Alumni Profile: Meg and Dan Price talk about IAS and their current work with Syrian refugees in Jordan
Dan and Meg Price, alumni of the 2012 Intensive Arabic Semester, are an outstanding and inspirational example of the amazing ways in which students leave IAS prepared to work in the Arab world.
The American couple currently spends most of their time living and working in Madaba, Jordan, using Arabic in their everyday life working with Syrian refugees. Their work, which occurs in conjunction with 2 local churches and U.S. donations, centers on helping refugees—who often arrive in Jordan with just the clothes on their backs—with their most basic needs, like food and medicine. This work is extremely needed, especially in light of recent announcements that the United Nations will be cutting its aid to Syrian refugees after promised member state funding has failed to materialize. The direness of the situation is felt even in Jordan, where cities like Madaba now have populations which are 20% refugees.
Furthermore, because of bureaucratic complications in refugee status, Meg and Dan’s work offers help to those without other avenues. The couple explains, for example, that refugees who are born in Syria, but who perhaps come from Palestinian or Jordanian backgrounds (but have long been residents and citizens of Syria and are often married to Syrians) are not eligible for United Nations or Jordanian NGO aid, thus making the church aid even more crucial.
It was in preparation for this ministry work that the couple came to IAS, knowing that speaking the language would be an essential part of doing their work well. After looking at 2 other programs in Amman, they settled on IAS because it “offered beginning Arabic and a good place to start. IAS had a well-rounded way of teaching Arabic, and we wanted a whole experience. And in the end we appreciated the holistic approach to language. It wasn’t just language, we were involved in the community.”
The effect of their time in Baqa is certainly clear when Dan and Meg speak about their daily work. The couple spends much of their day making house calls—checking in and doing evaluations to determine how they can help particular families. Their food deliveries always include coffee or tea, which allows for traditional Arab hosting, where drinks are always served to visitors. A comfortable visit is another essential factor, as, in addition to their evaluations, the couple explains that much of their work is about listening, “The value of being a listening, sympathetic ear is enormous. It helps them; we’re not trained counselors or psychiatrists, but it lightens their load in someway, just by allowing them to talk.” This, they explain, makes their language skills that much more important, “What we do would be impossible without Arabic. You make connections with people by speaking the language. You can have translators but that doesn’t enable us to make connections directly with the people.”
Ultimately, Dan and Meg really credit IAS with providing their first foray into the Arab world, “[Our] time spent in Baqa was very valuable for teaching us the mindset of Arabs. [There is even] a big difference when you leave the Jewish part of Israel and go into an Arab part, and the program gets you into the Arab culture. It helps you understand the culture. Everything together provided a wonderfully-rounded program, which gave us a lot of insight (including from the Israeli standpoint) into the greater Middle East. IAS is the only program that provides language and geopolitical and cultural instruction. You’re involved in a conflict where you’re learning both sides, which is beneficial. In the West, everyone thinks there’s only one kind of Arab, and that’s a terrorist. But of course people in the Arab world are just like everyone else; they just want their kids to have a better life than they have.”
IAS English Liaison, Elana, shares her experience in and around the Givat Haviva environment
In addition to Living Arabic’s Intensive Arabic Semester, our programing offers students the ability to study Arabic in an individualized, personally tailored manner, which includes activities and lessons students can choose from. Individual tracks can also be arranged through the I-Track program, which places students in a larger network of program participants in Israel. Here, Elana, who privately studied spoken Arabic with Program Director Meriav Hofi for several months and currently works as English Liaison for Living Arabic, shares her experience being a part of the Arabic at Givat Haviva network and environment.
My interest in Arabic study started as a senior at Bates College in Maine, after I returned from a semester abroad in Uruguay. Having connected very deeply with the experience of language learning there, I set my sights on new language acquisition. As a Religious Studies major, with a focus on Islam and interest in geopolitics as well as interfaith work, Arabic study was a natural choice. When I learned about IAS at a JStreet conference in 2012, I was extremely excited to find such a program which focused on spoken Arabic and also offered a chance to have a first hand learning about the Israeli-Palestinian occupation and conflict.
