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Givat Haviva Emergency Response

Evacuee housing and New programming in response to the war

Overview of the program

After the traumatic events of October 7, 2023, individuals from both the South and North of Israel, representing diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, sought refuge at Givat Haviva campus. These families arrived amidst profound emotional strain following recent traumas. Their arrival in such distressing circumstances compelled us to swiftly develop an appropriate response despite our limited experience in this area.

To address the mental health needs of the evacuees, we established a mental health center staffed by volunteer clinical psychologists who specialized in trauma treatment. Concurrently, the Givat Haviva Shared Arts Center commenced its operations, hosting daily workshops facilitated by art therapists and leaders.

As the evacuees' emotional states began to stabilize, a sense of vitality returned to their faces, marking the commencement of their healing journey. It was crucial for us to maintain a diverse and engaging routine, providing opportunities for the evacuees to partake in music shows, art classes, and soccer practice. Essential amenities such as laundry facilities, clothing, barbershops, and more were made accessible, catering to their daily needs.

Our schedule was packed with events featuring Israeli pop artists and children's theater, aiming to create new positive memories during their stay despite the hardships they endured.

Unlike temporary evacuee centers or hotels, we nurtured a warm and supportive community that alleviated feelings of isolation, affirming to every evacuee, regardless of age, that they were valued and significant. From the outset, our objective was to mitigate the evacuees' sense of fear and helplessness and encourage healthy coping mechanisms. To achieve this, we formed committees responsible for various aspects of communal life, where family representatives actively participated in planning campus programs and activities.

As schools resumed in safer regions across Israel, we connected the youth on our campus with suitable schools and arranged transportation. The art center, initially offering daily activities for children, gradually transitioned to its regular schedule, operating post-school hours. With the majority of our guests hailing from Ashkelon, when local schools reopened, we bid farewell to all our new friends by December 28, 2023.

While not all wounds could fully heal within this short span, noticeable progress was evident in the evacuees' well-being. Our campus became a haven for those in need, fostering a tight-knit community in a remarkably brief period. Many individuals from this community remain in contact today, a testament to the connections formed during their stay. This achievement wouldn't have been possible without our exceptional staff, dedicated volunteers (totaling over 40), and our resilient guests. Additionally, the support from our donors, supporters, and friends worldwide was instrumental in bringing our efforts to fruition.

Click below to read an interview with Jessie Colton, Campus Director, about the emergency housing program

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The Givat Haviva Shared Art Center's Initiative


Within two days following the devastating attack, The Givat Haviva Shared Art Center swiftly established an artistic activity hub catering to evacuees sheltering at Givat Haviva. Initially launching with a single workshop, the center rapidly expanded to encompass four extensive workspaces, utilizing the entire Arts Center. Collaborating with the center's staff were affiliated artists, art students, and a diverse team of art therapists, all contributing to conducting workshops as well as individual and group therapy sessions. With each passing day, an increasing number of children arrived, accompanied by their parents.


The unwavering commitment of The Givat Haviva Shared Art Center's staff was focused on providing a secure environment for our guests, facilitating avenues for self-expression, assisting in processing their circumstances and fostering the creation of new artistic endeavors.

Open Workshops run by The Shared Art Center support team and volunteer teachers:  Ceramics; Printing; Arts and Crafts; Painting; Mosaics; Sewing

Examples of some of the one-time specialty workshops:  Paper Dolls, Paper Airplanes; Origami; Diary Creations 

Education and schooling

In order to meet the needs of the children, we ran two distinct educational tracks once the schools reopened in order to provide youth participants with normality and comfort.


Early Childhood Education (Ages 3-6)


Operated by qualified childcare professionals, the Givat Haviva Kindergarten was open six days a week, from 9:00 to 13:00. Each day, 20 children were supervised by a lead teacher and two assistants.


Informal Education (Ages 7-17)


Our informal education initiative focused on bringing joy to children and teenagers adjusting to unfamiliar environments. Through engaging activities, our aim was not just to alleviate their distress but also to foster a supportive youth community. Given that many families lived in cramped conditions, this program provided both young adults and children with space to heal.


Once 50 children were re-enrolled in local schools, they attended classes until 13:00. Upon returning by bus, they were offered meals in the Givat Haviva dining area. Subsequently, they convened in a specially created club from 14:00 to 16:00, where two youth counselors organized various afterschool activities.


Teenage Activities (Ages 12-17)


For the 60 teenagers, we identified suitable institutes in the vicinity that aligned with each evacuee's background. From 17:00 to 21:00 daily, two youth counselors orchestrated evening activities in a dedicated club. The sizable group of 50 teenagers was divided into smaller, age-appropriate units to facilitate their participation in tailored activities.

