Givat Haviva in bloom – hands across the campus with Mother Nature after a mild, sunny but also sometimes very cold January.

2017 certainly got off to a busy start for the International Department with hundreds of high-school pupils from Australia – the Israeli winter period being their summer – and hundreds of university students and young professionals in Israel with Birthright-Taglit. The Birthright groups came from North and South America in the main. We also received an extremely challenging group of Jewish and non-Jewish student leaders from San Diego on a Hillel Fact Finders tour with a Jewish Agency emissary based in California and a very special group of academics from Liberty University, a Christian university in the heart of Virginia, who were looking to build partnerships for the groups of students they are planning to bring to the region. “The opportunity to meet with and learn from you was a privilege, joy and enriched our experience of Israel. Thank you so very much!” read an email from one of the Liberty University academics.

Indeed, our email bag this month has been gratifyingly full of very positive, complimentary and heartwarming comments from seminar participants and we sincerely look forward to being able to continue to meet the ever growing challenges of presenting Israel and the concerted effort to influence positive change in Israeli society with the innovative and ever developing projects of Givat Haviva. Our first group of the month, actually the year: teens from Oz …


Salam Kadaan from Baka al-Gharbiya addressing King David School students in the Givat Haviva Peace Library. Welcomed to Givat Haviva by Lydia Aisenberg and following her workshop, the Australian youngsters met with Salam Kadaan before Lydia took them on a tour of Wadi Ara and the village of Barta’a. The students were accompanied by senior school teacher Justin Baigel. This was Justin’s second consecutive year taking charge of King David School students on tour of Israel and upon arrival said he had very much been looking forward to the return visit to campus and region this year. An email from Justin a few days after the seminar read: “Hi Lydia. Thank you for the seminar for the KDS Yesh group from Melbourne. The students learnt a lot and you really opened their eyes (as you did to mine too). I would love to learn more and share some more understanding with the students. Please send me any relevant material you can. Thanks again for a great morning with you. Justin Baigel.”

King David School, Melbourne teacher Justin Baigel (far right) with his charges at the Katzir observation platform overlooking the village of Barta’a they had just visited.

“This has been brilliant but so complicated,” commented one of the students after the seminar/tour, to which Lydia replied: “for us as well!”

21 Academics from Liberty University, USA

Liberty University academics at the Peace Tree on campus and right: studying borders, lines, fences and more on tour

A group of academics from the Christian university of Liberty joined Lydia Aisenberg for a few hours both on and off campus. The academics were visiting Israel with an eye to building partnerships in the region upon which to base prgorams for groups of students they are hoping to bring to the country. “We are leaving this seminar with far more questions than we had when we arrived here,” commented one of the group at the end of their visit to campus and tour of Katzir and Barta’a taking in a number of different viewpoints of the area, discussing Armistice Lines, fences and bridge building whilst studying maps. An email received from Professor Walter Reichard, an Aviation Professor at the Liberty University School of Aeronautics read: “Thank you very much for the tour you conducted for our group from Liberty University last week. The information you provided proved to be very thought provoking and was the basis of many discussions for the rest of our trip. On our last day, we had the opportunity to meet with Michael Oren during our visit to the Knesset. I’ve started reading his book, “Six Days of War." Since our return home I have continued to do some additional research while studying the map of Israel you gave us. Thanks, Walt.”


Members of North American Hashomer Hatzair and Habonim-Dror movements catch some wintry sunshine on the Caesarea shoreline before seminar at Givat Haviva with Lydia (shown on the right at the Katzir observation platform at the end of her talk and tour).

For the first time a Taglit-Birthright group made up of North American members Hashomer Hatzair and Habonim-Dror (and some of their friends) joined the Birthright program this year. “When we approached Birthright with the idea of an all youth movement group they were very receptive of the idea,” explained one of the staff accompanying the group, who were also accompanied by 8 IDF soldiers as part of the ‘getting to know you’ component of the trip. The group arrived in Givat Haviva directly from a visit to Caesarea and with the weather very up and down, luckily stayed dry for Lydia’s workshop/tour of the region although more than a little nippy and damp but did not dampen the young folks spirits. Following the seminar Lydia received the following email from one of the group’s organizers, Hashomer Hatzair member and recent immigrant to Israel, Vallie Rourke who is a past student of the Ulpan at Lydia’s kibbutz, Mishmar HaEmek. “Hi Lydia. I just spent Shabbat with the group and they all said GREAT things about their visit to Givat Haviva and with you! Thanks again for taking on this group at the last min. They really enjoyed it! We would love to make a visit to Givat Haviva staple on our Birthright trips.”


