Given the state of the world pandemic, I feel it’s important that I bring you an update on the current situation in Tel Aviv.
In these difficult times we face challenges as never before. They require us to continually refine and reshape our activities and ensure that every public action we perform is aligned with the new situation.
Tel Aviv-Yafo has multiple facets, comprised of diverse populations, and we needed to be there for All, operating with humbleness and sensitivity.
COVID-19 has introduced us to a new, ever-changing dynamic, in which we are required to give an immediate, good response in a reality full of restrictions. But in the midst of all this, from an urban perspective – the epidemic created an opportunity for implementing Multi-system City-Making, which was manifested in establishing the Mayor’s Emergency Relief Fund.
As soon as the health restrictions were published, Municipality professionals identified 8 of the city’s most vulnerable populations, and the Emergency Relief Fund began raising funds to assist in the form of food security, digital food vouchers, medicines, games, tablets for foreign community children for distant learning, and financial grants to artists. The assistance was carried out through the municipality professionals on-the-ground.
In addition to money raised by the Emergency Fund to fund all relief efforts, it also gave residents the opportunity to practice solidarity and social responsibility: Youth volunteered for the elderly, creative kits and games were distributed for special education children, and tablets for foreign children. The food vouchers were digital – with no need for physical contact, while supporting local food chains and grocery stores.
Many of the city’s residents are small businesses owners as well as customers. On the economic level, we have allowed them to support each other through the City Coin campaign, which encourages buying from local businesses by rewarding shoppers with a partial refund. We set up an Artist Fund to assist the city’s residents employed in the cultural and performing arts sectors – an industry that has been severely damaged. The aid applicants received grants and loans and were encouraged to give back to the community through their art. A similar request was also made to the student recipients of scholars who were encouraged to come and volunteer as part of the joint effort.
A welcome trend was observed among the Arab sector – which not only cooperated with the authorities at the national level, but also, for the first time, made its own donations to the Emergency Fund.
All actions we did under the Fund, in addition to providing financial aid to the needy populations, also enabled social mobility and a relationship of cooperation where the giver is also recipient, thus not perpetuating the poor, but empowering the cooperative. The Mayor’s Emergency Fund is a multi-system response that brought to light the human cause. In that aspect, the crisis allowed us to respond to ALL residents of Tel Aviv-Yafo, applying and communicating from the ground the City’s values of embracing, openness, tolerance, and innovation.
As a board member of the World’s Jewish Museum’s project, I am encouraged by the activity been produced at this time given the global pandemic, as we seek out supporters world-wide.
Dr. Hila Oren