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2023 THROUGH OTHERS' EYES REPORT
Bringing Jewish and Arab youth together to learn photography
Poster for the 2023 Exhibit at Givat Haviva's Campus
Through Others' Eyes (TOE) is a dialogue and community-building project. The program brings together Arab and Jewish teenagers who are given the opportunity to learn photography skills as a medium to learn about each other and explore questions of identity, nationality, religion, and community. TOE aims to address the growing need for open channels of communication between Israeli Arab and Jewish youth who rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to actually meet one another and uses photography as a means of bringing about better cultural understanding and respect.
The way we perceive reality and the world around us is defined by external factors – our education, the media, and the social and public discourse in the community in which we live. This perception limits our ability to see beyond our "imprisoned thoughts" of patterns impressed upon us, chains preventing each and every one of us from seeing reality from other points of view and different angles.
Art can be an important tool for examining the soul to its depth, for releasing the consciousness from the same worldviews and biases, in the attempt to enable another viewpoint, to investigate new ideas, to become exposed to other cultures and to become familiar with the world around us from multiple points of view simultaneously. As George Bernard Shaw said, "You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul."
The camera is a highly powerful tool. It is personal, in a way that with time, makes it another limb, another part of your body – one that continues the eye that sees and connects reality to the internal consciousness. Working with the camera enables youth to examine reality in a different way: creating a unidimensional frame requires a very deep look within a three-dimensional reality, and creating a frozen frame requires a deep understanding of the reality moving in front of us.
The journey that the youth participants have taken, Jews and Arabs, brought them to the edges of this land and to the heart of Israeli society. From Hula Lake in the north to the desert in the south, and to the homes and towns of each other. This is a journey of discovery and learning through a subjective, personal experience in the framework of a group that together paves the way to a shared identity, or at the very least, acknowledgment of the identity of the other, a connection on the human level and on the road to shared society.
At Hula Lake, we observed nature, and birds parking on the lake during the migration season. We examined the question of connection to a large group with its power in being unified, yet living in harmony with the surroundings and with nature, coexistence and shared existence of different groups in nature which knows and can contain them all. We asked questions about migration and immigration, collaboration, flow, movement, and capturing the complexities of reality in one take.
In the journey to the south, we disconnected from civilization for a moment, from the background noises of home, of the village and the city, from the background noises of the news and of our social environment. This disconnecting enabled members of the group to connect to one another and to themselves with a minimum of external influences. The students' cameras examined the earth and the stillness, and the skies and movement of the stars. Together with the technical lesson in using the camera in a simple, but complex environment, they also learned to rely on themselves and the members of the group.
The visits to each other's homes by the group members exposed the youth to culture that had previously been conveyed to them by culture agents and external parties. The visits were an attempt to enable them to gain a new perspective, detached from stereotype images and biases.
After having the year-long opportunity to learn about one another, we then took part in a summer camp to meet their contemporaries from Germany Czech Republic, and Ukraine. The main focus of the workshops was democracy and the political-social situation in the world in general and in the countries of origin of the participants in particular.
Hula Valley Birdwatching Center
Rimone Crater, Mizpe Rimon
Program Activity January - August 2023
Photography and Dialogue Sessions
Two Day Seminar
The final exhibit opened on June 25, 2023.
Prison of Thoughts, the final exhibit, concluded a journey of connection between peoples, between the future generation that must build a better, healthier society here, and move a shared society of peace and camaraderie forward. They took the camera with them for this journey, serving as a key that unlocks the gates of the prison and releases the chains that limit our view of the world.
Delegation to Germany (Tupfelhausen Leipzig) July 31- August 9
Through international youth exchanges and youth meetings, the German organization Tupfelhausen Leipzig promotes intercultural, international and interreligious dialogue. Fifteen participants were invited to their educational youth camp in Saxony Germany. The camp hosted youth groups from Israel, the Czech Republic and Ukraine. The main focus of the workshops was democracy and the political-social situation in the world in general and in the countries of origin of the participants in particular.
The campers participated in guided historical and cultural-political tours in several cities around the camp such as Dresden and Pirna and visited the prison of the communist movement. The agenda was flexible and divided between joint workshops and enriching trips. We were also able to hold many activities alone as an independent group while strengthening the relationships between the youth in the group with meaningful dialogue.
Our participants shared with the other campers the group's photo exhibition and shared with them the process they went through by taking part in Through Others’ Eyes. The time at the camp was extremely significant for the campers and for the instructors. It allowed us to complete all the study units of the program in an efficient and focused manner. The campers enjoyed themselves a lot, learned a lot about each other and about the participants from the different countries.
Activity Overview September- December 2023
We opened the 2023-2024 with high hopes of expanding the Through Others Eyes project to reach new communities in Israel. In September we began recruitment for the veteran full year project and planning a new smaller pilot program to be carried out in 4 schools (2 Jewish and 2 Arab.) Drawing from the success of our Learning Together project which pairs Jewish and Arab classes, in a pilot activity, paired classes would take part in an 8-session program that uses the camera as a tool for dialogue. This hybrid activity would allow us to reach youth beyond the vicinity of Givat Haviva. Following a preparation meeting in each school, the initial three joint sessions would be held at the GH campus, followed by activities at each others’ schools. Upon conclusion of the activity, the final exhibition would be shown in the schools, exposing the program to the entire student body. Planned to begin activity following the school holiday of Sukkot, but everything changed on October 7, 2023.
After discovering the scale of the atrocities committed by Hamas, it is still hard to digest the fear, suffering, and horrors that we Israelis saw and will continue to see. We have complex and difficult days ahead. We are committed to discovering restraint and responsibility and to responding to the extreme forces with collaborative initiatives among Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. Maintaining the partnership between us as citizens and as humans to protect ourselves and our children, to protect what we have, and to try to see the hope and the light that will rise at the end of the darkness around us.
Our role in Israeli society is more crucial than ever. In order to prevent violence from breaking out across the nation, we are reorienting our work to meet the needs of the current crisis. The scale of these events will change the way young Jews and Arabs relate to each other, and we need to take action now to prevent this from happening. We are adjusting our strategies wherever possible to positively influence morale, uphold peace within Israel, and diminish the impact on Jewish-Arab relations among us. This encompasses efforts within Givat Haviva, within our schools, in collaboration with local leadership, and notably within the education system. Our objective is to lay the groundwork for rebuilding fractured trust between citizens and our country's institutions post-war. We aspire to reinstate a sense of security for Jews and Arabs alike, ensuring that everyone feels equally valued, indispensable, and, above all, wanted by our nation.
We are currently planning to begin activity in January 2024.
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