A Palestinian family reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished their home in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Feb. 5, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Newly elected Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid (l), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-line national religious party the Jewish Home, during a Feb. 5 reception in Jerusalem marking the opening of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)
Richard Curtiss at work in his Washington Report office. (STAFF PHOTO D. HANLEY)
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney (l) and Likud chairman Benyamin Netanyahu, out of office at the time and serving as the official Israeli opposition leader, at a March 23, 2008 breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (r) shares candies with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim during a Feb. 11 visit to the rebels’ stronghold in Sultan Kudarat on the island of Mindanao. (KARLOS MANLUPIG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Emad Burnat views his five broken cameras in his documentary of the same name. (PHOTO COURTESY KINO LORBER)
November 2011, Pages 62-63
Shared Communities Program Visits Washington, DC
Israeli Arab and Jewish mayors visited the Busboys & Poets bookstore in Washington, DC on June 19 as part of the Shared Communities program of Givat Haviva, a non-profit educational institute founded in 1949 in the Wadi Ara region of central Israel. The mayors discussed their grassroots effort to bring Arabs and Jews together in meaningful ways by creating and carrying out projects of their own design to address community needs.
The mayors represented the first pair of communities that have established such a partnership. Nazia Masrawa is from the Arab town of Kfar Kara, with a population of 17,000, while Chaim Gaash is from the Jewish town of Pardes Hanna, with 32,000 residents. They've signed a pioneering agreement for cross-sector collaboration. Over the next three years, the program seeks to build similar alliances between 20 pairs of communities around common values, projects and goals.
The main objectives include generating dialogue, creating sustainable frameworks, building capacity and activating joint projects. There is also a research component to enable academic experts to study the program and replicate its lessons around the world.
Masrawa and Gaash described how they've begun their work by focusing on women, the elderly and youth. These groups were chosen because they were relatively more receptive and would be likely to influence others. After initial meetings that started out tense, the women decided to create a recipe book and the retired men are looking at ways to share their leisure time together. Some 250 Arab and Jewish students already have participated in environmentally oriented art workshops as part of the "Together for The Environment" series for elementary school children. Future plans include after-school activities for teens and community youth theater.
As Masrwara said, "Although we have lived in close proximity for decades, our communities are alienated from one another. This is what we aim to change." The two mayors agreed that they approach change gradually and with modest expectations. Given that this appearance on their week-long speaking tour in the United States coincided with Father's Day, they disclosed that they had something else in common: both are fathers of three children. When asked how their families feel about their work, Gaash said he's always inspired by his kids and enjoys their support. Masrwara said his wife is busier than he is and his whole family agrees with what he's doing.
Givat Haviva Institute, which began as the national education center of the Kibbutz Federation in Israel, has won several awards of distinction, including the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education in 2001. It's dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and dialogue, civic equality and cooperation between divided groups in Israel.
Givat Haviva's Northern Branch has designed a program for Israeli Arab high school educators called "Holocaust Study: Recognizing the Historical Experience of the Jewish People." To get more information or make a donation, visit <www.givathaviva.org>.