Planning on attending the program in Fall of 2013, I set out for some travels in Europe in the summer, a few weeks before the program was to start, while I was many thousands of mile away from home, the fall semester was cancelled. Scrambling to find an alternative for study, I stayed in contact with IAS staff and after weighing options, decided to come study one-on-one with Meirav for a month before attending another program for Arabic study in Jerusalem. After two weeks of study and time spent traveling around the Wadi Ara area, seeing sights, meeting people and starting to form personal relationships, I decided to continue my stay for another 3 months—the period I had intended to study for in Jerusalem.
In those first few weeks, with the guidance and support of Meirav, who not only served as my tutor, but welcomed me into her life, inviting me to join her family for holidays and meals and introduced me to many people in the area (both Arabs and Jews) I had a taste of the kind of possibility for personal relationships I could develop if I stayed in Wadi Ara. While the program cancellation initially came as a shock, in the end it actually developed into an enormous gift. Through introductions Meirav—my only initial contact—made, I developed relationships with people that have ultimately changed my life; having initially planned on being in Israel for only a few months, I have now been here for more than a year.
I am now working as an English Instructor at al-Qaesmi College in Baqa al-Garbiyye , the third largest Arab city in Israel and the home of most IAS Arab host families, work I found through a very dear friend, actually the first person Meirav introduced me to, from Baqa
In addition to connecting me with Palestinian-Israelis, Meirav also opened my eyes to a new possibility of living. Over the last year I’ve had the privilege of living in a a geodesic dome in a beautiful garden home (picture above) Meirav’s daughter designed and built on their Kibbutz. This home is close to nature and has taught me a great deal about living sustainably and close to the earth, a born and raised New York City Girl, I now live with a compost toilet and a semi-outdoor living room.
Throughout my time here, I have been warmly welcomed by nearly everyone I have met, truly gaining a new family and incredible support system. I’ve been taken under the wing of both Israeli Jews and Palestinian’s living in Israel and learned so much about Israeli culture and society, gaining new insight into its conflicts and difficulties. Through seeing many different corners of Israeli and Palestinian life, I deeply grappled with sometimes-impossible feeling paradoxes and gained nuance in my political views and ways of listening and speaking to those around me. Though I initially came to learn Arabic, my journey has been about so much more than language, over the last year in Israel, I have experienced enormous personal growth, developing incredible relationships as well as new and old passions. I have earnestly, in all of the cliché ways, found myself in profound ways.
2013 participant, Alyson, shares some words about her time at Givat Haviva.
As a participant in the Intensive Arabic Semester program, provided by Givat Haviva, I was given the opportunity to experience the time of my life. Not only did I learn to push myself academically to the highest levels possible, but also, due to the other participants and the teachers I was consistently provided with the incentive to fully comprehend and understand the Arabic language while using the very productive and fun methods that were implemented by the program. More recently, as a Masters student in Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, I continue to study this region of the world while simultaneously improving my language skills, initially taught by Givat Haviva. Through recurring trips to Israeli Arab villages and various places in the West Bank, I continue to utilize my skills in both the Arabic and Hebrew language, while furthering my education and understanding of Israel's citizens and the conflict in which they live in on an everyday basis. I am very thankful for everything Givat Haviva has taught me, as I would not have been offered the position of “Intelligence Analyst” for The Levantine Group, without the skills I acquired through the Intensive Arabic Semester. In working with The Levantine Group, I have the opportunity to do what I love every day, that is, to apply my knowledge of the Middle East and my Arabic language skills in order to analyze the current events taking place in this region on a daily basis. I look forward to pursuing my career in this field in accordance to the very foundations Givat Haviva has instilled in our hearts: peace and equality for everyone.
