Australian President Alexander Van der Bellen poses for a selfie with students from the Givat Haviva Internationa School..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Austrian President Alexander van der Belen and his wife together with the Austrian Minister of Science, visited the Center for a Shared Society in Givat Haviva on Wednesday, while in the country.
Givat Haviva's Shared Communities Program aims to build cooperation between neighboring Jewish and Arab municipalities for their mutual benefit.
In 2016, the Austrian government presented its Intercultural Achievement Award in the Innovation category to Givat Haviva, the Center for a Shared Society.
Among those who welcomed van der Belen on Wednesday, were the Givat Haviva and Havatzelet members, headed by Yaniv Sagi, head of the Manashe Council Ilan Sadeh, and students of the Givat Haviva International School, which is the first high school of its kind in Israel to feature focused preparation for leadership and conflict resolution.
During his visit, the President toured the "Other Eyes" exhibition at the Shalom Gallery, heard about the joint company strategy of Givat Haviva. Students from the International School also told him about the school and its goals. While meeting with the president, the students also told him about the the different background from which they come and about the learning experiences they have had at the school.
A ceremony was held at the center in which van der Belen called for "closer cooperation between the diverse populations living in Israel," referring to points by President Reven Rivlin made during a famous speech on the "new Israeli order" at an annual conference in 2015.
Van der Belen explained that "Europe is also facing racism today, and cultural differences should be seen as a contribution, not a disturbance, and Givat Haviva is a perfect example of promoting a shared life and a message of hope for the entire world."
Following his speech, Givat Haviva CEO Yaniv Sagi told the Austrian president that "as a son of a Holocaust survivor, I thank the president for his words against antisemitism.
"From my father I learned that no injustice is being done by another injustice, and that is why we oppose the national law that harms Arab citizens of Israel," he explained. "Educators against racism and for the sake of partnership and peace."
Sagi added after the visit that Givat Haviva was "proud to have hosted the Austrian president, who came to express his faith in the joint vision of the society.
"The Austrians are well aware of where hatred and racism is likely to lead, and we are pleased with the unequivocal message of President Van der Belen against racism and for a shared life," he said.
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