Grassroots Al Quds is a platform for Palestinian organizations to work together. Today the group consists of 80 community organizations in 40 Palestinian communities. It allows Palestinian people to discuss what is going on in their lives and to decide what actions to take. It provides individuals a place to organize campaigns, and share resources.
One of the projects the group is currently working on in collaboration with Palestinian Vision Association is “Say it like a Palestinian”. The goal is to bring awareness to how places, people and signs are given certain terms. One way to accomplish this was to create a map showing the original Arab names for places in and around Jerusalem.
They also offer political tours around the city. Our tour guide Micah Kurz is a Jewish Israeli citizen. When asked why he is interested in working with the organization, or if he has considered leaving Israel, he explained that he considers himself a global citizen and that with privilege comes responsibility.
During the tour we visited a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem. We drove past a building that had been a police station, but was purchased by Irving Moskowitz. The building is now a home for Israeli Settlers. It is surrounded by fencing, barbed wire, and hired security. Segregated buses come into the neighborhood for the people living in the area. Services such as garbage collectors come to the Israeli building, but pass by Palestinian homes. Crime is on the rise in the neighborhood because there is no longer any police protection.
Palestinian neighborhoods around Jerusalem typically do not have enough classrooms. The classrooms are usually simple rooms, with few if any resources such as labs. Children must go to school until 9th grade, but there is no place to build new schools. These neighborhoods have a 50% dropout rate. Families do try to push their children into university, however there are very few options for Palestinian students. There are two schools just within Jerusalem one is Mt. Scopus University and the other is Al Quds. The third option is to go abroad to a school such as Bethlehem University. However, because they will need to leave for more than 3 years, students will lose their Jerusalem residency, and be unable to return.
Grassroots Jerusalem is working to make more people away of the uses in the area, and showing people that it is a global issue. Israel has become an exporter of security. Educating police forces around the world. The French company Veolia runs the segregated bus services around Jerusalem. Israel also has the largest drone market. Micah emphasized how important it is for people to become aware of the issues happening in Israel/Palestine,
“Not just because we share racist values but because we share the same racist police policies and practices. It is not a coincidence that if you are a young Palestinian man in Israel or a young black man in Ferguson you will be treated with the same tactics, and the same rubber bullets and the same tear gas. This is an issue we need to collaborate on. We really need the world to understand what is going on with the occupation” – Micah Kurz