IAS recently sat down with Miguel, an actor, director and graduate of the 2014 semester to talk about what brought him to the program, his work at home in Portugal and the incredible theater project he started with a group of students from Baqa, culminating in a couple of performances, one at the school's graduation and the other at IAS's semester end party. Below is our interview and a video of the girls rehearsing!
Intensive Arabic Semester: What brought you to Intensive Arabic Semester? How did you encounter the program, and what drew you to it?
Miguel Barros: I found out about the course from a friend, he told me about the different components: the language, culture and everything surrounding it.
And of course there’s my interest in conflict resolution, which is really the work that I do at home through theater. And this country (Israel) is really loved by everyone that thinks about conflict resolution, which, of course, includes myself.
IAS: Tell us about the work that you do at home. How is it related to your interest in conflict resolution?
MG: I am the director of a project called Teatro Ibisco, started in 2002, which is part of the umbrella Choices project.[*] We are a theater, which hosts kids from difficult socioeconomic and familial backgrounds, at risk of becoming gang members, working with them through theater to gain tools to become citizens.
Generally my work can be classified as conflict prevention and resolution work. The theater teaches our actors (the kids) to have awareness and critical sense towards society, and works against victimizing themselves—thinking the system is against them. Sometimes, of course, the system is, but if they have a pessimistic point of view, it absolutely will be. We’re now working with the 2nd generation of kids, the 1st is now teaching the second! In addition to our theater work, the project has expanded, we have opened spaces for the community, a bar, gallery, gym and now have two auditoriums.
IAS: Wow! So can you tell us a bit about your experience with IAS, and the work you’ve done here?
MG: Well, first, I fell in love with the language and tried to make the best of the course, which meant absorbing and experiencing as much as I could. Listening to people talking about their lives, their own perspective, the idea of how they deal with the many issues that are related to this country.
After a few weeks, I thought it would be interesting if I could implement the methodology I use in Portugal—working with kids, not necessarily from troubled neighborhoods, but people who had different perspectives in the country. So I started not one but two projects. One in Haifa in collaboration with Agial youth group and one in Baqa at the Ibn Al Haytham school. The one in Baqa, due to logistics and immense support from the school continued and developed, ultimately giving birth to a 10 minute play.
IAS: How did the play come to be? What did the project look like?
MG: Well, we started with a group of girls and boys, but that dwindled to a group of girls. This was actually very positive; it helped the girls feel comfortable as young women in theater. They call themselves Bannaat Baqa (The Baqa Girls) and they went through the process of preparing a whole play through our methodology. I had originally thought just to do one workshop, but it morphed and we had rehearsals once a week for 3 months.
First we did exercises and relaxation skills, gaining self-confidence and communication skills—the work is always based on improvisations. At first I gave ideas for them to work on, and they would tell little stories about these subjects. The girls then took these ideas, telling stories and presented them to each other in groups of 3 or 4, and everyone gave their opinion, after which I would work with them, explaining errors made in the storytelling, in terms of “good theater” and they would revise them.
After this process the girls democratically decided which improvisations (which were all in Arabic, at the beginning I thought they might be bilingual, but this wasn’t a priority so we followed natural impulses—the best improvisations were in Arabic.) would be taken as the basis for the play. We then worked to improve them, decided as a team how to find a common narrative, make all things a part of a whole. We had one class on how to structure a narrative, how to have conflict which is a must. Found a way of making all the bits and pieces a single story and now we have a ten-minute play!
In the end, the girls chose an improvisation about a disabled girl with 6 sisters, none of whom respect her. They are very cruel, sometimes because they want to be, sometimes just by accident. And then the story unfolds from there. It’s all about empowerment.
IAS: How exactly did the first ideas develop?
MB: Well, at the advice of Haneen (English teacher, and coordinator of the school/IAS exchange) we took up the Ministry of Education theme for schools in Israel this year, “Embracing the Other.”
