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October 2023 Newsletter- News from our Team in Israel

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A message from CEO Michal Sella

Dear Friends,

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 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 a few weeks ago, were beyond its wildest imagination.

Amidst the overwhelming anxiety and loss, it is crucial to highlight another side of humanity that has emerged - one that is compassionate, responsible, and resilient. Givat Haviva is now faced with two major responsibilities. The first is to help, to the extent possible, civilians and families from the south, who were forced to leave their homes after experiencing unimaginable hardship. The second is to do everything in our power to maintain the calm internally in Israel – to protect the rights of all citizens, and to protect proper relations between Jews and Arabs within the State of Israel.

We are in a state of emergency that is being exploited by extremist entities to incite violence, hate, and racism among Jewish and Arab citizens.This poses a very real threat to our ability to lead peaceful lives and recover from the aftermath of the attacks. 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 sharing the same experience, and we are all with the survivors of the massacre as much as possible, empathizing and feeling tremendous solidarity. We are also understanding the Arab citizens of Israel, the vast majority of whom share in the grief of the residents of Otef Gaza and the south. Simultaneously, they are uniquely able to empathize with the unbearable suffering of the uninvolved residents of Gaza, who are enduring unimaginable losses and destruction.

The inability to express oneself, the fear of every word, the desire to condemn the 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 one can talk or write about this, and almost no one is willing to put themselves on the line and speak out about it. The fear of repercussions from the Hamas attack on Arab citizens of Israel is real and justified.

The staff of Givat Haviva, in collaboration with alumni of Hashomer Hatzair, has been working day and night to open our campus and host families from the south, providing them with a safe place to meet their needs and create activities and programming for children and families. The Givat Haviva Shared Art Center has opened its doors to 260 guests every day.

The International School opened its doors 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 is showing remarkable restraint and unity, demonstrating that even after a traumatic event, it is still possible to make progress. In the update below, you will see the regional and national actions that Givat Haviva is promoting. We have been adapting our shared society education programs that were intended to reach thousands of youth this year to 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,

Michal Sella

Executive Director

מיכל סלע מנכ"לית

ميخال سيلع مديرة عامة


Safe Space at Givat Haviva for Evacuated Families from the Otef Gaza

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left image of 15 children of varying ages playing soccer, right image of children around a campfire

Words cannot describe the atrocities that the people of Otef Gaza experienced on October 7th. During these difficult times, we are honored to have the opportunity to provide a little quiet and tranquility to some of the evacuated families.

In the past few weeks, 50 families comprising 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. More families have begun arriving from communities adjacent to the border.

Givat Haviva is filled with activities and volunteers. 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.

In record time, the dedicated staff of the Givat Haviva Collaborative Art Center created an arts and crafts activity center for the evacuated families. The center is operated by wonderful artists and volunteers, together with a cadre of art therapists offering individual and group meetings for children and teenagers.

In addition to providing basic, daily needs, and recreational and creative activities, the campus staff administers a clinic for emotional health with four treatment rooms available to clinical psychologists and trauma experts, a nursery school where a professional educational team offers a daily 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 Shared Art Center

a collage of people in the art center engaging in art projects

Arts Activity Center in support of families from the Otef Gaza communities

Two days after the brutal Oct. 7 attack, our Shared Art Center opened an activity center, which now operates four creative spaces thanks to dozens of artists, teachers and students who immediately enlisted as volunteers. The staff and guest artists not only provide supportive supervision but also respond 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 venues 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.

For more photos from the art center, click here.


Givat Haviva's Mohammad Darawshe, Meets With President Joe Biden

Mohammad Darawshe shaking hands with Joe Biden

Mohammad Darawshe, Director of Strategy at Givat Haviva, was among those who met with the President of the United States, Joe Biden, during his important visit to Israel.

Darawshe delivered the critical voice of shared society in Israel, the same voice represented by the heroic story of his family member, Awad Darawshe, who was killed during the horrific attack of Hamas. Awas, 24, was on duty, doing his job as a paramedic. Awad worked for an ambulance company and was part of the paramedic team stationed at Re'im to help with the injuries expected at such a festival. Even when the situation turned critical and medics were ordered to evacuate, Awad refused to leave and continued to help the wounded until he was tragically shot and killed.


Givat Haviva's 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 an emergency of unprecedented magnitude. The Center initiated a meeting for joint coordination among mayors of Arab and Jewish municipal entities to ensure the maintenance of quiet and neighborly relations between Jews and Arabs in the Wadi Ara region.

In the last few weeks, the educational team has been diligently working on adapting and updating shared society education programs, designing responses and shared spaces where educators and other professionals feel personally safe. The Center also offers support and reinforcement to civil society organizations.


Givat Haviva Partners in the Emergency Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Arab Society

Dozens of civil society organizations in Israel, among them NGOs and activists for Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel, established an emergency coalition for Arab society. Given the backdrop of the devastating war, 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, as well as handling cases of incitement against citizens from Arab society.

The coalition will take on legal and media consultations, as well as emotional and physical health treatment. It will track and document attacks, harassment, incitement, arrests, dismissal from places of employment, expulsion, and removal from institutions of higher education. The coalition will work to make the information accessible, to strengthen solidarity, and 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

high school students standing outdoors engaging in an activity

An oasis of sanity amidst chaos

The International School at Givat Haviva resumed routine joint studies with Jewish and Arab students and international students from 25 countries around the world.

The students and the faculty of the school returned from a field trip during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, directly to the war. This year, the school has a record number of 136 students representing many religions, including Jews and Arabs, with 40 of the students coming from 25 countries. Students from Israel received instructions to remain in their homes, but the students from abroad remained on campus, going in and out of shelters during air raids. The boarding school staff worked tirelessly to find host families for the international students. Many families opened their homes and their hearts to these young people.

Unfortunately, the loss and bereavement did not leave the school's community untouched. Maya Puder, Z’’L, whose sister Halleli is a graduate of the school, was killed at the party at Re'im, as was Guy Simchi Z’’L, the nephew of our teacher, David Zehavi. Awad Darawshe Z’’L, 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, all students have returned to their studies. The staff and management, 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 aimed at maintaining a constructive and healthy discourse, mutual understanding and shared values.

With hopes for quieter days ahead.


Sadie Baker-Wacks

Development Coordinator

(212) 989-9272 (ext. 3)

Supporting a Shared Society in Israel

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