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A History of Givat Haviva

Givat Haviva, established in 1949 as the National Education Center of the Hashomer Hatzair/Kibbutz Artzi Federation in the north of Israel, was founded with two primary goals. The first was to train the young country’s kibbutzniks, many of whom were Holocaust survivors, with the skills necessary to work the kibbutzim, and the second was to instill the (kibbutz) values of solidarity and equality on the newly founded Israeli society.

 

Givat Haviva was named in memory of Haviva Reik, a Jewish fighter who volunteered to organize resistance in Eastern Europe during the Second World War, and who was captured and murdered by the Nazis. Givat Haviva means “Haviva’s Hill,” and we strive to carry out her legacy of justice and determination.

In 1963, Givat Haviva established three major centers: the Moreshet Holocaust Center, dedicated to youth education and the fight against racism; the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace, which offers an alternative path to the Arab-Jewish conflict; and the Arabic Institute, which seeks to close the language gap between Jews and Arabs. All of these centers are dedicated to the ideals of the kibbutz movement:

Partnership, Equality, and Egalitarianism

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From the archives: Givat Haviva in the '80s

For nearly 60 years, Givat Haviva brought Israel’s Jews and Arabs together by means of the theory of “coexistence through dialogue.” Jews and Arabs, by and large, do not live in the same towns, nor do they attend the same schools, and this distance has created a rift between the two societies. Givat Haviva understood that in order to help heal this divide, Jews and Arabs needed opportunities to meet, to talk, to share, and ultimately, to humanize one another.

For decades, Givat Haviva designed and established many programs that did just that.

Arabs and Jews came to connect on our beautiful, centrally-located 40-acre campus, to take part in our programs that promote dialogue, understanding, and coexistence. For example, two of our veteran programs that continue to this day are Children Teaching Children (CTC), and Through Others’ Eyes (TOE). For over 30 years, CTC has brought together Jewish and Arab middle school students for two years of discussion and dialogue (and it was this program that won Givat Haviva the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education in 2001), and TOE unites 20 teenagers every year from both societies to express their unique perspectives through photography.

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A past TOE participant exhibiting her group's work

The early 1990s were good years for Givat Haviva and our mission of promoting coexistence. With the passing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Givat Haviva became the hub for Middle East peace, with Arabs from Egypt, Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza, all visiting Givat Haviva to learn about our work and our model of conflict resolution.

Unfortunately, in the early years of the new millennium, the situation changed for the worse. The events of October 2000, including the 13 Arabs who were killed by Israeli police while demonstrating, caused many Arabs to fundamentally change how they viewed their citizenship, and the idea of coexistence as a whole. Many Arabs began to see themselves as second-class citizens within Israel, and became disillusioned. Many Jews too, unfortunately, began to see peaceful coexistence as unrealistic.

The first decade of the 20th century was a dark one for Israel and for Givat Haviva. One notable scholar called this period “the lost decade of Arab-Jewish relations” (1). The Second Intifada, which brought violent terrorism onto the streets and fostered mutual distrust and fear, left both societies with collective wounds that have yet to be healed.

Givat Haviva recognized the need to reorganize and to evolve. We spoke with our Arab and Jewish friends in our communities, conducted extensive research on the latest conflict resolution theories, and strove to reestablish much of the ground that had been lost. After lots of soul-searching, we realized that “coexistence” was simply not enough to heal our communities and to fulfill our mission. We knew that peace and good relations would only come to our shared country when both societies were truly equal.

 

Givat Haviva responded by developing a new theory of change, one focused on building the infrastructure of an Israeli Shared Society. By this, we mean a society inclusive of its members, where all the country’s citizens, regardless of gender, religion, or ethnicity, feel safe, respected, and have the belief that Israel is their shared home.

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Former Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, presenting an award to one of our Hebrew Language Enrichment educators

We understood that our programs needed to be holistic and multidimensional. As a result, all of our current initiatives are specifically focused on one (or more) of the following five areas:

  • Education

  • Equality/Empowerment

  • Regional Partnership

  • Arts/Language/Culture

  • Public Engagement

This multidimensional approach is largely what sets Givat Haviva apart from other organizations doing similar work. Our mission is not geared solely for one age group, nor is it focused entirely on one specific niche (for example, language or empowerment). Instead, Givat Haviva is for everyone, and is dedicated to transforming Israeli society, both from the ground up, and from the top down.

 

We build programs focused on both education and equality, and others centered on art, but with a clear focus on inter-societal dialogue. We partner with whichever government is in power in order to maximize our effectiveness, and to make our vision a reality. As an example, the Ministry of Education is our full-partner on our Shared Language initiative, having assumed all costs associated with teacher salaries, and taking an active role in teacher recruitment.

 

It is through this holistic approach that we hope to create a sustainable, fully-democratic, and Shared Society within Israel, one without bigotry or racism, and where all feel that they are united as citizens of a shared country.

Givat Haviva has come a very long way since we began in 1949. While we maintain our original focus on dialogue and communication, our mission has evolved to become much more encompassing. We are always learning, listening, and adapting, continually modifying our programs to make them as effective and meaningful as possible for all of our participants.

 

We are the pre-eminent and largest Shared Society organization in Israel, in no small part thanks to our committed and loyal supporters, who have been standing with us for many, many years. We thank you for your interest in Givat Haviva and our story. To hear about the programs of which we are so proud, please click here, and if you’d like to support our work, please donate today.

(1) Smooha, S. (2010). Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel: Alienation and Rapprochement. USIP.org.  https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/resources/PW67_Arab-Jewish_Relations_in_Israel.pdf

Thank you for your support of Givat Haviva, and our mission of

building an Israel shared equally by all of its citizens!

Awards and Recognition

A leader in its field, Givat Haviva has been recognized with many awards over the years.
Below are a few examples:

  • The UNESCO Prize for Peace Education, for our longstanding work in promoting Jewish-Arab dialogue and reconciliation
     

  • The Intercultural Achievement Award in the Innovation Category from the Austrian Government, awarded to our “Educators for a Shared Society” program

  • The Dr. Chaim Constantiner Prize in Jewish Education, from Tel Aviv University

  • Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council

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Israel's next generation of peace-makers having some fun on the Givat Haviva campus

Givat Haviva Educational Foundation (GHEF)

Givat Haviva Educational Foundation is the U.S.-based nonprofit that supports and empowers Givat Haviva. Founded in 1965, GHEF works to raise awareness of, and support for, Givat Haviva’s crucial programs, initiatives, and mission.

GHEF is governed by its Board of Directors, and its small, but dedicated staff manage and run its day-to-day operations. To see our most recent financial documents, please click here.

 

GHEF is your direct link to connect with, learn about, and support Givat Haviva. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at any time. We'd love to hear from you!