Shared Society Emergency Programming 

Givat Haviva Shared Society Emergency Programming

In conjunction with opening our campus to evacuees, as the largest and most veteran organization in Israel promoting a shared society, it is our duty and responsibility to implement activities that prevent the escalation of divisions, whether in the economic or educational spheres. The Givat Haviva educational team has been reorienting our work and implementing new programming to meet the needs of the current crises.

  1. Past Programs in response to the War

  • October 11, 2023 Leadership Meeting

To mitigate the possibility of Israeli Jewish extremists inciting violence, Givat Haviva brought together Jewish and Arab mayors and community leaders from the Wadi Ara region on campus to figure out how citizens can come together during these times instead of growing an already deep divide.


  • November 1, 2023: Preparing Arab students to enter higher education institutions during the time of war 

The Rowad program, founded on the initiative of the Council of Higher Education, provides extensive services for young people entering academic studies.  They turned to Givat Haviva to provide online sessions on Understanding Israeli Culture and Society with the opening of the academic year. Led by one Jewish and one Arab senior staff member, we tried to limit potential conflict on campuses by talking about understanding and empathy during these difficult times.


  • November 21, 2023: Study day promoting employment of the Arab sector

The current political-security crisis affects all citizens in the country, and we are beginning to feel the economic challenges facing employers and employees, especially Arab workers. Givat Haviva, together with The Joint (Joint Distribution Committee), carried out a learning day at the Givat Haviva campus for representatives of about 40 organizations, senior officials and CEOs to deal with Arab employment in the labor market. We offered panels and discussions on the role of employers during this crisis, recommendations, tools to increase resilience and encouragement of the integration of Arab employment in the labor market.


  • Professional Capacity Programming 

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 creating professional capacity programs for Jewish and Arab educators to provide them with tools and support. These involve Teacher Training, Professional Facilitator Training, Facilitator Support, and Strengthening Educational Teams


  • Series of webinars aimed at educators.

During these challenging times, we are all seeking sources of strength to navigate the crisis. To provide immediate support to our communities and educators in the field of education, we organized a joint session with the Joint Learning Organization and Abraham Initiatives, a thought-provoking gathering for civil society organization leaders and advocates for a shared society. Together, we concluded that there is a significant need for a platform promoting shared dialogue encompassing the personal, collective, and professional spheres, providing us with tools to cope and draw strength from the crisis.  The webinar series (4 sessions) aims to offer knowledge and practical tools to educators, aiding them in coping with and drawing strength from the crisis. These webinars were conducted online, free of charge.


  • Uni National Process Workshops for over 300 Youth (to date)

We receive phone calls from Jewish and Arab schools asking for assistance.  Undoubtedly, their staff is qualified to educate their students, yet they lack the experience and tools to navigate the Jewish-Arab Conflict.  In many cases, the teachers themselves are in need of support.  The problems are different in the two sectors, yet both groups are facing dilemmas that are growing each day. Givat Haviva assists students and educators in navigating the current situation by helping them express their feelings and share their fears and uncertainties by providing process workshops on Jewish-Arab relations.


  • January 8, 2024 Givat Haviva Conference – Shared Society in Emergency Time

The October 7th massacre and the war that ensued have created a significant fracture in Israeli society.  The persistent reality of fear and mistrust poses a threat to the delicate social fabric in mixed cities and throughout the country, where Jewish-Arab relations are at risk.

The fear of violence and escalation is a concern for anyone advocating for fostering a healthy, egalitarian, shared, and inclusive society in Israel.  The conference, which was held in the presence of President Isaac Herzog, explored the roles of political, business, academic, educational and social leadership in promoting a shared society.  The focus was on leading the repair and development of Jewish-Arab relations during these challenging times. 

Promoting Peace and Unity: Responding to the Ongoing Crisis

Working Together for a Shared Future in Israel

After discovering the scale of the recent atrocities committed by Hamas, it is still hard to digest the fear, suffering, and horrors that we Israelis saw and will continue to see in the coming days.

In these moments of terrible shock, Israeli right-wing extremists irresponsibly have called for revenge and are trying to ignite violence within Israel between Jewish and Arab citizens. We need to remember that it was not only Jewish citizens that were affected, but Israeli Arab society is also feeling the impact from the events last weekend.


We have complex and difficult days ahead. We are committed to exercising restraint and responsibility as we respond to the extreme forces with collaborative initiatives among Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. We maintain 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.


What have we been doing to address the needs of Israeli citizens during this crisis?


As an organization with Jewish and Arab staff, Givat Haviva is navigating this situation within our community, holding space for grief, anger, anxiety, and empathy. 

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. 


Here are four major initiatives we are immediately undertaking: 

  • Givat Haviva has opened the campus to around 260 people from the Kibbutzim in the north and south. 

