GERMAN PRESIDENT VISITS GIVAT HAVIVA
Text and photos: Lydia Aisenberg
“I have been to Israel at least 20 times in the past but for some reason I never visited the Givat Haviva Center for Shared Society, and have to admit to this being a real mistake,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told hundreds of Israeli Jewish and Arab educators, Israeli teens, overseas students and local Jewish and Arab dignitaries during a visit to the doyen peace education campus in Wadi Ara.
“My wife and I have been really touched meeting old friends again here in Israel but also in the making of new ones as we are experiencing such a warm and friendly an atmosphere such as here today in Givat Haviva, and for that we thank you,” said President Steinmeier toward the end of a 2 hour visit to the 1949 founded organization which he described as being “an isle of hope.”
“Where politicians failed you are succeeding in showing that Jews and Arabs can live together in Israel and as you say, the goal must be to show youngsters co-existence is just not enough but co-operation necessary, to have Jews and Arabs not only live in communities close to each other but to share and want a common future,” stated the German President, who was also accompanied by a large delegation from Germany, the German ambassador to Israel and scores of both Israeli and German journalists.
“You are preparing fertile ground on which peace is able to grow. You are keeping a window open and I promise you that in my capacity as President I will support you and upon return to Germany I, and the delegation here with me today, will be advocating as much support for Givat Haviva as we can,” said President Steinmeier who not only chatted with many of the young people involved in various Givat Haviva Shared Society projects on and off campus but also readily agreed to pose with them for selfies!
Among the students on hand for the German Presidential visit was 22 year-old Aliza Arad from Prestwich, England, who is reading Middle Eastern Studies at Manchester University and presently enrolled in the 5-month Intensive Arabic Semester program at Givat Haviva.
“As studying Arabic is part of my degree I was looking for a program concentrating on spoken Arabic and found the Intensive Arabic Semester through the internet. I can honestly say, after two and a half months of the course already behind me, I am absolutely loving everything about it,” said Aliza.
Apart from studying and living on campus, Aliza and her fellow students from abroad undertake voluntary work in nearby Arab communities, mostly helping out local students with their English.
“I am tutoring students at a teachers training college in the nearby city of Baka al-Gharbiya and they in return help me with my Arabic. I also teach two families in the Wadi Ara town of Kfar Kara and at the same time as volunteering I am building up relationships and making good friends” explained Aliza as the visiting German President and entourage passed the Givat Haviva Jewish-Arab Center for Peace department where she is studying.