We are here! Columbia University students point out where they are on a map. Although, they shivered and shimmed on a cold, windy mountain taking in with Lydia (freezing on the far right) the impressive view affording a better understanding of topography in the region.

As they overlooked a swath of the the West Bank and the divided village of Barta’a below, whilst at the same time able to see across the State of Israel to the coastline, some of the Columbia University students said they thought the Givat Haviva seminar should be much longer - but like all the segments on the Birthright-Taglit programs, only a few hours are put at our disposal. TWO groups of the Columbia University students on Birthright came to our campus together, 85 students and staff in all. The seminar began with an introduction to Givat Haviva and explanation about the Arab citizens of Israel, everybody together, after which they returned to their buses for a tour, one bus led by Lydia and the second by Haike Winter, an Israeli tour guide, member of Kibbutz Ginegar, who hopefully will be working with us more in future. “I hope to study a semester in Israel,” one of the Columbia students commented to Lydia, “and If it comes together, for sure you will be seeing more of me.” WELCOME!

HI GUYS! Having met Lydia at the Katzir vantage point where she had just finished lecturing to and guiding the Colombia University Birthright, these Harvard University students were introduced by her to the region from above - on another rather windy and cold day – before travelling with her to Givat Haviva to meet with Amir Gara. On their way to the library to meet with Amir, Lydia stopped the Harvard students (and the 6 IDF soldiers accompanying them) outside the Shared Society Art Center at Givat Haviva to hear about the cartoon on the wall (Srulik & Handalah) and of their talented creators, the Hungarian born Israeli Kariel Karadosh and the Palestinian refugee Ali al-Naji. Only one of the Israeli soldiers knew about the Israeli icon Srulik – and none knew anything about the Palestinian icon Handalah although they all admitted seeing graffiti with this character on the walls of South Tel Aviv and elsewhere in the country! After a short visit to Givat Haviva they now know the significance of the character to Arab citizens of Israel and of course, to Arab folk elsewhere in the world.

40 STUDENTS FROM TUFTS UNIVERSITY worked with SHLOMO BURLA who after a workshop on campus accompanied the students on tour of Wadi Ara and the Amir mountain range while at the same time …

LIRON SAVION, a Geo-Political lecturer and regional guide with the International Department carried out a similar program with a group of BIRTHRIGHT from Brazil … while at the same time another group of Birthright from NYU worked with Lydia!

Omer Hitman, accompanying the Birthright students from the UNIVERSITY of NEW YORK before the seminar gets underway with Lydia and right: Omer Hitman, Lydia, Bassem Eid and Danielle of Hillel at UCLA last April, 2016 on the UCLA campus during a lecture tour organized by Hillel and Hasbara Fellowships. Omer, who was then studying at UCLA, was chair of an Israel Interest group and now working with Hillel in New York


With a storm gathering over their heads 45 John Hopkins University students and Birthright-Taglit staff manage a quick visit to Barta’a. Fortunately for these Baltimore based university students in Israel with BIRTHRIGHT-TAGLIT, breaks in the heavy rain storms allowed for visiting some of the vantage points along the Amir mountain range and also to Barta’a. Guided by Lydia after a workshop with her on campus, the students merrily joked about Israelis thinking cold is 6 degrees above freezing when they know what true winter conditions are when in the thick of winter back in the States! “I have found this segment of our program so interesting and truthfully even surprised that Birthright has included Givat Haviva on the program and just wish it was for longer,” one of the students commented to Lydia as she parted company with them at the end of the seminar/tour.

DR. ALAN Z. WEISS from JOHN ABBOTT COLLEGE, MONTREAL, CANADA and colleagues (also from Germany), met with Yaniv Sagi, Executive Director of Givat Haviva; Samer Atamne, Co-director of the Givat Haviva Department of Education – third photo from left and Mohammad Darawshe, Givat Haviva Director of Shared Society and Shared Living in a program organized by THE INTERNATIONAL DEPARTMENT’S, Keren Farkash & Lydia Aisenberg who also met with them for a discussion with regard groups of students visiting our campus from abroad. An email received from Dr. Weiss following the visit – which one of the members of the group filmed for use at John Abbott College read: “Visiting the Givat Haviva campus and listening to so many interesting people was an incredible experience.”

Stuart Shapiro from Buffalo, New York, chatting with local Palestinian fruit vendor Eyad and group photo with Eyad before leaving the village.

This group of older folk, Jewish and Christian New Yorkers, was a welcome challenge for Lydia after dealing with so many groups of university students with the recent Birthright-Taglit winter season. After walking around campus and hearing from Lydia about Givat Haviva’s history and projects, the group joined her for a tour of the region, visited Barta’a where they had the opportunity to met and chat with local fruit vendor Eyad, a Palestinian from Jenin. “This has been an extremely eye-opening experience and I am sure we will be talking about this for quite some time to come,” said one as the seminar drew to a close.

