On 23-24 October twenty cities that are member of the Intercultural Cities Network had the opportunity to participate in a Study visit to the fellow city of Haifa, Israel.
The main theme of the visit was "Public spaces, art and culture as a driving force of interreligious dialogue, intercultural interaction and mediation".
Participating cities were warmly welcomed by Dr. Einat Kalisch Rote, Mayor of the city of Haifa, who shared her views on the geopolitical situation of the country, the specific context of her city, and the political priorities of her municipality government which includes representatives of all main groups and pays a special attention to gender equality.
The programme of the visit also included presentations of intercultural projects and good practices related to intercultural dialogue, social cohesion and the use of cultural diversity of city residents for its development, as well as exchanges with citizens, civil society actors, and directors of cultural centres and institutions. Particularly interesting also the visit to Takwin, a business incubator born from an idea of Simon Peres. Takwin is – among other things, an investment fund which undertakes building an ecosystem and providing support for the talented Arab entrepreneurs to start new value-added Internet and mobile technologies start-ups. Besides, participants could get a guided tour of Haifa’s Bahá'í Gardens, the most important holy site of the Bahá'í faith. Interestingly enough, the gardens are an excellent example of diversity advantage: built on a land offered by the municipality but entirely managed by the Bahá'í followers, the gardens have become one of the most important attractions of the city, and one of the most famous postcards for visitors.
On the second day, participants could visit Beit Ha'Gefen Arab-Jewish Cultural Center, a local cultural institution implementing projects related mainly to Jewish-Arabic dialogue and reconciliation through artistic, educational and social activities. The institution tries to show that despite the situation of lasting conflict, peaceful and creative cooperation of representatives of these two communities is possible, which in a complicated local political and religious context is of particular importance. The Study visit closed with a tour of the Arab neighbourhood, including exchanges with the inhabitants, and delicious food tasting showing how interculturalism can bring also culinary advantages!