Jerusalem has opened its third large youth center – and the first to serve east Jerusalem's Arab population.
The new center will be established in the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat in east Jerusalem, home to a population of 35,000.
The center was inaugurated by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion on Tuesday, and will replace an old building that has been standing abandoned for years. It will be jointly operated by the municipality's Community Administration, Youth Authority and East Jerusalem Education Division.
"I am happy to announce the opening of the east Jerusalem Youth Center," Lion said during the center's inauguration ceremony. "This step is part of Jerusalem's strategic plan for strengthening neighborhoods in east Jerusalem via a platform that will fundamentally help promote the young population in east Jerusalem."
The youth center will provide various activities for east Jerusalem's young population, along with community-based programs expected to include youth movements, leadership workshops, a volunteering center, career development and guidance, and social activism, all intended to strengthen the local Arab community.
The center will also provide professional training programs in various fields, with an emphasis on digital literacy.
Jerusalem is considered a leader among local authorities when it comes to providing its young population with extracurricular activity. The city's first youth center was established in 2011 and a decade later, still serves secular teenagers from across the city. The second center was established in 2019 and serves the city's haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community.
According to data provided by the Jerusalem Municipality, east Jerusalem is home to some 100,000 young adults between the ages of 18-35, and some 90,000 teenagers.
Youth centers provide services to tens of thousands of young adults in Jerusalem every year, with the purpose of providing a second home to those who don't receive proper care at home and to encourage teenagers to stay in school and avoid turning to crime and violence at an early age.
And it seems to be working. In 2020, the municipality's Youth Authority was selected and awarded by the Union of Local Authorities in Israel for its proven success in empowering the city's young population.
Last May, Lion promised to increase municipal projects in east Jerusalem neighborhoods in order to improve the quality of life for their residents. During the month of Ramadan in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, the mayor helped hand out food baskets and games for children to families in need from Shuafat.
The new inaugurated center is one big step toward addressing socio-economic issues that have plagued east Jerusalem's population for years, and is hopefully the first of many similar initiatives.