IAS: An amazing process! And did the girls perform the plays? Have other people seen them? What have you taken away from seeing their experience?
MB: Yes, it was performed twice! Once for the school’s graduation in front of hundreds of people in Baqa, and the second time at the IAS end of year celebration at Givat Haviva.
In terms of the experience, I was not worried about making it as perfect as a professional show—I was much more interested in the process. In the play we use one of [Mahmoud] Darwish’s poems about the Other, a traditional song, and Zaghrouta, the traditional Palestinan unulation, which did initially pose a problem. There was concern about the girls projecting such a noise in a public way.
This was hard; there were so many questions of identity tied into it. I felt there was concern about kind of countering the collapsing of globalization—where everyone having the same identity with the same songs, same cars, same lifestyles. It acted in two ways, the inclusion of traditional cultural elements in the play, but also some discomfort about the kind of activities the girls were partaking in, which maybe went against traditional cultural ideas of what is acceptable for them to do.
But I really believe everyone needs to find the roots of their culture, it is a very fluid thing (identity too) you can be a lot of things at one time. But for an Arab being an Israeli should not be about forgetting their Palestinian roots, and this is one of the things that’s so beautiful about this country. Arabs will have a big responsibility in the future because they live in a very different way than the Arabs in the much of the Arab world given Israel’s plurality.
In the end it was about so much more then the play, knowing the girls before and after the process, you see such an incredible change and that’s what we’re here for. Giving the person the tools for her to empower herself, giving her tools and choices. It’s not about changing them the person changes herself.
[*] Taetro Ibisco and Choices are Portoguese government projects also supported by Barclay’s. Read more about Choices here!
Hi, my name is Emily and I participated in the IAS program in Spring 2013. I started studying FusHa (formal Arabic) in college, but I was never really able to speak with anyone since native speakers don't use FusHa at home or in the streets. IAS was one of the few programs I could find that offered an immersion experience in the regional amiyya (dialect). It was always my goal to become conversational, as well as literate, in the Arabic language.
When deciding to enter the IAS program, ask yourself what your goals are. If your aim is to become 100% fluent in Arabic by the end of 5 months, I'm going to tell you, with the directness of an Israeli, it's not going to happen. Arabic, with all its nuances and dialects, is a language that takes a lifetime to learn.
However, if you want to become conversational and get a solid foundation in both FusHa and Levantine amiyya - and if you have a sense of adventure - then IAS is the right program for you.
Beyond the language learning itself, I made friends that I hope to have for life. You get a chance to bond with your classmates, and to meet both Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel, who will show you the country at a much deeper level than any news article ever could. During the IAS program, I not only learned a language, I learned about the complexity of Israeli politics and culture that led me to ask questions - most of which I still don't have answers to!
But that is the beauty of a learning experience like the IAS program. Your mind will expand, absorb new information, and change. You will undoubtedly grow, both personally and professionally.
After IAS finished, I was deciding whether to enter a graduate program back in the U.S. to study translation. I decided to defer for one year to improve my Arabic. I ended up finding an Nazareth based NGO, I'lam Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel, to volunteer with. At I'lam I learned how to write grants and got to hone my translation skills.
I finally left Israel in March 2013, with a heavy heart, but I knew it was the right time for me to head home. Starting in September, I'm planning to do the same graduate program that I was considering last year, and I feel much better prepared.
Whether you stay in Israel for the semester or longer, going there will definitely change you. However, you need to go with an open mind. There can sometimes be a chaotic culture in Israel that Americans aren't necessarily used to, and you have to be flexible.
If you can do that, and don't mind using some elbow grease while also having fun, then go for it! It's a once in a lifetime chance.
"I enrolled in the Intensive Arabic Semester with the intention of becoming a fluent Arabic speaker. I quickly realized that learning Arabic was such a minute part of the program. What I came out with, was a flood of knowledge of an array of topics including current events, minority rights, the current conflict, the Kibbutz movement, and the political/social status of Israeli-Arabs/Palestinians in Israel.
