|Haifa as a Model City of Joint Living project gains international recognition: A first-hand report from Fathi Marshood, director of SHATIL in the North|
|Written by Ruby Ong|
Last month, Shahira Shalabi, head of SHATIL's Shared Society projects, and I had the privilege of sharing the lessons and challenges of SHATIL's Haifa as a Model City of Joint Living project with representatives of cities in transition from throughout the world. The project works to transform Haifa into a shared city based on partnership respecting all residents and strengthening a mutual sense of ownership over life in Haifa.
It was an invaluable learning experience for all of us to hear about the work of and mingle with representatives from Beirut; Belfast; Derry/Londonderry; Kaduna (a new city in Nigeria); Kirkuk, Iraq; Mitrovica, Kosovo; the borough of Mitte in Berlin; Mostar, Bosnia; Nicosia, Cyprus; Jerusalem and Ramallah. We met together in the Forum for Cities in Transition second annual conference in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland for five days to advance our efforts to bring peace to the cities in which we live and love – and sometimes clash.
Participation in the conference and the related forum position SHATIL as a social change leader both locally and internationally. Every other delegation - with the exception of Beirut - was organized by the municipalities. The Haifa delegation of three Jews and three Arabs, including members of the Haifa City Council and leaders in municipal planning and social services, was organized by SHATIL.
There were many moving moments in the conference for me, including the presentation of a Kurdish woman from Kirkuk whose husband was killed by the authorities for his anti-establishment views. This woman grew from her tragedy and today sits on the Kirkuk City Council with Turks, Christians and Sunni and Shiite Muslims and tries to promote a different view of the future of her city.
In Kaduna, Nigeria, where the conflict is between Muslims and Christians, thousands of people were slaughtered and churches and mosques were burned. To see representatives of these communities working together now is simply amazing.
In one of our efforts to support one another, we invited Serbian and Albanian volunteers from Kosovo to Haifa for 10 days in August, two of which will be devoted to a workshop on conflict management. SHATIL is planning the program and the Haifa Municipality is hosting the group. We are also thinking about the feasibility of inviting representatives of these cities to Haifa in order to work on promoting women's issues and participation in the peacemaking process.
One of the tools we learned about that we would like to incorporate into our program is the use of art to promote coexistence with both children and adults. And of course others learned from our experiences as well.
We left inspired. If people who have lived through such dire conflicts can succeed – we can, too.