We at Givat Haviva, like everyone, are in shock from the levels of suffering, pain, and violence that have erupted in the past 2-1/2 weeks. The killing and the murdering at the kibbutzim and in the towns in Otef Gaza, the so-called Gaza Envelope area, the horrors of the attack and the taking of hostages haunt and will continue to haunt the people living in this land for years to come. It seems as though, in a moment, the entire region became tormented with existential anxieties that only two weeks ago, were beyond their wildest imagination.
Together with the insufferable anxiety and loss, it is important for me to call your attention to the emergence of other human traits – compassion, demonstrations of responsibility, and coping. Givat Haviva now faces two major tasks. The first is to help, to the extent possible, civilians and families from the south who were compelled to leave their homes after the most ruthless experiences one can imagine. The second is to do everything in our power to maintain the calm internally in Israel – to protect the rights of all citizens of Israel, and to protect proper relations between Jews and Arabs within the State of Israel.
This harsh emergency situation is abused by extremist entities to incite violence, hate, and racism among Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. The danger of this to our ability to live our lives in this country, and our ability to recover from the war on the day after is seconded by none. Never in Israel have our nerve ends been so exposed. Every word generates rage, trauma, and petrifying fear. Every discussion between ordinary citizens, Jews and Arabs, is potentially explosive. Everything is burning. Everything sears the soul from every angle. And everything is also understandable. We are all experiencing the same experience, and we are all with the survivors of the massacre as much as possible, identifying, and feeling tremendous solidarity. We are also coping and understanding the Arab citizens of Israel, the overwhelming majority of whom, like us, are hurting with the residents of Otef Gaza and the south, and in the same breath, and rightfully so, hurting with the intolerable pain of the uninvolved residents of Gaza also absorbing inconceivable losses, pain, and destruction.
The inability to express oneself, the fear of every word, the volition to condemn indescribable suffering of children, women and men, that meets a wall of doubt and criticism again and again – that is the fate of the Arab citizens of Israel. There is almost no place where you can talk or write about this, and almost no one is willing to put their souls on the line and speak out about it. The fear among Arab citizens of Israel regarding implications of the Hamas attack for them is justified.
Perhaps to some of you this opening will seem inappropriate, but it comes from unparalleled pain and identification with the horrific events, with our friends, our families, and the communities that have been destroyed since October 7.
The staff of Givat Haviva, in collaboration with alumni of Hashomer Hatzair, has been working day and night since that accursed Saturday to open our campus and host families that have come from the south, and provide them with a safe place trying to meet their needs with activities and a daily agenda for children and families. The Givat Haviva Collaborative Art Center is opening its doors to 260 guests every day with arts and crafts activities for all ages operated by the center’s instructors on a volunteer basis.
The International School opened its doors at the beginning of the week and brought some of its students, Jews and Arabs, for whom Givat Haviva is a second home, back to campus and to their routine. Everyone on campus is functioning with amazing reservation and containment indicating to all of us that things can still be fixed – even after a terrible trauma. In the update below, you will see the regional and national actions that Givat Haviva is promoting. We have simultaneously been adapting our shared society education programs that were supposed to reach thousands of youth this year, to suit the current reality and provide an appropriate and suitable educational response for Israel’s children. We believe this awful crisis can be halted if we have the wisdom to go through it together, preventing it from deteriorating into violence and polarization between us here, within Israel.
Let’s wish for quiet times, as quiet as possible, for all of us,
Safe space at Givat Haviva for evacuated families from Otef Gaza
Words cannot describe the atrocities that the people of Otef Gaza experienced on that black Sabbath. During these jarring times, we are honored to have the opportunity to provide a little quiet and tranquility to some of the families evacuated from the residential areas of Otef Gaza.
In the past few weeks, 50 families, 230 people, from children to the elderly, residents of Ashkelon, Ofakim, Sderot, Netivot, and surrounding communities have been temporarily relocated to Givat Haviva’s green campus. In the last few days, more families have begun arriving from communities adjacent to the border.
Givat Haviva is filled with action and volunteering. We are all grateful to the staff on campus under the leadership of the Campus Manager, Jesse Koltun, together with Roni, Danit, and Gal from the Hashomer Hatzair Alumni Movement who have been conducting this hospitality operation from the beginning of the war, providing the best possible response to the needs of the guest families.
In record time, the dedicated staff of the Givat Haviva Collaborative Art Center created an arts and crafts activity center for the evacuated families. Four arts activity spaces are now operated by wonderful artists and volunteers, together with a cadre of art therapists offering individual and group meetings for children and teenagers at the center.
In addition to the basic, daily needs, and the recreational and creative activities taking place at Givat Haviva, the campus staff in the last two weeks has taken care of administering a clinic for emotional health with four treatment rooms where clinical psychologists and trauma experts are working, a nursery school operated by a professional educational team ,working in shelters providing a daily educational routine for children ages 1-6, and spaces for alternative and holistic treatments.
We are pleased that Givat Haviva’s green campus has become a safe space for evacuated families in these difficult times.
Givat Haviva Collaborative Art Center
Arts Activity Center in Support of Families from the Otef Gaza communities
Two days after the brutal attack on Saturday, October 7, our Collaborative Art Center opened an arts activity center organized by the staff and based on volunteers from its teaching staff and the artists that work there.