These past 5 months I got to visit several Arab villages in the Wadi Ara region, each with their own unique culture and dialect. Having my own host family in the nearby Arab village Baqa-al-Gharbiyye was an invaluable experience. Not only did I learn about their culture and lifestyle, but they got to learn about my culture as well.
I am now able to have a conversation in Arabic for several hours about any topic. I am very satisfied with the level of spoken Arabic I was able to achieve."
Jacqui Black, 2013 alum
"The Intensive Arabic Semester was probably the best exposure I could have gotten anywhere to Levantine Arabic. I developed a solid foundation in the dialect, and improved my Classical Arabic as well. It's up to you (the participant) to make connections outside of the classroom, but if you are willing to make the effort, you not only learn the language; you make friends that you will probably know for the rest of your life. Even more than language training, I gained a new family." Emily Leavitt, 2013 graduate
As an undergraduate in the U.S., Sheera Talpaz studied Comparative Literature, focusing on Modern Hebrew poetry. She then decided to compare the literary experience of both Israeli and Palestinian poets as part of her graduate work. Knowing that she couldn’t work in translation, learning Arabic was her next step.
Sheera joined the Spring 2012 Intensive Arabic Semester (IAS) program, seeking a foundation for an enriched literary experience before applying for her PhD, and realized at the end she had achieved much more!
While on the program, Sheera spent a large portion of her time getting to know Afnan Mawassi, a woman from the Israeli-Arab city Baqa Al-Gharbiyye, who also has a passion for poetry and literature. Together, they read, translated, and discussed the works of both Arab and American poets. Through language, their friendship strengthened as they learned more about each other’s culture. According to Sheera, “it felt like an instant yet lifelong connection.”
She learned not only the Arabic language, but also about people from a different culture: who they are and what they care about. Together Sheera and Afnan discussed politics, social issues, and life in general. “It felt open from the outset,” says Sheera “and the warmth of our conversations piqued my interests further.”
“The IAS program helped me develop relationships with people in the Arab community as well as with the professors, who continue to be a great resource.” says Sheera, “Whatever it is you are looking for—culture, poetry, language, politics—there are always extra things that this program can offer if you take the initiative.”
Sheera hopes to bring people together through literature, specifically Israelis and Palestinians, and there is no doubt that she will accomplish this.
Text and photos by Lydia Aisenberg
Left: Josh Klein with teaching colleague Marc Buckley during recent visit to Israel and Palestinian West Bank cities and villages. Below: Josh Klein with bus driver Bader Kabaha from Umm al Kutuff during Intensive Arabic Semester in 2009 on a day trip to the Golan Heights
Launched in 2009 the MASA-Givat Haviva Intensive Arabic Semester recently graduated the fifth group of students to undertake the 5-month program teaching spoken Arabic, Arab history, Middle Eastern studies, Israel studies in the context of Arab relations, some basic Hebrew and a great deal more.
Jewish and non-Jewish graduates of the unique program can be found today in the USA, Canada, Britain, Russia, Czech Republic, Norway, France, Germany and Sri Lanka and also in Israel as a number of Semester graduates chose to remain in Israel either to continue conflict resolution and Middle East studies at Israeli universities or become new immigrants and settled in Tel Aviv and one graduate nowadays living in a kibbutz, the latter nowadays teaching English to Arab students of a Baka al-Gharbiya after school center.
When American program graduate Josh Klein – who had previously participated in a Birthright program – decided to join the first Intensive Arabic Semester project he was already a hard working and successful lawyer. Fascinated by the Arabic language, culture and possibility of spending a longer period in the region, Josh jumped at the opportunity of joining the then newly launched program and these days has no regrets about that particular decision.
Not only did his experience during the program further deepen his interest in the language and additional topics dealt with over the five months - unknowingly Josh was treading a path to a very different professional future upon his return to the States. He switched from law to teaching World History and French!
