Last month, CJP hosted three visitors from Haifa’s Beit Ha’Gefen Arab-Jewish Center, who shared their work and commitment to a shared society in Israel’s preeminent coexistence city. Beit Ha’Gefen is a center in Haifa that embraces a shared space for intercultural dialogue. We were joined by Asaf Ron, the director of Beit Ha’Gefen; Eden Nasraldin, a Druze young woman from the neighboring Daliat El Carmel village, who studied at the Reali school in Haifa and is spending her national service time at the center as a facilitator; and May Ayuob, who comes from a mixed Arab-Jewish family and is also completing her national service as a workshop and tour facilitator.
One of the ways Beit Ha’Gefen creates a multicultural space is through art. The center hosts art shows from an array of diverse artists. They have theater, music, painting, photography, writing and even a museum without walls with artwork around downtown. The highlight every year is the Hag HaHaggim, the “Holiday of Holidays” festival, which celebrates major holidays for the Jews, Christians and Arabs (Hanukkah, Christmas and Ramadan).
Eden and May have used their time at the center to enhance their leadership skills while leaving a lasting impact on the participants’ lives. Both young women grew up in multi-cultural settings where being a part of two different cultures can be tricky, while their identities must constantly be negotiated. They share their own personal experiences with the young participants while facilitating a range of workshops. To hear these two young girls speak about coexistence and how they navigate complex relationships, personal struggles and overcoming prejudice is inspiring, especially since they both are devoted to not only embracing their rich identities, but also volunteering to help youth build a shared society in their community.
Beit Ha’Gefen has set a model of respect, dialogue and coexistence between Arabs and Jews in Haifa that the rest of Israel can learn from. The hope for a democratic and peaceful shared society seems very much alive in Haifa because we know an increasing number of young adults are committed to getting to know one another.