The center is now operating four creative spaces thanks to dozens of artists, teachers and students, at Givat Haviva’s Art Center who immediately enlisted as volunteers for this effort. In those creative spaces, workshops are conducted with supportive supervision by the women and men from our staff together with guest art therapists. This array of professionals also responds to the emotional needs of children and teenagers in individual and group sessions.
We want to express our tremendous appreciation to the team of artists from the Center and other places now volunteering, to all the people extending a hand, including Simcha Erlich and Ilana Peleg who are coordinating the activities at the center, and to the brave families finding their way amidst the uncertainty to strengthen themselves.
Thank you to the amazing artists and volunteers: Hadas Almagor, Sigal Hidna, Aviva Faiten Ifrach, Alina Itan, Jana Shimonov, Michal Geva, Michal Alon, Irit Benvenisti, Hadas Provizor, Hadas Barnea, Azaria, Dalia David, Hagar Amit Shavtiel, Ethel Pisaraf, Uri Alon, Rachel Rozner, Kinneret Baga, Michal Bar Ilan, Michal Niv, and Avner Singer, and to the dedicated staff of Givat Haviva.
Givat Haviva Director of Strategy, Mohammad Darawshe, meets with US President Joe Biden
Mohammad Darawshe, Director of Strategy at Givat Haviva, was among the people who met with the President of the United States, Joe Biden, during his important visit to Israel.
Darawshe shared the critical voice of shared society in Israel, the same voice represented by the heroic story of his family member, the paramedic, Awad Darawshe, who was killed during the horrific attack of Hamas, while on duty, doing his job, as a paramedic during the party in the pastoral setting of Re’im.
Awad, 24 years old, worked for an ambulance company and was part of the paramedic team stationed at Re’im to help with the injuries that might have been expected at such a festival. When the severity of the unexpected events became clear, he and the other paramedics were instructed to evacuate. Awad refused to leave. He was there to help. He was shot to death while bandaging one of the wounded.
Givat Haviva Jewish-Arab Center for Peace
Not giving up on education for shared society!
At this time, the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace is working under a real emergency routine of unprecedented magnitude. At the beginning, the Center initiated a meeting for joint coordination among mayors of Arab and Jewish municipal entities to ensure maintaining quiet and neighborly relations between Jews and Arabs in the Wadi Ara region.
In the last few weeks, the educational team is placing its concerted efforts on adapting and updating shared society education programs, designing responses and shared, professional spaces where educators and other professionals in this field feel personally safe. Likewise, the Center is currently providing supervision and reinforcement for civil society organizations, in addition to accompanying diversified work teams at various places of employment.
Partners in the Emergency Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Arab Society
Dozens of civil society organizations in Israel, among them NGOs and activist Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel, established an emergency coalition for Arab society. With this horrible war as the setting, the coalition is coordinating the players in the field and cooperation between entities representative of Arab society – the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab citizens of Israel, the National Council of Arab Mayors in Israel, and the Arab Emergency Committee.
The coalition aims to treat and support individuals and groups encountering high levels of distress due to the security situation, as well as handling cases of incitement against citizens from Arab society.
The actions that the coalition seeks to take upon itself include legal and media consultations, as well as emotional and physical health treatment. The coalition will track and document attacks, harassment, incitement, arrests, dismissal from places of employment, expulsion and removal from institutions of higher education, and will work to make the information accessible, to strengthen solidarity, and to raise awareness among the Arab and Jewish population.
The partners of the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace in this initiative include: The Arab Center for Alternative Planning, Women Against Violence, Mossawa, Altfula Center, The Negev Emergency Room, I’alam, Sikkuy-Aufoq, Humanity Crew, Shatil, AJEEC, Injaz, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Tishreen, Association of Arab Psychologists, Kadaya, Abraham Initiatives, Hasoub, Sand Association, Citizens for the Environment, At’aa and I’atam’a, The Association for Scholastic Guidance for Arab Youth, and Amanina.
Givat Haviva International School
An island of sanity amidst the chaos.
This week and following a tough period for all students, the International School at Givat Haviva resumed routine joint studies with Jewish and Arab students, and international students coming from 25 countries around the world.
The students and the faculty of the school returned from a field trip together during the Jewish holiday of Succot, directly to the black Sabbath and the war. This year, the school has a record number of 136 students, of all religions, Jews and Arabs, with 40 students from 25 countries. After the students from Israel received instructions to remain in their homes, and the students from abroad remained on campus and experienced going into bomb shelters during alarms warning of air raids, we set up a special emergency room with staff from the school and the dorms to find host families for the international students among the school’s community. Many families opened their homes and their hearts to these students.
Unfortunately, the loss and bereavement did not leave the school’s community untouched. Maya Puder, of blessed memory, whose sister Halleli is a graduate of the school was killed at the party at Re’im, as was Guy Simchi of blessed memory, the nephew of our teacher, David Zehavi. Awad Darawshe of blessed memory, a relative of the family of Yusef Darawshe from Iksal, and as noted above a relative of Givat Haviva’s Director of Strategy, was killed while evacuating the wounded as part of his job as a paramedic.
Now, and during the past week, all students have returned to their routine studies together. The counselors worked day and night to protect the health and safety of all students. In anticipation of their return to school, the staff and management of the school, together with the students prepared a joint pact to guide us all through this tough time, a pact that emphasizes the commitment to protecting shared space, humanitarian values, pluralism, equality, and empathy for all people, regardless of religion, race, or gender, a pact that is aimed at maintaining a constructive and healthy discourse, mutual understanding and shared values.
With hopes for quieter days ahead.