By Heidi Basch-Harod
Today I met with Amoun Sleem, Director of the Domari Society of Gypsies in Jerusalem. According to Amoun, the Dom people of Jerusalem "remain a Gypsy community infused with music and safeguarding their tradition." They have made their home in Jerusalem for over 400 years, nowadays inhabiting the small neighborhood of Burj al-Laqlaq within the walls of the Old City. The roughly 1,000 Dom of Jerusalem are largely marginalized and hardly recognized by the Israeli and Palestinian publics.
The Domari Community Center provides opportunities for empowerment, especially for women and children. This is accomplished by offering literacy courses, providing school supplies for poor children; educating women in the making of handicrafts and allowing them to sell their products for a profit to help them gain security and independence. In providing a safe, warm and beautiful space for the Dom people of Jerusalem, Director Amoun Sleem strives to preserve Domari language and to foster cultural pride in the community.