Since 1949, the Givat Haviva Education Center has been working to improve the relationship between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens and to create a shared society and shared vision of their future. One of their programs, “Through Others’ Eyes” (TOE), now in its 18th year, has provided 20 Arab and Jewish students, ages 16-17, with a unique way to understand the lives of their peers—through the camera lens. On Sunday, August 5, the photographic exhibit compiled by this year’s participants will be on display at The Puffin Cultural Forum, 20 Puffin Way in Teaneck, from 4 to 6 p.m. Visitors will have a chance to meet the Jewish and Arab Israeli students and listen to a discussion about their photographic collaborations. The exhibit will also be on display at Temple Israel in New Rochelle, New York, on Thursday, August 9, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Since Israel’s founding, its Jewish and Arab citizens have led divided lives, perpetuating a centuries-old pattern of misunderstanding and mistrust, and resulting in almost complete segregations of these societies. “Through Others’ Eyes” is a dialogue and community-building project addressing the need for open channels of communication between Arab and Jewish youth from the Wadi Ara region who have almost no opportunities to meet one another. These young people meet in weekly arts workshops held at the Givat Haviva Art Center, and over the course of the program participants discover each other’s personal and cultural worlds. The meetings include the study of photography, visits to each other’s homes and an instructional process that combines collaborative creation with encounters among youth with highly diverse identities. Each year of the program sees a different and fascinating chemistry develop among group members as their distinctive artwork is created.
The program concludes each year with a three-week trip to the U.S. to attend a Peace Camp at Hashomer Hatzair’s Camp Shomria in the Catskill Mountains. Being so far from the influence of media and their families, in combination with living together, has a profound impact on the teens. Two counselors, one Jewish and one Arab, lead the group trip to the States. Meirav Levy-Bernstein, director and communications coordinator, explained that when the participants come to camp they are outside of their comfort zones because they are so far away from home and their friends.
“Sometimes (the participants) reveal that their friends don’t understand why they would participate in such a program. It isn’t always an easy decision of be a part of the program,” she said.
But after a while, these teens think they’re “pretty cool” for being able to do this. They value the chance to be together with other teens, to discuss their lives and hopes for the future. They are building close friendships and the opportunity to understand another culture.
By Yvette Finkelstein
Givat Haviva has emerged as Israel’s premier provider of programming focused on educating youth and developing partnerships that foster understanding, coexistence and cooperation between Arab and Jewish societies. For further information about Givat Haviva and its various programs, please contact Meirav at 212-989-9272, ext. 3 or [email protected].