The Intensive Arabic Semester graduate recently returned to the region, together with first time visitor to the Middle East, friend and history teacher colleague, Marc Buckley. The high-school teachers spent a few weeks photographing, filming, documenting, interviewing and studying the conflict from all sides, angles and perspectives available to them.
The mission to seek a more balanced view of the history, people and events of the region was made possible by the parents and pupils of Severn School in Severna Park, Maryland who raised the funds to send Josh and Marc on a very special and challenging fact finding mission.
Severn School was founded in 1914 as a preparatory school for the United States Naval Academy but in present times a day school enrolling boys and girls in grades 6 through 12 and is the oldest private school in Anne Arundel County.
“Marc Buckley and I thought it was important to develop a curriculum based upon the modern history of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, because it is a subject which directly and indirectly touches a myriad of global issues in today’s world. Many of our students go on to study foreign policy, Middle East history, Arabic, and global economics, at the university level; resulting in our wanting to create a well-researched primer course for them on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with all its multiple layers and perspectives,” explained Josh.
After a more than hectic couple of weeks in the region this writer caught up with Josh whilst he and Marc were resting up in the Wadi Ara kibbutz of Barkai. The 1949 founded Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz, a neighboring community to the Givat Haviva Institute in Wadi Ara, had been Josh’s home away from home in 2009 and where a warm welcome from kibbutz members and Intensive Arabic Semester staff awaited the two history teachers making history of their own on behalf of the Severn School in Maryland.
Josh Klein holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Miami School of Law and a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. Colleague Marc Buckley teaches Global Studies and Foreign Policy at Severn School and he earned an M.A. from Washington College and a B.A. from Gettysburg College.
For a number of days the twosome were joined at Kibbutz Barkai by friend and fellow American, Aurora Carlson, a graduate of John Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies and currently residing in Jerusalem and also, just by chance, Ruth Arkush from Britain who had just completed a year studying Hebrew and Arabic at the Hebrew University as part of her degree from the University of Manchester in England, came to visit Givat Haviva and was invited to join Josh, Marc and Aurora on a tour of the area led by a staff member of the Givat Haviva International Department, responsible for the Semester program since inception.
Josh and Marc accepted the gauntlet of challenge thrown down by their school to come back with first-hand knowledge from looking at all sides possible of the conflict and to prepare a presentation for their students, their parents and teaching staff at Severn School. They approached the challenge with a breakneck itinerary as explained by Josh.
“Our itinerary included tours of West and East Jerusalem; a meeting in Ramallah with the former Minister of Justice for the Palestinian Authority and with the former president of a Palestinian university; a visit to the South Hebron Hills and Susya with “Breaking the Silence;” in-depth conversations with residents of Hebron and Bethlehem and walking tours of their respective cities; round table discussions with USAID workers, local reporters and a human rights attorney; a two-day visit to Tel Aviv; day trips to the Golan Heights and Haifa; a morning exploring the history of Zionism and the kibbutzim movement with Lydia Aisenberg at here kibbutz, Mishmar HaEmek and a tour of the Green Line and Security fence with her; and, finally, in-depth conversations with Israeli-Arab and Palestinian residents of Wadi Ara,” said Josh recapping their extremely crowded itinerary.
In retrospect Josh, what part did your participating in the MASA-GIVAT HAVIVA INTENSIVE ARABIC SEMESTER in 2009 bring about not only your changing professions but also bringing about the impetus to undertake, together with Marc, this daunting task of presenting the Middle East of yesteryear, yesterday, today and possibly tomorrow, to audiences in Maryland, USA?
“My time with Givat Haviva allowed me the opportunity to explore multiple perspectives in the modern and ancient histories of Israel and the Palestinian Territories. I now share many of the lessons I learned in the Intensive Arabic Semester program while teaching/living in Wadi Ara with my students and colleagues,” answered Josh.
