Hana Hertsman's Blog

Posts from the “city of children” Category

Thinking, Planning, and Carrying Out. The Children’s City Has All Ages in Mind

Posted on December 20, 2015

Age Friendly City presentation, held at the 2015 Akko Convention on Urbanism 

Holon has been age-oriented for over two decades now. The Children’s City vision statement is based on the understanding that the residents are the city’s pillar of strength; thus, master plans and work plans have been devised focusing on the younger generation and their families. These programs allow for long and short term planning of the services and physical environment intended for children, adolescents, young adults, and senior citizens, all while constantly seeking the optimal urban mix.
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A model of get-together areas for senior citizens at public spaces. Design: Erez Mulay, social designer. The model allows seating arrangements for large groups (up to 10 people), in a semi-hidden spot. On the opposite side, comfortable seating areas for individuals who prefer to overlook the hustle of the street.

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Over the past two decades, we have realized that devising programs tailored to a specific age group can be useful when doing the same for other age groups as well: for example, the master plan for children and youth has elements in common with the master plan for senior citizens. The endeavors associated with devising master plans for these two age groups, seemingly belonging to one of two extremes, are rooted in the inherent perception that sees residents as customers and partners to the process of city development. Both programs seek to create a friendly environment, which takes into consideration the relatively high dependence of these two populations on municipal services and environment.

The master plan for senior citizens was devised through a process of public participation and in collaboration with the Ministry for Senior Citizens. According to the master plan for Holon senior citizens vision statement, “Holon is thankful for its senior citizens’ past and present engagements with urban development. Holon is committed to act in the favor of its senior citizens and provide them with comfortable surroundings during their years of retirement”.

This vision outlines four strategic guidelines on which the master plan is based: offering senior citizens the ability to live in their own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably (Aging in Place); promoting an intergenerational and interdisciplinary overview; implementing a Pro-Active Senior Citizen approach; developing an innovative array of services tailored to the needs of senior citizens.

One example would be the existing project aimed at adapting Holon’s public open spaces to the needs of senior citizens. The project is led by Dr. Rinat Ben Nun from Holon’s Department of Senior Citizens, along with designer Erez Mulay from the social design studio, who mapped relevant needs after touring senior citizens centers across Holon, interviewing senior citizens, and methodically gathering information. Apparently, small groups of senior citizens of homogeneous ethnicity gather in semi-hidden spots, in the vicinity of commercial centers, public toilets, and drinking fountains. It appeared as if they were adapting the public spaces to their own needs.

For example, placing cartons on top of stone benches in order to insulate against cold, and adding extra chairs in seating areas for bigger crowds. The research identified the senior citizens’ need of intimacy, combined with the need to feel close to the heart of the city. Furthermore, at different hours of the day the very same public space serves groups of adolescents, so obviously it should meet the needs of both age groups. Following the observation phase, senior citizens attended the Design Museum Holon exhibition on shading of public spaces, and participated in a design workshop dedicated to get-together areas and shading for the benefit of senior citizens. This way, benches were designed to meet the needs of senior citizens and guarantee shading, comfort, and intimacy.

The master plan for children and youth, which is my brainchild, is led by representatives from the Division of Welfare, Department of Education, Community and Recreation Network, supported by the Strategic Planning Department, all of whom spearhead the program. The master plan for senior citizens seeks to further leverage the city’s investment in the younger generation, so as to implement a comprehensive and inclusive approach which encompasses all aspects of the child’s life. The program addresses all areas of children’s lives (apart from education): health, recreation, and more.

We are currently in the final stages of data collection through:

  • Implementation of a public participation program, with around 3,300 participants, for children and youth ranging from kindergarteners to high schoolers, which reveals their needs and passions.
  • Mapping programs and services, allowing for a more thorough examination of the existing programs and services across Holon.
  • Data collection focusing on children and youth (as documented in city records and in additional records), aimed at forming the average child’s profile.
  • Collecting experts’ information on the important aspects of children’s development (on a global level).

As mentioned above, the master plan for children and youth is underway, and we are currently carrying out several projects. For example, the public participation program has identified the need of residents to use public spaces in their vicinity as venues for children’s entertainment activities. This was the idea behind the Children’s Park Theater project that operates during the summer holiday, offering children’s plays at nine parks across Holon.

An additional matter that was identified during the process of public participation is the children’s desire to expand their knowledge outside of school. In Holon, we seek to implement the City As School approach, allowing children to broaden their horizons at a variety of local facilities and institutions, surrounded by a more enticing environment. This is also a way to make the children feel more connected to the local community, which further enhances their educational experiences. This project is still in its infancy.