  • To mitigate the possibility of Israeli Jewish extremists inciting violence, Givat Haviva has been bringing together Jewish and Arab mayors and community leaders to figure out how citizens can come together during these times instead of growing an already deep divide. 


  • Being very vocal in the media about this crisis and will continue to be as appropriate.


  • We are restructuring our programs to fit the current crisis- we will send facilitators to schools to conduct educational programs while increasing teacher training capacity.


We will continue to update our supporters on programmatic initiatives and changes as we adapt to the current situation. Thank you for your prayers, financial support, and commitment to our mission. They are needed now more than ever. 

Campus Update 11/23:

As the temperature in Israel begins to cool down, Givat Haviva maintains its warmth. Over the past month and a half since the war commenced, we've encountered numerous challenges and have successfully cultivated a beautiful community. The evacuees we're accommodating at our campus, hailing from diverse places, cultures, and perspectives, have united akin to a varied orchestra playing in perfect harmony.


Under the leadership of Jessie and supported by "HaShomer Hatzair" alumni, our team has maintained a diverse and vibrant routine. This routine ensures that evacuees can enjoy music performances, artist-led classes, a barbershop, and soccer training. Our schedule is packed with top Israeli pop artists and children's theater performances, providing our guests with opportunities to create positive and enduring memories despite the hardships they are enduring.


We're delighted to share that the evacuees at our campus now have the opportunity to begin rebuilding their lives following the horrors of October 7th. This tragic event not only evoked deep existential fear but also instilled a persistent sense of insecurity and danger. However, as the evacuees find themselves in a more stable environment and begin to process their experiences, we witness the return of color to their faces.


Furthermore, signs of healing are becoming apparent among the evacuees. Initially arriving in a severe mental state, after a month and a half, the efforts we've invested are showing results. Our guests have been regularly visiting the mental health clinic we established for them. At our art center, we've implemented a routine of classes focusing on art therapy methods, allowing both children and adults to process their trauma creatively. Volunteers lead various classes, and we've already conducted around 10 different arts classes exclusively for the evacuees.


As schools resume in safer areas across Israel, we've ensured that each evacuee is placed in the best-suited school considering their background near Givat Haviva. Additionally, we've facilitated transportation to and from these schools. While the art center, which has provided daily activities for children over the past month and a half, is gradually resuming regular programming, the director and dedicated staff recognize the ongoing need to keep it open for a select number of evacuees, despite its booked schedule for months ahead, all aimed at extending further support.


In just a month and a half, the evacuees have forged a strong community, each contributing in their unique way, reminiscent of a small kibbutz. Children play on the grass, mothers share laughter, and teenagers gather in the afternoons. Even on rainy days, our campus exudes warmth.


While not all wounds can heal in such a short time, we've witnessed noticeable improvements in the evacuees' state. Our campus and team have transformed this place into a home for those most in need. We've successfully built a community in a remarkably brief period, all thanks to our exceptional people, the incredible support of over 40 volunteers, and, of course, our extraordinary guests. Yet, none of these efforts would have been possible without the generosity of our donors, supporters, and dear friends from around the world.


We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our incredible donors, especially the Jewish Federations of North America, The Givat Haviva Friends Associations worldwide, and all our private donors, for making this crucial initiative possible.

New initiatives

On campus

Givat Haviva is hosting 260 evacuated Israeli citizens, offering them accommodations, meals, and various activities to help alleviate their suffering, especially the children.


We have set up:

  • A mental health clinic with four treatment rooms staffed by clinical psychologists and trauma specialists. 

  • A kindergarten run by professionally trained educational staff in a protected area that provides a daily educational routine for children at the age of 1-6.  

  • Space for alternative treatments such as acupuncture, reflexology, etc.

  • Center for Haircuts 

  • Our art center is open every morning for our guests, offering artistic activities by professionals to process the trauma with the help of an art therapist, ceramics, painting, and more. 

  • The "Givat Haviva Boutique" clothing– for families who arrived with only the clothes on their backs. 

  • A cultural hall with two performances a day by the best Israeli artists.

  • Laundry

  • 1st-6th grade school run by local volunteer teachers from the area and evacuated teachers.

  • Designated clubhouse  for teenage evacuees with activities.

  • Daily athletic activities.

For additional updates please check out our most recent newsletters


We would like to thank our partners at the Houston Federation for supporting this critical initiative during these challenging times.

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Shared Society Programming to Promote Peace and Partnership

During times of relative calm, Israeli society has been marked by deep divisions between the Jewish majority and Arab minority. The ongoing conflict, whether in periods of heightened tension or simmering disputes, has often been fueled by persistent animosity between Arabs and Jews. At the moment, we face more than just a temporary flare-up. As the most prominent and experienced organization in Israel dedicated to fostering a shared society, we recognize our duty and responsibility to initiate programs that will prevent the escalation of divisions, in social, economic, and educational realms.

