|A Haifa Story: Sharing Art and Culture|
|Written by Ruby Ong|
More than 1000 people reveled in a showcase of Haifa’s cultural wealth at the first-ever Haifa Story Festival on September 13-16. Co-produced by SHATIL’s Haifa as a Shared City initiative, local activists, and Et LeShinuy (A Pen for Change), the Festival, which was sponsored by the American Embassy, brought together Haifa’s diverse residents to celebrate one another’s culture and history.
Many of the festival activities focused on the diverse history of Haifa which inspire its designation as a “shared city,” enabling members of Haifa’s various communities to interact in ways that don’t often occur in daily life. Such activities included historical tours of Haifa neighborhoods, dialogues between grandparents and grandchildren about the city’s history, stories of the birth of Israel’s feminist movement in Haifa, short movies, concerts by local bands, and a multilingual book fair.
“It was an amazing event with top notch organization, much diversity, a variety of venues and sharing, in all [of] Haifa’s languages -- Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic and Russian – executed with minimum cost, maximum collaboration and a lot of love,” said Shahira Shalabi, head of SHATIL’s Shared Society program. Shalabi and other Festival partners plan to leverage the event’s success to promote more inclusive policies in the Haifa municipality.
"We were part of this Festival because it implements our principles," said Rolly Rosen, Coordinator of SHATIL’s Haifa as a Shared City initiative. "’Shared society’ means each community [is] promoting its own culture, and more importantly, the creation of shared spaces where we can hear one another’s stories and create a shared vision for the city."
According to Shira Lapidot, the Festival's Co-Organizer from Et LeShinuy, in a diverse city such as Haifa, these stories are particularly important in bridging cultural boundaries. “People love listening to stories, and that's the best way to get to know one another.”Due to the success of this year’s event, the Festival partners -- which also include the Beit HaGefen Jewish-Arab Community Center and the Leo Baeck Center of the Movement for Progressive Judaism -- have already begun planning next year's Festival.