The Imagine Peace Tower lit in the hopes of bringing peace to the Israeli-Arab conflict.
(photo credit: GRAY LINE ICELAND)
The Austrian government presented its 2016 Intercultural Achievement Award in the Innovation category to Givat Haviva, the Center for a Shared Society, in a ceremony in Vienna on Wednesday night.
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz presented the honor in recognition of the center’s Shared Communities Program, which aims to build cooperation between neighboring Jewish and Arab municipalities for their mutual benefit.
“In these difficult days for Israel, at home and abroad, this recognition strengthens us in our work,” said Yaniv Sagee, executive- director of Givat Haviv.
“The activity on behalf of a joint society is an imperative now and one of the issues where the State of Israel can stand out worldwide. Achieving coexistence and equality strengthens the democratic foundation of Israel against statements of incitement that people and elected officials have made lately.”
As part of the program, Jewish and Arab towns work to promote joint initiatives for common needs and interests.
Among the municipalities participating jointly in the program are: Pardes Hanna- Karkur and Kafr Qara; Baka al-Gharbiya and the Menashe Regional Council; Ma’aleh Iron and Megiddo; and Zemer and Emek Hefer.
This is the third time Givat Haviva has been recognized for its work bringing Jews and Arabs together for the goal of a shared life.
In 2015, the German Friedrich- Ebert-Stiftung Human Rights Award went to Mayor Ilan Sadeh of the Menashe Regional Council and Mayor Hasan Atamna of Kafr Qara, for their participation in the Shared Communities initiative.
In May, the 2016 Dr. Chaim Constantiner Prize in Jewish Education of Tel Aviv University went to the organization, citing its “ongoing excellence in Jewish, Zionist and Israeli education that Givat Haviva has conducted since the establishment of the state, promoting education, peace, and social solidarity between diverse populations in Israel.”
“The recognition for the intensive and difficult activities honors us and our partners,” Sagee said. “We are working out of a sense of mission and understanding, that the only way to ensure prosperity and security for Israeli citizens is a vision of a shared life.”
Sagee observed that the road to establishing a joint society will not be easy, as Israel is faced with enormous challenges.
However, he said he believes the country is making progress.
“I hope that like the foreign governments who have realized this, so too will the Israeli government adopt even more the vision of building a joint society and will promote it at all levels,” he said.