“When my fellow history teacher Marc told me that he wanted to go to Israel and the West Bank in order to enhance his curriculum, I immediately thought to introduce him to my friends and former professors at Givat Haviva,” he concluded broadly smiling whilst Marc nodded his agreement at the lawyer cum teachers choice.
Left: From the Intensive Arabic Semester album of 2009 – Josh Klein (first on left) during visit to the Bahai Temple and Persian Gardens in Haifa and above: trying out the enticing pomegranate juice in the old city of Acre
Graduating the first MASA-Givat Haviva Intensive Arabic Semester in 2009
Circa 2012: Josh Klein (second from right) with Ruth Arkush, Aurora Carlson and Marc Buckley, out and about in the Dotan Valley with the International Department, Givat Haviva during recent visit and below: at the entrance to the West Bank Jewish settlement of Hananit on the Amir mountain range overlooking the Jezreel Valley
GIVAT HAVIVA GOING PLACES … CHILDREN WRITE for PEACE publication presented to authors SHOSHANA FAIRE, (Australia) KAT CALLO (London and New York) & ANNE WATTS (Wales, Britain)
Photos and Text by Lydia Aisenberg
Although they have never met, Shoshana Faire from New South Wales, Australia, Anne Watts from Wales in Britain and Kat Callo, an American born resident of London for many years, have a great deal in common - apart from the fact that all three are published authors, avid travelers and recently whilst visiting Israel a few weeks apart, guests of this writer. During their short stay in the country the ladies received copies of the Givat Haviva publication Children Write for Peace, the subject material of which close to the heart of all three women who care deeply about building relationships between people in conflict.
A native of Sydney, Shoshana is regarded as an expert in the field of Conflict Resolution. She is co-author of the classic book on conflict resolution Everyone Can Win - Responding to Conflict Constructively (together with Helena Cornelius). The original, first published in 1989, was reprinted 22 times in English and has been translated into Chinese, Spanish, Russian, Indonesian and Romanian. The book is widely known in Israel – and since Shoshana’s recent visit to Israel, a copy can now also be found in Givat Haviva.
Some 30 years ago Shoshana studied Hebrew at Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek. During her stay on kibbutz, and following an interest in archaeology, Shoshana participated in a dig within the kibbutz grounds that led to the uncovering of one of the oldest olive presses found in the Israel. Over the years Shoshana maintained her connection with this writer, a member of the kibbutz and working at Givat Haviva for many years – and through that connection and articles penned by her, Shoshana developed a deep interest in the work of Givat Haviva and the fascinating people and places to be found in Wadi Ara and the northern part of the West Bank.
“Having read so much about Givat Haviva and also having met people back home in Sydney who had participated in seminars and tours organized by the International Department of the organization, I am really delighted to have the opportunity this visit to Israel to actually see it all for myself,” said Shoshana prior to embarking on a tour of the region taking in the Green Line, security fence, Palestinian West Bank villages as well as Arab Israeli communities sitting on either side of the Amir mountain range enabling her to glean more knowledge and understanding of the region and of the Pardes Hanna/Karkur – Kfar Kara SHARED COMMUNITIES projects undertaken by Givat Haviva since its founding in 1949.
Beginning an in-depth tour at the Salem checkpoint in the Jezreel Valley and finishing up at the village of Barta’a via the Dotan Valley and Barta’a checkpoint in the security fence brought about many complex questions – not always answerable – and at the end of the day a promise to return for more next visit to the country.
ANNE WATTS grew up in North Wales and trained as a nurse and midwife in Britain. In 1967 she joined Save the Children and over a span of 40 years worked in some of the world’s most turbulent war zones the likes of Vietnam, Cambodia, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Last year Anne’s book Always the Children was published – to great acclaim - by Simon and Shuster and this month her second book continuing the story of her nursing career in far flung corners of the world is about to be launched.
When Anne decided recently she wanted to pay a visit to Israel and was searching the internet she came across an article about the Jezreel Valley and Kibbutz Ramat David near to the Israeli Air Force base of the same name. She read that the base and kibbutz had been named after former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, a true Welshman!
