transport and the Dimension of Time in Mixed Cities. This diverse group of planners represented the different facets of Jerusalem society, and was imbued with a keen awareness of the city’s realities. During the sessions, they asked important professional questions, and voiced concern for the gap between public participation in the political and the professional realms, a question that has special significance in the city of Jerusalem.
The conference brought together many speakers and researchers, as well as representatives from different non-profit organizations; a special focus was placed on having panelists from Jerusalem, in order to foster conversations about the unique issues facing the city. For example, Marik Shtern from the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies presented important figures concerning the level of integration and interdependence between Jerusalem’s Jewish and Arab populations, and expounded upon the need for shared living as an essential part of a solution for Jerusalem. Rabbi David Menachem brought interesting descriptions of different cities in the Bible, with an emphasis on pluralistic exegesis of the Tower of Babel story. The session on the future of the family raised many ideas and feelings among participants. The speakers’ presentations of their personal stories, their conversation with each other, and their conversation with the audience provided some fascinating food for thought about some very important issues. The audience members learned about the lives of a wide variety of couples and families, including multicultural and interfaith families.
The sessions also featured international speakers, such as Professor Daniel Monterescu from Budapest, and Marina Neophyto and Meray Diner, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot representatives of the Home for Cooperation. Their speech captured the hearts of both audience members and local media.
The opening gala evening attracted a wide audience, and included a lively discussion between the writers Dorit Rabinyan (a Jew from Tel Aviv) and Ayman Siksek (an Arab from Jaffa) on the topic of integration and shared living in mixed cities. Ayman Siksek applauded the decision to open the conference with literature, explaining, “One of the things that strengthened my belief in the importance of this evening was the good decision to open it with two authors, because literature is perhaps one of the only places where you can put yourself and the reader in the eyes of someone else”. The literary discussion was followed by a musical performance from Quartetoukan – a Jewish-Arab choir whose moving performance was a testament to the power of shared creative expression as a tool for overcoming cultural and religious boundaries.
The closing event, “Simply Singing” at the First Station outdoor plaza incorporated both Jewish and Arab musicians for an evening of Hebrew and Arabic music. The sing-a-long concert was attended by 600 people; it drew a diverse crowd of both Jews and Arabs across a wide age range, proving that cooperation is not only a powerful tool for preventing conflict, but also a powerful tool for creating enjoyable experiences. The last night’s event was especially significant on the backdrop of the atmosphere of violence and tension that has pervaded Jerusalem over the past few months. .
During the Shabbat of the conference, there were two communal events in cooperation with the Yeru-Shalem coalition, which included a meeting and conversation between an Orthodox and a Reform rabbi in a Reform synagogue, and a learning event in a private houses. Both events received extremely positive feedback.