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In brief, the Children’s City serves as a social anchor for different social groups; its uniqueness guarantees that it provides the utmost services for the various age groups, each according to its unique set of needs.

Female Executives in Local Authorities

Posted on November 12, 2015

There seems to be a prevalent lack of accurate data and information regarding the actual numbers of female executives in local authorities, probably due to the fact that no regulation exists that requires the publication of such data.

Thus, we have neither a basis for comparison nor an index for improvement.

Nevertheless, based on the unofficial data we have collected, although the rate of women holding positions in local authorities is relatively high, the rate of female executives is rather low.

Data received from the Knesset Research and Information Center in 2011 suggest that in 55 local authorities, the rate of female executives stands at 0% (!), in 8 local authorities the rate stands at 1-9%, and in 48 local authorities the rate stands at 10-19%.

A 2014 study conducted by Adalya Consulting & Management and Dr. Itay Beeri presented the rate of women holding a series of senior positions: the rate of women serving as mayors stands at 3%; the rate of women serving as CEOs stands at 10%; the rate of women serving as municipal engineers stands at 13%; the rate of women serving as legal advisors stands at 24%; the rate of women serving as treasurers stands at around 11%. In the Education Department, the rate of female executives stands at 36% – which stands to reason, since education is perceived to be a more ‘feminine’ field.

In Holon Municipality we get a completely different picture: the rate of female employees stands at 70%, and the rate of female executives is just over 52%, making the majority of executives within Holon Municipality.

The researchers who conducted the afore-mentioned study were seeking to identify the factors that contribute to the exclusion of women from senior positions and from local government decision making processes, and to provide recommendations as to how this situation can be turned around.

Among their recommendations: advertising current data on the rate of female executives in order to raise awareness and turn the situation around, raising salaries of female executives who reside in peripheral areas so as to advance women of lower socio-economic status, implementing a policy of reserved slots while overcoming cultural prejudices, providing incentives to local authorities whose annual reports show a high rate of female executives, integrating women in tender committees, and assigning a dedicated consultant for the advancement of women within each local authority.

Without a doubt, women are just as capable of holding senior positions as men are, and we should find ways to fulfill the great potential that lies among our female employees, while motivating them to pursue successful careers and providing them with all the necessary managerial tools and leadership skills, for the benefit of all parties.

Organizational as well as personal incentives can make a change and allow women to pursue their dreams. As nature has it, all changes begin with one single seed, which sets the stage for all others to come. Once the model puts down its roots, women all over Israel will know that no goal is beyond their reach.

Social Responsibility: It is our responsibility! Thoughts on winning the Ministry of Interior Prize for Social Responsibility

Posted on July 30, 2015

prizeSocial responsibility is based on the moral principle whereby organizations and bodies, even if they were established for profit, have an obligation to improve the society and environment in which they operate. In recent years, we have encountered this concept in the context of commercial companies, which take it upon themselves, in addition to their business activities, to devote part of their efforts to contributing both to society and the environment.

In the case of public bodies, it might be thought that there is no reason to talk about social responsibility, since their very existence and activity derive from the strength of their social responsibility and commitment.

Those of us who work for the benefit of the public in the framework of public service see importance and value in the intent and awareness of our social responsibility, even though, apparently, it is taken for granted as the reason for our existence.

The local authorities are at the forefront of public service and maintain direct and daily contact with their customers in a variety of fields. The quality of this connection, its nature, the variety of fields that it includes, its sensitivity to unique populations and needs, and more, affects the daily lives of millions of residents – men, women and children.

Such, for example, is the service charter, which we implemented 17 years ago in Holon, and which, at the time, was considered innovative. Via this charter, all residents can learn which services they are entitled to receive, at which level of service, and within which time frame. This information is transparent, is published on the municipal website, and is regularly checked by me, with the goal always being: where can we do better, and what should and can be improved? This is also the reason why we have published a booklet, in printed and digital versions, entitled, “There is someone here to serve you,” and why we update the booklet every few years, and republish it. In addition, we publish on the municipal website information about all the Municipality’s spheres of activity and the names of its office holders, and we are opening additional channels of communication with the public, such as on the social network. All these activities, which seem trivial today, were not taken for granted in the past, and, to our regret, even today they are not carried out by every public authority in Israel. The goal is, of course, to make it easier for those in need of the Municipality’s services to receive them, and to improve the technological means, so that, when reporting a problem, they will learn when it is expected to be handled, in accordance with the service charter.

