We care for all Jerusalem residents says Jerusalem Foundation president


For almost half a century, the Jerusalem Foundation (JF) has been quietly working behind the scenes of life in Israel's capital, but the charity's new president is keen to bring its work into the public eye.

Italian businesswoman Yohanna Arbib Perugia wants the charity's work on Israeli-Arab coexistence and other socially orientated projects to boost the international image of Jerusalem.

Mrs Perugia, who became JF president in July this year, said: "Jerusalem needs to become more of an international city, making it interesting for tourists around the world."

The JF, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, works with the city municipality on social and welfare projects for the many different communities that live in west and east Jerusalem.

Among the 4,000 projects the JF runs or supports, it has set up literacy programmes for the Ethiopian community, and an assistance centre in east Jerusalem to help Israeli Arabs obtain the health and welfare services they are entitled to. They have also been successful in promoting coexistence between Israeli Jews and Arabs; the Max Rayne Hand in Hand bilingual school has seen Jews and Arabs educated together for more than a decade.

"Because we define Jerusalem as the united capital of all of the state of Israel we need to make sure the welfare of all of our citizens is taken care of," said Mrs Arbib Perugia.

Plans for a new Jewish arts campus will bring together four of the city's arts schools, and JF's Gazelle Valley park project will provide a new green space for Jerusalemites. There are also plans for a new primary school and youth club in the poverty-stricken Wadi Joz neighbourhood in east Jerusalem.

Mrs Arbib Perugia, who splits her time between Rome and Jerusalem, said she saw Jerusalem as not just the capital of the Jewish state, but a world capital too. "It's the only place where Judaism, Islam and Christianity meet. It is a place where all religions are able to practise their beliefs, and clearly for us Jews it is the place where our history started. It should be taken as an example for humanity to follow."

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