9 December 2009
If only they could talk, the tall, wide-trunk eucalyptus trees lining the pathways of Hashomer Hatzair's Givat Haviva Educational Center would have had some extremely interesting tales to share with the large crowd thatrecently gathered to celebrate the 60th anniversary since the founding of Givat Haviva.
Planted by British soldiers during the Mandate era, when the campus was an army base, the silent witnesses a turbulent history would have been rooted well in place when the Brits pulled out and kibbutz folk of the Kibbutz Artzi Federation began to work industriously to create the educational center. The Givat Haviva center was named after the British Royal Air Force trained parachutist Haviva Reik, who lost her life on a daring mission to Slovakia, and who had lived at Kibbutz Ma'anit next door prior to her parachuting into war ravaged Europe.
The same eucalyptus trees have continued to be silent witnesses while absorbing over the last six decades the sight of thousands of Israeli Jews and Arabs coming together to engage in educational projects encouraging dialogue and sharing a common citizenship fraught with fragility.
Israeli Jews, Muslims and Christians spanning a few generations came to participate in Givat Haviva's 60th anniversary, and the commemoration of the execution of Haviva Reik 65 years ago. As the day progressed both young and not-so-young discovered they had far more in common than generally divides such generational gaps. They embraced mutual strength and motivation, the youngsters from the older folk whom they see as role models, the older folk taking satisfaction in knowing that there are youths still imbued with a wish to serve humanity.
Present and former members of the Hashomer Hatzair movement and kibbutzim, city folk and villagers from far and wide, all committed supporters of co-existence projects and seekers of peace, equality and a truly shared society, came together with Givat Haviva supporters from abroad. Together they participated in an emotional day of celebration of the sorely tested values, principles and ideology of the Hashomer Hatzair movement in which they believe. They also gathered in commemoration of Haviva Reik, a woman of valor, outstanding bravery and absolute dedication to that which she believed to be right.
The day got under way with visits to the various permanent exhibition halls of Hashomer Hatzair's Yad Yaari Research and Documentation Center and Moreshet, The Mordechai Anielewicz Holocaust Study and Research Center, followed by the opening of a new exhibition in the Art Center and Peace Gallery. An impressive professional video camera was presented by Friedel Grutzmacher of the German Friends of Givat Haviva to Art Center director Etti Amram. Earmarked for the successful and innovative Through Others' Eyes video project, the City of Berlin also contributed toward the extremely welcome gift.
"The Though Others' Eyes photographic program is well-known in Germany through the successful traveling exhibition of photographs taken by past project participants and we now look forward to seeing the first video film to be made with this camera", said Friedel Grutzmacher, a former politician from East Frisia and Green Party member who served as an elected Member of the Rhineland-Palatinate Landtag between 1991 and 2006.
In panel discussions well-known personalities from the world of politics, education and creative arts reflected on the changes within the kibbutz movement, delving in to the past, discussing the present state of the kibbutz collective in a time of privatization, and attempted a look to the future of a unique lifestyle and educational process drastically changing. Many were hopeful of a continued effort by the kibbutz movement and others to influence positive changes in Israeli society in general.
A second session dealt with 'Shared Society'. The speaker's platform was taken by both Arabs and Jews, who highlighted how deep is the divide between citizens of the country whose vision of a shared society falls far short of realities found on the ground.
The unveiling of a memorial to Haviva Reik was attended by Professor Avishay Braverman, Minister of Minority Affairs, Jewish and Arab dignitaries, and Surika (Sara) Braverman of Kibbutz Shamir (no relation to Prof. Braverman), the last person to see Haviva Reik before she jumped out of a plane and plummeted toward a journey of no return.
Unveiling the plaque of the commemorative corner - designed by Hilik Arad and tucked under two of the enormous British planted eucalyptus trees, Surika Braverman gave an impassioned speech about her friend and fellow parachutist Haviva Reik, appealing to the blue-shirt wearing youngsters of the Hashomer Hatzair movement in the audience to continue to uphold the values of equality and human dignity that Haviva Reik not only whole-heartedly believed in, but physically fought for at the cost of her own life.
Twelve Jewish and Arab educators received the Givat Haviva Lifetime Achievement Award. On the presentation podium, Givat Haviva Executive Director Haggai Halevi, Professor Braverman, former Knesset member and a founder of Peace Now, Avshalom Vilan and Riad Kabaha, Co-director of the Givat Haviva Jewish-Arab Center for Peace.
Achinoam Nini and Mira Awad were awarded the Haviva Reik Peace Award for 2009. The popular Israeli singers and musicians represented Israel in the Eurovision, the European song contest, singing "There Must be Another Way", a song they penned together with words in Hebrew, Arabic and English.
Both Achinoam and Mira Awad are renowned for the work they have achieved, both individually and as a duo, in building bridges between Arabs and Jews through their music and steadfast belief that there really must be another way ñ and not buckling to heavy criticism along their chosen path of encouraging togetherness toward a common goal.
The entertainers cum educators received works of art by up and coming Umm al-Fahm artist Karim Abu Shakra. Author Tehila Ofer presented the duo with a copy of her biography of Haviva Reik, entitled 'Haviva: The Life, the Mission and the Fall of the Paratrooper Haviva Reik' published five years ago.
"Mira and I often feel we are standing alone but being here today, seeing and hearing so many people who share similar beliefs, really is incredibly encouraging", said Achinoam Nini following the presentations and a powerful performance of the duo on a stage draped in a banner dedicating the days events to Haviva Reik.
Filing out into the fading light, walking between the avenues of eucalyptus trees, these majestic silent witnesses of so many decades of on-site educational activity, one couldn't but help think, if only trees could talkÖ