However, we as a Municipality are not satisfied with this, because, for us, the residents are not merely our customers; we regard the residents of Holon as our partners. This is the reason why, since I first assumed the position of Director General, we have been conducting a series of processes for including the public in the work of the Municipality, starting from formulation of the initial vision, during which the public expressed its opinion on a variety of issues, such as: a new outline plan that we were working on, renewing and refreshing the municipal vision, promotion of young people, and a master plan for children and adolescents. Out of a sense of social responsibility, we have attempted to reach as wide a public as possible; all residents are invited to enter a special Internet site that we have set up, and to participate, and to present themselves and their ideas. We also carried out activity to reach special population sectors, such as, parents of children with special needs, as well as the children themselves, on whom we focus our efforts. The feelings, thoughts and suggestions of the participants are taken into account, and have an impact on municipal policy.

The special population sectors are close to our hearts, and we regard as a national mission the need to create awareness of those who are different, through understanding their world and their needs. Our Children’s Museum presents the world of the blind, the deaf and the elderly, by means of a series of activities and empirical presentations, and for this purpose it employs people who are members of these sectors. Blind guides lead the ‘Dialogue in the Dark’ track, deaf guides lead the ‘Invitation to Silence’ track, and elderly people are the wonderful guides at ‘Dialogue with Time.’

Within the municipal framework, we also employ people with special needs, who aren’t accepted by most places of employment, in order to give them a work experience like everyone else’s.

The subject of volunteering keeps me very busy, and it is clear to me that the Municipality’s job is to encourage and guide people in general, and teenagers and children in particular, to take part in volunteer missions in the community – such as: making a connection with isolated people, undertaking maintenance work and gardening at elderly people’s homes, providing assistance through “Shil” (Advisory Services for Residents) for people who have difficulty dealing with bureaucracy, activity by municipal employees as part of ‘Good Deeds Day,’ and more.

As stated, as part of our social responsibility, we are continuously seeking ways to improve our services and to improve ourselves, to streamline processes, and to check which issues can be changed in order to provide optimal internal and external services.

The Ministry of the Interior acted wisely, when it decided to award a prize to the local authorities, in appreciation of the social responsibility that these bodies exhibit throughout their ongoing activities.

I am proud that we have earned such appreciation for a series of activities and processes conducted by the Municipality, among them: Advanced implementation of the Accessibility Law throughout the city, holding cultural events for all residents, promotion of residents’ security and preparation for times of emergency, inclusion of the public in municipal affairs, encouragement of volunteerism, and more.

A Bond of Hearts: A heartwarming encounter with Jews and Israelis in New York

Posted on May 7, 2015

With Tsipi and Zigi Ben-Haim and Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York

With Tsipi and Zigi Ben-Haim and Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York

The hardships, dangers, and fears involved in living in Israel often make us feel isolated. In recent years, it seems, this feeling of isolation is getting even more intense.

During an exciting encounter held recently in the United States, I was happy to realize an entire community is thinking of us from across the sea, feeling connected to us, empathizing, showing interest, and even willing to pull their weight.

As part of our efforts to bring about an innovative educational initiative in Holon – the Digital Kindergarten Digitaf – I had the privilege to attend an especially heartwarming event and share the latest news of Israel and Holon with members of the New York Jewish community. I felt that I succeeded in laying the foundations for a new perception, a new attitude that places the younger generation in the center, seeking to provide the younger generation with targeted tools and skills required for personal development and success, while creating a powerful values-driven community.

Tsipi and Zigi Ben-Haim, former Israelis, have been living in the United States for many years. Like many of their compatriots, they immigrated to the United States in order to pursue their professional career. Zigi Ben-Haim, a valued artist, has won multiple prestigious awards for his art. His pieces are displayed in prominent museums such as: the Guggenheim and Brooklyn Museum in New York; the Israel Museum and Tel Aviv Museum. The couple had been so kind as to volunteer their house for a special Holon-oriented gala, in the presence of tens of participants from the Jewish and Israeli community in New York.

In addition to Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, the event attracted a large number of visitors, who expressed a great interest in Israel, who were eager to hear about every piece of information related to contemporary life in Israeli society, and were willing to delve into issues such as Israeli education, culture, zeitgeist, and perceptions among the younger generation in Israel. I was surprised by the young age of many of the visitors, who shared information about themselves and wanted to better understand the meaning of Holon as the Children’s City.

