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Living In Harmony: Centers Of Co-Existence In Israel

Living In Harmony: Centers Of Co-Existence In Israel
Citizens are no strangers to the issues and tension that have become synonymous with the Middle East. However, there are small rays of hope. Little organizations all over Israel are working hard to promote coexistence in all different manners. Here are the most interesting coexistence centers in Israel.
Juha’s Guesthouse Courtesy of israel21cinternal/Flickr

Juha’s Guesthouse

Located in the poorest Arab village in Israel, Jisr El Azrqa, is home to a picturesque hostel – Juha’s Guesthouse. Although one of the poorest villages in the country, it boasts one of the most beautiful serene beaches. Located right next to Caesarea, the village is the last of its kind in that area. The fishing village is a place of simplistic beauty. The founders of this hostel are an Arab and Israeli, who decided to try to help the failing town of Jisr through their business. The hostel was met with some trepidation at first, but now they are swarmed with tourists, foreign and Israeli alike, who get to come experience how the other half live. It is a beautiful place, and everyone should go visit.

Givat Haviva

Givat Haviva is an organization that has been around since 1949, and has even won the UNESCO Peace Prize of 2001 for their long-standing commitment to promoting peace. They believe in the integration of both communities, and work through a barrage of different programs, such as the Shared Communities Initiative, which fosters a connection between two communities from different areas to work together and promote knowledge and understanding. The program builds cooperation between over 20 pairs of communities, and by demonstrating the benefits of the cooperation they hope to create a domino effect across Israel. The first participants were the Israeli town of Pardes Hanna Karkus and the Arab village Kfar Kara. They also run language schools that teach Arabic through music, film, and religious texts, which exposes the students to the rich culture that is Islam.

A recent workshop with Galileat courtesy of Paul Nirens

Galileat

Who would imagine that an Australian chef would be a promoter of peace and coexistence in the northern part of Israel? Paul Nirens opened his cooking courses, called Galileat because he believes food has the power to bring people closer together. His courses include a tour through the local market, and then a cooking class in different homes of people that live in the Arab village of Arrabeh. He discovered that through the meal, the guests and hosts would sit down and have open dialogues and conversations, creating a bridge for a shared connection through the simplicity of a delicious meal.

Olive Trees Courtesy Flavio/Flickr

Olives for Peace

The olive trees are an iconic symbol of the Middle East. The team behind Olives for Peace took inspiration from the trees and created a joint venture to sell olive oil. Israelis and Palestinians run all aspects of the business from the planning and training to the oil production, and is sold under the name Olives for Peace, or sold in the UK and U.S. as Peace Oil. The natural resources of the land bringing two communities of people closer together is a beautiful example of the land healing its people.

Twinned Peace Kindergarten

Teaching tolerance is best started at an early age. The Israel Tennis Centers believe that sports are a way to bring children together and bridge the gaps between societies. 60 children from Arab and Jewish kindergartens play tennis together in the centers located in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Akko. Through playing together, the children learn the values of compassion and tolerance, and help each child to better understand the ‘stranger’ that they are playing with. This program has been around since the 1970s and has proven success in creating an atmosphere of tolerance.

Israel Lacrosse Team

Just as the tennis center believes sports are a way to bridge the gap, the lacrosse teams in Israel believe the same thing. The Israeli lacrosse team has established a mixed team in Jaffa and Ramla. The Israel Lacrosse league tries hard to create a place where children can come together to play, bridge the cultural gap and raise money so all kids have a chance to play lacrosse.

The Parents Circle Families Forum

The Parents Circle is a joint Palestinian Israeli organization of over 600 families who have lost family members due to the conflict. Through different activities they have proven that reconciliation is a possible reality, and a definite prerequisite to creating an existence of peace. They use the media and education to spread their ideas, and educate their audience. The first meetings were held with families in Gaza but after the second Intifada, they were inaccessible. Now the Arab families are mostly located in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with Israeli and Palestinians both staffing the offices in Tel Aviv and Elram.

Neve Shalom

The village of Neve Shalom is an Israeli Muslim village. It was created in 1970 and sits between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They organize humanitarian aid and provide medical assistance to the Palestinian people, as well as running schools for the village and other children in the area that run through middle school and taught in Hebrew and Arabic by Muslim and Jewish teachers. It also serves as a space for adults to learn about each other through seminars conducted by peace facilitators. Roger Waters of Pink Floyd has performed there many times. The name Neve Shalom translates to Oasis of Peace, a source of calm and tranquility in midst of tension.

Tiyul Rihla

Tiyul and Rihla both mean ‘trip’ in Arabic and Hebrew, hence the name of this non-profit organization. Started by three young students in Jerusalem, Tiyul Rihla gives Israelis and Palestinians the chance to tour the together and learn more about the heritage of both people. Each trip is hosted in different area, either Palestinian or Israeli, which lets each opposite group learn more about the history of the country, and more about the conflict. Their aim is not to solve the problem, but to open a pathway for people to learn more and be able to be open to the ideas of creating peace. One of the founders, Yovav Khalifon believes that there is a lack of knowledge and mutual understanding, and the trips help shine light on these gaps, which lead to better understanding of the issues, and hopefully progress to dealing with the issues at hand.

Bahai World Center Courtesy Yuval Y/Flickr

Haifa, the City of Tolerance

Haifa is home to the biggest center of the Baha’i religion, and the gardens that adorn Haifa are a remembrance that Haifa believes in equal importance of all religions. Haifa has a multi-religious population of 260,000, with a Jewish prevalence (91%). The well-integrated Arab minority is Christian (4.5%), Muslim (3.5%) and Druze (1%). Road signs are written in Hebrew, Arabic and English. In the streets of Haifa, the population seems at peace with each other. The city has a low record of faith-based crime, and most people report a sense of belonging to the interfaith community as whole.