“I grew up with Benjamin Carey Evans, the grandson of Lloyd George and became fascinated with the whole concept of these places named after his grandfather and when I mentioned this to him he was really insistent that I visit,” explained Anne. She contacted the writer of the article – again yours truly who also happens to hail from Wales – and she received an invitation to visit the Jezreel Valley and explore the Welsh connections therein.
“Benjy, who is now 84, mentioned that his Aunt Megan, his sister Olwen’s mother and the daughter of Lloyd-George, had visited the kibbutz. She was also a politician and the visit was an official one apparently, much enjoyed and she told her son about it and that she had also taken a lot of photographs.”
During the few days Anne spent in the area, she took great interest in the relationships between the Jewish and Arab communities living in the region, the work of Givat Haviva and proved to have an insatiable appetite to learn more about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Before her return to Britain, Anne was presented with the Givat Haviva publication CHILDREN WRITE FOR PEACE and her comments received upon return to Britain as follows:
“There is a heart breaking magnificence in these children putting pen or brush to paper, daring to dream peace. When Lydia gave me this book during my recent visit to Israel, I was immediately transported back in time to 1960s Vietnam, 1970s Cambodia, and 1980s Lebanon.
Because I nursed traumatized children in those areas and know only too well the damage that conflict inflicts on all participants, but particularly on the children. To grow up surrounded by fear, suspicion and violence; where hopes and dreams are strangled at birth and where the abnormal becomes the norm, is a shameful thing.
But give a child some crayons, paints or a pen, and leave that child with a pad of paper and something magical happens.
These beautiful poems must be made to reverberate down the corridors of power, where politicians and world leaders seem mired and paralyzed in mindless hatreds passed down from generation to generation. Surely it is not beyond our wit to heed what these Jewish and Arabic children are telling us. They are the future and their dreams must not be trampled into the dust. The more I learn of the work done by GIVAT HAVIVA, the more I too begin to dream that maybe, just maybe there is some hope for the future of our children and Jews and Arabs can show everyone the road to peace.
Anne Watts. 2012.”
Lieutenant David J Fontana was one of the 343 New York firefighters that died while helping to rescue around 28,000 people from the collapsing World Trade Center in September, 2001. Kat Callo, a New Yorker who has lived in London for many years, is a cousin of Dave Fontana. Following the tragedy Kat founded Project Mosaic, a UK-based charity that teaches people to be tolerant of those coming from different backgrounds. The charity is also due to be launched in the near future in New York.
During a recent visit to Israel, Kat took up the suggestion of a friend in London who had participated in a seminar at Givat Haviva and encouraged her to do likewise. After being shown around the campus and meeting some of the staff members, Kat embarked on a tour of the region and before continuing on her journey to meet with peace education activists in Acre was presented with a copy of CHILDREN WRITE for PEACE to take back and share with her colleagues at Project Mosaic, an organization promoting interfaith and intercultural tolerance, multi-ethnic good citizenship and integration of immigrant communities and combat prejudice, group hatred and extremism.
An Internet entrepreneur, company director, writer and grass roots organizer, Kat is dedicated to peaceful social change and is also founding director of Rosetta Consulting Ltd., an Internet consultancy for apartment owners and has authored two books dealing with property. Prior to this, Kat worked for Reuters as a foreign correspondent in London, Brussels, Manila, Hong King and Hanoi and became senior vice president in charge of global online media business at Reuters London headquarters.
A great deal of information, ideas and shared hopes for a better future were exchanged and discussed in depth with all 3 of these extraordinary visitors, none of whom have met but visited Israel – and a Givat Haviva experience - within a week or two of each other.
One’s imagination boggles at the thought of how much ground, experience and goals for the future would be covered if the three ladies did meet at some point – and if they might possibly need an enthusiastic Givat Haviva facilitator!