Those young visitors were thrilled to hear about Holon’s unique initiatives, and about our efforts to foster the younger Israeli generation through exposure to culture, which equips them with knowledge and skills that will eventually make them into knowledgeable, curious, moral, creative, and productive citizens. I told them about the special activities held in Design Museum Holon, about the unique workshops for the entire family, about the synergy between our formal educational system and our cultural institutions, and more. Appreciation, fascination, and curiosity permeated the discussion; the participants expressed their willingness to tighten the bond with Holon and Israel, as well as invest in mutual learning.

Acknowledging the importance of sustainability for the sake of leaving a clean and healthy environment for the next generations, they were naturally impressed with the ideas I laid before them: investing in children, instilling values of tolerance, social engagement, and community involvement.

Without doubt, this evening was nothing short of exhilarating. I hereby wish to thank our hosts and all who participated in the event and helped organize it.

Better Days Will Come – The Children’s City Remembers the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and the Victims of Terrorism

Posted on April 21, 2015

 This week is always a highly emotional one: starting on Holocaust Remembrance Day, followed by the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism, and ending with a somewhat unnatural surge of happiness in the celebrations of Independence Day.

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These days make each and every person who grew up in Israel look into their souls and their memories. Born in the year of the Suez Crisis War, I reminisce upon those who have been taken from us, those lives that were cut short. First, my close family members come to mind, then my circle of friends, and then all my acquaintances. Those memories take us back to the stories of all those people we know only from TV screens or newspaper cuttings; we are overwhelmed by our thoughts of those who can never be forgotten…

Unfortunately, last summer brought upon us yet another cycle of grief, bringing us back to the harsh reality of our nation. Three sons of our city were killed during the Protective Edge Operation. On this Day of Remembrance, three more families joined the family no one wishes to be a part of: the family of bereavement.

For the past two decades, I have been engaged all year round in developing the Children’s City and creating a better world for our children, providing them with the intellectual food and the cultural and educational infrastructure that will allow them to thrive. On this day, my thoughts are: what are we, as humans, need more than peace, quiet, and the joy of creation?

Is there anything we – especially the parents among us, and I believe among our hostile neighbors as well – want more than to see our children and grandchildren grow up to become confident and happy?! What could be more natural than that? I have always believed peace is within reach.

These days, my thoughts fluctuate from sadness, despair, and frustration to the strong and basic belief that we cannot give up hope, we can never stop believing and acting on our hope, simply because there is no choice. We will keep investing in our children, exposing them to a world of thinking, curiosity, awe-inspiring creation. We will allow them to become better people, we will do our best to contribute our small part to their big future, and we will keep on hoping for better, peaceful days.

Digitaf – An Innovative Kindergarten in an Advanced Digital Space

Posted on March 16, 2015

I often mention that my mother was a kindergarten teacher, and that early childhood education had been integrally woven into my childhood upbringing. Despite having chosen a different career path as an adult, I have always been devoted to cultivating the young generation, constantly striving to realize the vision of Holon as The Children’s City.

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In recent years, I have been feeling the need to broaden my knowledge and specialize in the area of early childhood education, and I have recently completed my Master’s degree in this field. I have undertaken to adapt the pedagogical principles to the vast technological possibilities that are today available for all, without allowing the means to obscure the end. I always keep in mind the main goal: recruiting modern technology for the benefit of cultivating a curious, creative, and innovative generation, while not neglecting to focus on social skills such as cooperation, acceptance of others, and empathy – which are equally important.

Kindergarten is one of the earliest pedagogical institutions children encounter in their lives, and its influence on their future development is paramount. Some claim that kindergartens should preserve the traditional educational processes, which are based on social and sensual experiences, and should avoid the penetration of innovative technologies which, one way or the other, overwhelm children from the day they are born. I believe that meaningful learning cannot be disconnected from modern society, from the world children live in and from the experiences they encounter along the way. My aim is to find the golden mean that appropriately combines technology with the aforementioned traditional educational processes.

These days, we are planning the establishment of Digitaf – a digital kindergarten. Digitaf will constitute an experimental innovative educational approach, which perceives children as both consumers and producers. Digitaf’s pedagogical learning environment will be based on pedagogical approaches of early childhood education, while naturally incorporating innovative modern technological devices into different areas, such as art, design, music, and sciences. Technology will serve as the means to achieve troubleshooting, creativity, team work, and additional skills that are required in the Information Age. Digitaf will include didactic interactive tables, a recording studio, 3D printers, and more. This way, children will be able to experiment with using 3D printers in order to design and produce toys, parts, and tools – all by themselves.

Digitaf is intended as a compulsory nursery school; it will include learning centers in the following fields: literacy, arts, mathematical thinking, crafts, theater, audio centers, nutrition, and sociodramatic play centers which are available in all kindergartens. The unique and innovative nature of the kindergarten finds expression in the complete integration of digital technology across all kindergarten activities, while preserving the spirit of the traditional kindergarten.