SHLOMO BURLA worked with this group of medical personnel from Argentina on a Birithright-Taglit special program. After a workshop held on campus Shlomo took the group, whom he enjoyed working with very much, on tour of the region


Jewish and non-Jewish and non-Jewish student leaders from New York University made up this very interesting and extremely inquisitive about everything group brought to us through Israel Experts with Israeli educator and guide Julian Resnick, always a more than welcome guest on our campus. The student leaders joined Lydia for a workshop on campus before going and out in the region, an area that Julian has also got to know well over the years accompanying groups to Givat Havia. Living in Israel since 1976 he was born in South Africa and has worked with many major organizations in Canada and USA and was an emissary working with Jewish communities in the States and Britain.

Jewish and non-Jewish student leaders from San Diego State University with Israeli educator/guide ALON NE’EMAN, kneeling on the left, and SDSU Jewish Agency Israel Fellow GAL WINREBE (second from left back row) outside the Art Center at Givat Haviva at the beginning of their seminar with Lydia Aisenberg comprising workshop and tour of the region The group was organized by Gal Winrebe who also built the program that included visits to West Bank Palestinian towns and cities, including Ramallah – where they met with representatives of the Palestinian Authority and also visited the new Palestinian of Riwabi. “For me a visit to Givat Haviva and tour of the region is an essential part of this very important program,” said Gal who is directly answerable to the donors who contributed toward the group’s 9 day visit in the region. BIRTHRIGHT ARGENTINA – DE NADE (You’re welcome in Spanish)

Students and young professionals from Argentina with BIRTHRIGHT on campus with Israeli guide Yigal With the majority of the Argentinians understanding and speaking good English together with the marvelous help of Diego (a Birthright staff member from Argentina) acting as translator for a few who had difficulty, a good seminar was had by all … the students and Lydia who worked with them! A workshop on campus, followed by tour of Barta’a/Katzir, great vantage points and clear views on a gloriously sunny day … all enjoyed and appreciated, wide smiles throughout and atmosphere of working together for a common goal … a learning experience. WEBER SCHOOL, ATLANTA – ALEXANDER MUSS HIGH SCHOOL in ISRAEL

The students from Atlanta with Israeli educator Yossi Katz on the far right. For a number of years we have been receiving groups from The Weber School, Atlanta on Israel Program with the Alexander Muss High School in Israel of Hod Hasharon. This particular group of youngsters were a delight to work with reports Lydia and Ama l Abusif.

Following their workshops with Lydia and Amal, the group joined Lydia for a tour of the region but before leaving campus had a quick chat with Amal, an Arab language teacher with the KIVUNIM gap year program … a program the two young ladies are due to start later on this year and meet up with Amal on a daily basis! KIVUNIM also participate in our seminars and so we will see the girls again later in the year.

AMAL ABUSIF with young ladies from Atlanta registered for the next KIVUNIM program where Amal teaches Arabic

The Brazilians began their seminar in Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek, the entrance to the kibbutz on left, the steps of the kibbutz club providing an outdoor classroom in the sun! Following Lydia’s workshop the group were guided by her on a tour of Wadi Ara, Katzir and Barta’a before going on their way to Netanya.

Israeli guide and educator with the group Leonardo – who is about to go to Brazil as emissary for the Jewish Agency in a month or two, lets go on the mountain top as a fantastic sunset unfolds at the end of the tour and right: an Israeli art student accompanying the group, Nadav Gal, hands Lydia a drawing he made of her standing on the bus, explaining the map of Israel. Kol HaKavod Nadav!


Students and young professionals, most of whom in their mid-20s and coming from different States in America, pictured during their seminar with Lydia in the Peace Library and before leaving for short tour the region with her. The tour operating company TLALIM, who this month have sent quite a few groups to Givat Haviva last December and this January, these days have a fleet of buses on the highways and byways with very distinct livery … the first of those buses to come to campus was this week and photographed above. WHAT A TREMENDOUSLY BUSY, BUT SATISFYING, MONTH THAT WAS … Shalom and L’hitraot until the next REPORT from the International Department.

Uri Barel, Keren Farkash & Lydia Aisenberg GIVAT HAVIVA INTERNATIONAL DEPARTMENT

Sunsets on January, 2017 with a glorious view over the coastline and high rise buildings of Netanya from Katzir at the end of an International Department seminar, a very fitting way to wind up a seminar and the first month of the New Year.


School students on tour of Israel and upon arrival said he had very much been looking forward to the return visit to campus and region this year. An email from ...

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