The Amedi clan has left an indelible mark on the Holy City

Uri Amedi is the man who created the idea of a neighborhood administration.

Nothing has changed in Uri Amedi's routine since it was announced that he would be one of those honored with lighting a torch during the celebration on Independence Day eve. Amedi, the son of "Haham Amedi," a remarkable figure in the Jerusalem Kurdish community, is known for his restrained manners, and is rarely inclined to express his feelings. "A modest man of great achievements," is how he is described by one of the employees at the Lev Ha'ir community center, where he serves as director. Modesty is indeed one of Amedi's major attributes, along with deep faith and a strong belief in mankind. "I have been convinced all my life that if you treat people decently, you bring the best out of them," he said in one interview. He is the man who created the idea of a neighborhood administration, a special kind of community center that gives residents accessible tools to exercise their rights as citizens. It is hard to imagine what Jerusalem would look like without these organizations. The new look of the Mahaneh Yehuda market and the education and rehabilitation of the Arab kids who work there, the creation of the Nahlaot Heritage Center, the organization of the merchants in the city center into an association - these are only a few of the social projects Amedi is involved in. Some of them have already earned him prestigious prizes, among them the Tolerance Prize awarded by the Jerusalem Foundation. Uri Amedi was born in 1949, the son of Yitzhak and Shoshana, who had come to Jerusalem from Kurdistan. His father, a prominent figure in the community, for more than 20 years headed a public school where most of the students were sons and daughters of Kurdish olim. Amedi's father was renowned for his pedagogic approach of listening to children, long before all the modern trends of education made this technique more popular. In the Kurdish community, he is still considered a social, community and religious authority. "But there is nothing in his attitude or manners that can hint to his high status," says one of the merchants at Mahaneh Yehuda. Uri Amedi, like his two well-known brothers Yigal and Shabi, began his path in life as a youth counselor. In fact, besides two of the brothers who chose business, all the Amedis are involved in public or social service. Shabi Amedi, one of the founders of the Black Panthers protest movement of the 1970s and once a member of the inner circle of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, is today the head of the Youth-at-Risk Department of the city, where he has created and developed innovative programs to help young boys and girls escape from the dangers of the streets. Yigal Amedi, a deputy mayor, the only one in the family who chose the political path, was born in 1955, but even he began his career as a youth counselor and became later known for his love of socializing. "I was born on the first day of Succot, and thus I was forced from the start to stay outdoors, and maybe that is the reason why even today I am at my best when outside, in the streets of Jerusalem," he told In Jerusalem this week. Another Amedi family member is Abigail, a social worker, who heads the largest welfare office in the city, dealing with poverty and exclusion issues among the Russian and Ethiopian olim in Kiryat Hayovel and Kiryat Menahem. "The urge to serve the community is apparently a common aspect shared by the Amedis," comments a member of the board of directors of the community center headed by Uri Amedi. "It probably comes from the father." "Our family came from a place called Amedia, on the border between Kurdistan and Turkey," recalls Uri. "Later, my father created a synagogue which still exists in Nahlaot, a copy of the one in Amedia, where he prays and teaches even today, at over 80 years of age." "I didn't have the time to get really excited," he continues, reflecting on his upcoming part in the Independence Day ceremony. "Now it's becoming more real, more tangible. I still don't know the exact words I will say, but I will certainly find a way to publicly thank my parents. I owe them both for everything that I am." Asked to describe his feelings upon hearing he was chosen to light the torch, Uri chooses his words carefully. "It is something that was given to me, as I see it, as a [form of] approval for my way, from the one who guides everything down here. It's not my personal pride, it's a message conveyed to tell me and my friends who share my activities that we are doing well, that we are doing the right thing. That's the way I understand it. "The ceremony occurs during the hardest and most painful time in our national calendar - a week after Holocaust Remembrance Day, when Israeli society is forced to look in the eyes of the most terrible pain, and at the price we have paid and still pay for the achievement of the State of Israel. We must bear, in that particular moment, this horrible price, and always ask if what we have deserves that awful payment. Is this the Israel we want for us and our children? I am not so sure, and I believe I am not the only one who feels that way." Uri and his brothers share the legacy of their father: education, the only key to any success. "Not only in personal terms," emphasizes Shabi, the eldest, who was born on Mount Scopus in 1947, a few months before Independence. "My father decided not to send me to the public school in our neighborhood, because he, as a principal in a public school, realized that I would be lost there," he recalls. "The result was that I studied in a school with rich kids from Rehavia, but I kept all my friends from Nahlaot - two neighborhoods very close and so separated in those days. Later, as a young student, I understood that only through education and social work would I be able to save other kids, just as my father saved me." "I see a new generation emerging here, that is much more devoted and engaged than their parents," Uri Amedi explains. "I see their social activity, I see their care, their yearning to improve things, to work for the improvement of society, and I say to myself, 'Not everything is lost, there is hope.' In general I never lose hope, it's too easy to fall down into despair and apathy, but that doesn't solve anything."