Additional crisis management programs to reduce violence and prevent additional conflict:

1. Supporting Educational Teams: The ongoing political-security crisis has given rise to unrest within organizations promoting a shared society, resulting in organizational crises throughout the nation. Feelings of fear and uncertainty must be addressed in order for civil society organization teams to be able to move forward in protecting shared living and democracy in the educational system. Givat Haviva will provide a safe and supportive space for educational teams from approximately 11 organizations to engage in a process of reconciliation, healing, and strengthening during a dedicated study day at Givat Haviva. Subsequently, Givat Haviva will offer consulting services to 5 of the 11 organizations, with each organization benefiting from 4 meetings.

2. Promoting Arab Employment: The current political-security crisis has wide-ranging economic implications for both employers and employees, particularly Arab workers. To address these challenges, Givat Haviva, in collaboration with The Joint (Joint Distribution Committee), will conduct a learning day for representatives from around 40 organizations, senior officials, and CEOs. The focus will be on addressing the role of employers during this crisis, providing recommendations, and equipping them with tools to enhance resilience and facilitate greater integration of Arab workers in the labor market. Givat Haviva will continue to offer ongoing support and consultation to 10 organizations and businesses in this regard.

3. Preparing Students for Higher Education During Wartime: In response to the ongoing conflict, Givat Haviva is taking proactive steps to prepare students for higher education. The Rowad program, founded on the initiative of the Council of Higher Education, provides extensive services for young people entering academic studies. They have turned to Givat Haviva to provide on-line sessions on Understanding Israeli Culture and Society with the opening of the academic year.


This includes: 

  • Online sessions on Understanding Israeli Culture and Society for Arab students entering academic studies, with a team consisting of one Jewish and one Arab senior staff member. The aim is to mitigate potential conflicts on campuses by fostering understanding and empathy during these challenging times. 

  • Additionally, Givat Haviva will host bi-national encounters for Jewish and Arab university/college students, designed for more mature students and featuring intensive and substantive dialogue sessions addressing the controversial issues at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Givat Haviva will conduct these sessions at 5 academic institutions.


4. Professional Capacity Programming and Consultation for Jewish Arab Educators: The backbone of civil society work is the core group of educators and facilitators engaged in civil society work are pivotal agents of change, reaching out to both Jewish and Arab teachers and youth. Their role is particularly challenging during these trying times, as they encounter new and complex situations in the classroom arising from the ever-evolving social and political landscape, as well as the unique backgrounds of each student. Educators and facilitators require an environment where they can receive support and assistance from their peers. The scale of current events has the potential to reshape the dynamics between young Jews and Arabs, and proactive measures are needed to prevent negative consequences.

  • Shared Society Educators Training: This initiative will involve 80 Jewish and Arab educators and administrators, providing capacity-building tools while creating a support network for teachers to apply the skills and attitudes they acquire in their schools and classrooms. Many Jewish and Arab schools have reached out to Givat Haviva for assistance, as their staff, while qualified to educate their students, often lack experience and training in the field of Jewish-Arab conflict. In many cases, the teachers themselves are in need of support.  The problems are different in the two sectors, yet both groups are facing dilemmas that are growing each day. The initiative will begin with uni-national work in the Teachers' Lounge of each school, separately, with a 30-hour course conducted in 6 Jewish and 6 Arab schools.

  • Support for the Educators of the Hebrew Language Enrichment Program: As schools reopened, Givat Haviva's Jewish Hebrew-speaking teachers returned to provide spoken Hebrew lessons in Arab schools. However, the current situation has left many educators apprehensive and fearful, in need of support. Givat Haviva's project team is providing weekly professional Zoom meetings and daily individual support to approximately 80 educators in 47 junior high schools.

  • Professional Facilitators Training Course: Recognizing the shortage of qualified facilitators in the field, Givat Haviva, in collaboration with the Magid Institute and academic support from aChord (a Center of Social Psychology for Social Change at Hebrew University), has developed a course for group facilitators. This course focuses on dialogue among youth and directly addresses the needs of Givat Haviva and other organizations in the field. Participants will receive a recognized professional training certificate, consisting of 120 academic hours, and opportunities to practice and refine their skills in Jewish-Arab encounters.

This approach outlines Givat Haviva's continued commitment to addressing the challenges of the current crisis while ensuring that the principles of a shared society remain at the forefront of its mission and programming.

To stay up to date on our work, please subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media.

Givat Haviva Shared Art Center Programming 

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