“Shonim B’yahad,” an educational art project that tackles one of the world’s greatest challenges, coexistence, is hosting an exhibition at Jaffa Port.
The project – now in its 4th year – is headed by the Daniel Centers for Progressive Judaism in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee (Florida). Shonim B’yahad is the Israeli version of “Embracing Our Differences,” a project that was launched more than a decade ago in Sarasota.
In Israel, Shonim B’yahad inculcates the values of tolerance, equality and acceptance of the ‘other’ in school children coming from diverse ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. This year, more than 20 schools and programs in Israel and – for the first time – two schools in the U.S. (Chicago & Sarasota) participated in the project.
This year’s exhibition at the Jaffa Port includes 20 pieces of artwork selected from hundreds submitted. The open-air exhibition features massive (100 sq. ft) billboards on display throughout the port – one of Tel Aviv-Jaffa’s busiest hubs with thousands of visitor each week.
The program was launched in early 2018; students in grades 2 through 12 were encouraged to reflect on the world they live in and on those that they share it with. They were then asked: How is ‘the other’ different than you? How are they the same? How can you envision a future together? Year-after-year we find that the children begin to develop a dialogue that is considerate of others, and transmits the value of shaping a society where tolerance, equality, and a plurality of voices reign. The children are then tasked with translating their experience into art.
Looking at the finished result, we learn that for us to be ready to accept the ‘other,’ we must first learn self-acceptance; through self-acceptance we can celebrate the diversity in ourselves and the others around us.
The opening ceremony was held at the Nalaga’at Center, a meeting place for the deaf-blind. Students with artwork on display attended, along with their families and educators. The opening ceremony also featured a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ in Hebrew, English and Arabic, performed by the “Voices of Peace” youth choir from the Arab-Jewish Center in Jaffa.
At the conclusion of the exhibition in the Jaffa Port, a poster-size exhibition will travel abroad; mainly to different communities in the U.S. Destinations in previous years have included Washington DC, Atlanta, New York, Cleveland and Sarasota.