Top Down, Bottom Up- Jerusalem Day

Jerusalem Day 2014, 5774

Jerusalem has been in the news lately, and while this is not new, this Jerusalem day comes between a visit by Pope Francis and the election of a new President for the State of Israel. These are big stories that make world headlines and inspire many. We can call them the “top-down” stories.

Pope Francis’s visit drew attention to the multiple narratives that co-exist in this city. He simultaneously recognized the tragedy of the Shoah, paid tribute to Herzl the founder of modern Zionism, decried the separation fence, called for Palestinian freedom and of course highlighted the importance of Jerusalem to Christians around the world.

This seamless journey between narratives should not come as a surprise, as this indeed is the story of Jerusalem. A place claimed and shared by many.

The pictures of the new Pope with outgoing Israeli President Shimon Peres were touching and poignant, displaying genuine warmth and deep respect. One could argue that the Pope’s counterparts in Israel are the Chief Rabbis, but in my opinion it is really the President that represents the citizens of Israel and the Jewish people world wide – for Judaism is more than a religion – our identity is intertwined with the land of Israel.

But now in Israel, we are going to elect a new President, in a similar way to how a Pope is elected really. A small group of people – 120 to be exact, will cast their ballots, until “white smoke” emerges in Jerusalem. The next President will not have the instant gravitas that Shimon Peres brought with him, but let’s hope that the position will bring forth a leader that can truly represent us – and can charm the world like Pope Francis has since he first was elected.

From these lofty heights, let’s go back down to earth, to see how Jerusalem is changing from the “bottom-up.” Last night, at an all women’s hub at the entrance of Jerusalem, PresenTense Israel with our partners Temech and the Levi Lassen Foundation, held speed interviews for 25 Haredi women. Each of the women are candidates for “Yazamiot” – the first accelerator program for the ultra-orthodox community.

The all female panel of judges were presented with ideas ranging from an eLearning portal to train women in jewelry design and production, to an outsourcing company for executive assistant services. Many talk about the “need” for the Haredim to do “this” and “that”. These entrepreneurs are taking their lives and community into their own hands and it is an honor to be able to support them.

This morning, PresenTense Israel will be meeting with our partners at JEST who are setting up a hi-tech hub in East Jerusalem to engage young talent and empower entrepreneurship among the 300,000 Arab residents of the city. There have been many attempts to empower the residents of East Jerusalem, what distinguishes this effort is its leadership by local hi-tech and business entrepreneurs.

Tonight our flagship social and community entrepreneurship accelerator – Yazamim – now in its 5th year, run in partnership with the Yerushalmit Movement and the Leichtag Foundation – will meet for Crunch Time, ahead of launch night on June 29.  If you are in Jerusalem at the end of June we would love to see you at launch night, for what promises to be a true celebration of the Ground-Up Nation – where entrepreneurship and innovation accelerates social change.

Happy Jerusalem Day everyone!

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