Digitaf will maintain a relationship between the inside and outside structure: the design of the courtyard will be based on the principles that are maintained within the interior structure. The aim is to establish an environment which encourages a high level of physical activity. For example, a unique adventure park will offer challenging activity spaces, a cave to crawl into, a hill to climb, etc. Children will also experiment with using a variety of building materials.

Digitaf will be located at the Jesse Cohen Quarter, as part of a technological community center, and will collaborate with digital centers adjacent to it: the Israeli Center for Digital Art and the digital manufacturing laboratory (FabLab).

The construction of the kindergarten will take place in a hall sized 200 square meters: 170 square meters are intended for the kindergarten area, while 30 square meters are intended for a joint center which will collaborate with the digital manufacturing laboratory (Fab Lab). The joint space will serve kindergarten children by day, and host afternoon activities for Jesse Cohen residents and for Holon residents in general. The modern architectural structure of the kindergarten will reflect the combination of early childhood education and technological innovation.

These days, we are concentrating our efforts on raising funds and resources for realizing the notion of Digitaf and for equipping it with the necessary technology. Hopefully, our efforts will bear fruit, and Digitaf will serve as a model pedagogical framework that demonstrates a harmonic adaptation of the educational system to the technological advancements of the 21st century, which have become inseparable from our daily lives.

Toy Visit – Toys and Childhood Games from a Nostalgic Contemporary Perspective

Posted on February 24, 2015

“Give your child endless opportunities to develop, so that together with you he could live a full life and a better one. Give yourself the opportunity to invest in your child and enjoy the time you spend together”… Prof. Pnina Klein

A new exhibition is like a new journey: across galleries and far distant collections, across workshops, across the entire country: across cities and rural areas, north and south, inside the world of artists’ imagination, which turn dreams into reality. This time, more so than before, this is a self-reflective journey as well: a journey to long forgotten memories, recalling all those magical moments of our childhood. Suddenly I am there again, a young girl in a Moshav, holding five jackstones, a pointy stick, wooden dominos and homemade dolls, sailing between past and present, personal and universal, in search of long forgotten memories, yet rejoicing over the power of the here and now, over the sights, the feelings and the scents that will be engraved in the minds of today’s children.

The Toy Visit exhibition, which I had the honor to curate, is the product of my own nostalgic longing for toys and childhood games of my generation, made out of simple materials, produced and reused by crafty people, without being officially labeled as “green” or “recycled”. Those included carts and rickshaws built out of orange crates found near the orchard, an improvised wooden horse with a handcrafted head and a body made of broomstick, as well as toys and didactic games my mother, who was a kindergarten teacher, purchased but also handcrafted on her own for her kindergarten children and for her daughters. Big hollow cubes, colorful puzzles, cards carrying photos of local Israeli sites and flowers, miniaturized musical instruments, a toy kitchen built out of old stoves, unused kerosene burners and obsolete pots. These simple items had created an entire world for us to play, share, experience, and develop, preparing us for the real world. In the words of Maria Montessori: “play is children’s way to learn what cannot be taught”.

It is only natural that Holon, the Children’s City, will openly display nostalgic as well as contemporary toys and games. The journey I made across the country in preparation for the exhibition made me realize how immortal toys are; as long as new generations of children exist, those unique, heartwarming items will be there to enable them to explore themselves and the world around them, to expose them to the joy of searching, experiencing, and sharing in a whole wide world, sometimes created around one small item, in a relaxed individual play or in an enthusiastic group play. There comes a time when even today’s children of the “screen generation”, who supposedly ignore their surroundings, come up with creative ways to share experiences, even through online games or virtual multiplayer games… What counts most is the basic desire to share feelings, to discuss achievements, and to give tips to friends: how to proceed, what are the best ways to win, etc. For what is the point of success if we cannot share it with our friends?

Undoubtedly, the scenery of our childhood is immensely different from that of today’s children; however, basic human needs actually remain unchanged, and toys and games – even if they take on a different look – remain the key to a world of imagination, senses, social experiences, cooperation, motion, challenge, patience, negotiation, ambition, and more.

Toys and games, it seems, are indispensable. As adults who experienced a different kind of childhood as children, and to a certain extent re-experienced childhood as parents, we are given the chance to get a rare glance at toys and games, this time from a different angle, an experienced, curious and joyful one, along with the members of the next generation, our grandchildren. So… who goes first?

For further information about the exhibition, please click here.