Finest hour of Jerusalem's civil society

Residents of Jerusalem have demonstrated remarkable resilience and solidarity throughout this crisis. It was a truly united moment.

Shai Doron ,

Shai Doron
Shai Doron
Sasson Tiram / The Jerusalem Foundation

Deep into the worst days of the Corona crisis in Jerusalem, people in lockdown at home. I return home, after another long day at work, almost alone on the road. These are the late evening hours. I try to rest for a moment, to organize my thoughts and then another telephone call…

On the phone is "HaRav Eitan", as everyone knows him, including me. HaRav Eitan Eisman. I known HaRav Eitan and his family many years. I have had the pleasure of knowing them well. Great mutual admiration.

In his special well-mannered way, HaRav Eitan expressed his special praise and admiration for the work of the Jerusalem Foundation in these emergency times. "I've read about everything you are doing in every part of the city. So moving! Well done", he says. But he added another request: "Do whatever you can to try and help the Bat Melech organization that runs a shelter for women from the religious and haredi sector. The need is enormous, especially at this time…"

And when HaRav Eitan is asking, I know how important it is...

And this brings me back to the beginning:

Immediately as the crisis began, we too, at the Jerusalem Foundation, had to change our direction overnight and adapt quickly to changing realities: From a fundraising organization making significant contributions to major capital projects and planning for the future of Jerusalem in 2030, we needed to immediately pivot and support the city's most vulnerable populations: children with special needs , at-risk youth, children in women’s shelters, people with disabilities, families who found themselves without money to buy food and of course - the elderly, the population most at risk in this epidemic, the population that required the strictest isolation of all.

It was amazing to see the mobilization of Jerusalem's friends in Israel and around the world to help the city in this emergency. As the world closed down, each of us at home and isolated - in Jerusalem, we felt our hearts widen and stretch, as support poured in from all over the world. Situations that we couldn’t have anticipated: Volunteers from all sectors packing food baskets. Youngsters who volunteered to purchase medication for the elderly from all sectors, who could not leave their homes. Teenage volunteers went door to door checking on Holocaust survivors checking to see who needs food and supplies, trained volunteers took to the phones calling people with disabilities who needed an attentive ear and support. People who volunteered to cook hot meals for homeless youth so they would not roam the streets during the closure and special activities for children staying in women shelters to help relieve the stress and loneliness. Third Sector – civil society organizations, of which Jerusalem is Israel's largest center, worked together, demonstrating incredible sensitivity to all populations in the city. Even the food products distributed to the Ethiopian community were bought at special stores in the Mahane Yehuda market selling products from Ethiopia.

This was the finest hour of the city's civil society. Something that we at the Jerusalem Foundation have been nurturing for many years.

I am proud to say that over these short weeks we were able to raise more than $1 million for Jerusalem's urgent needs and get the funds out into the field through our professional and volunteer networks to reach across all the communities in the city. Everything was done in coordination with Mayor Moshe Lion and the professional teams of the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem Foundation, ensuring that our efforts would provide the most efficient response possible for those in need from all sectors, in all parts of the city.

And back to HaRav Eitan's request.. It forced me, with renewed energy, to get back on the phone, to Zoom and the countless emails, and indeed, just a few days later, I was able to proudly get back to HaRav Eitan and inform him that the Bat Melech organization's women's shelter will receive significant support from the Jerusalem Foundation in order to lighten the burden a bit for the women and children staying there.

It is clear to me that eventually the scientists will find a vaccine for the Corona virus and we will return to a routine, even if a different one, and we at the Jerusalem Foundation will be able to return to our long-term plans for the future of this city, strengthening its diverse communities, preserving its creative culture and ensuring future leadership. But I have no doubt that the residents of Jerusalem, who have demonstrated remarkable resilience and solidarity throughout this crisis, will not soon forget the days when we were all here for a truly united moment.

Shai Doron is President of The Jerusalem Foundation