Mission and Goals
What is heart to heart's mission?
Heart to Heart exists to support a new generation of Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel to become leaders who recognize the importance of building an inclusive shared society, and who have the skills and relationships needed to make it a reality.
What is the program's "End Goal"?
Heart to Heart does not have a singular "end goal" with respect to a political solution to the conflict. Rather, we believe that the best thing we can do is equip our youth with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary to navigate an ever-changing context and the motivation and passion to continue working for change together. With that in mind, we educate on the basis of, and toward the values of mutual recognition, understanding and respect, compassion, empathy, and the appreciation of difference and diversity. We believe that the tools of active listening and non-violent communication are essential for navigating difficult conversations and that it is only by having those conversations that authentic and mutually acceptable solutions to conflict will emerge.
What about normalization?
Heart to Heart goes beyond the average 'encounter' program, which often shies away from important political discussions for the sake of congeniality. At Heart to Heart, we believe there is great value in building individual relationships among our participants. However, we also believe that it is imperative for our participants to recognize that their different experiences of Israeli citizenship are neither normal nor acceptable. We are committed to discussion the power relations at play in our programming context openly and honestly because we believe that doing so is in the best interests and service of our goals and our participants' learning and growth.
Heart to Heart rejects the idea that bringing youth together to meet each other and become friends is an end in itself. At the same time, by getting to know one another on a personal level, participants see past stereotypes and generalizations and come to understand the diversity of experiences, perspectives and concerns of members of the other community. As a result of their friendships they develop a lasting sense of care for and investment in the other community's present and future.
Our staff work to cultivate an atmosphere of trust that enables participants to express their perspectives, hopes, and fears; sharing and listening with openness and empathy. Program activities are designed to prompt participants to challenge their assumptions and seek out new knowledge and points of view from one another.
Founders and Partners
Who founded Heart to Heart?
Heart to Heart was founded in 2011 as a partnership between Givat Haviva in Israel and Hashomer Hatzair - Camp Shomria in Canada.
Givat Haviva is a non-profit organization founded in 1949 as the national education center of the Kibbutz Federation in Israel. It is dedicated to promoting mutual responsibility, civic equality and cooperation between divided groups in Israel as the foundation for building a shared future and shared society – critical elements of a sustainable and thriving Israeli democracy. To this end, the Center for a Shared Society at Givat Haviva serves as a catalyst in activating divided communities to work together towards achieving their common goals, while engaging in a process of interaction, support and empowerment. This is done through facilitating cross-community projects; leading training and capacity building activities; convening seminars, workshops and conferences to cultivate concrete ideas that foster change; and translating these ideas into action. A leader in its field, Givat Haviva is a recipient of the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education for its longstanding work in promoting Jewish-Arab dialogue and reconciliation and has been granted Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
Since it's founding in 1923, Hashomer Hatzair - Camp Shomria Canada has offered the highest quality informal education to prepare young people for real life, as they practice leadership skills, advocate for social and environmental justice, and build connection to progressive Jewish values and Israel. In its youth-led community, young people build life-long friendships as they take ownership over their experience, and develop their sense of agency and responsibility for shaping the world in accordance with their values. To that end, Hashomer Hatzair - Camp Shomria co-founded Heart to Heart in 2011 as a way to mobilize its almost century old, proven pedagogy of youth leadership and leverage its central resource of summer camp to make a tangible difference in furthering social justice and equality in Israel.
Who makes Heart to Heart happen on a daily basis?
Day to day operations are managed by our dedicated staff team, co-led by Jenny Isaacs, based in Toronto and Samira Assi, based in Israel. Our team is comprised of Palestinian and Jewish staff members located in both Israel and Canada. We strive for parity in representation within our team as we believe it is essential to model the type of joint leadership we are working to create, and that the best decisions are made when diverse perspectives have a seat at the table.
Heart to Heart is made possible by a dedicated team of volunteers, and committed program alumni and parents. See the governance page for details.
How is the program funded?
Heart to Heart is funded primarily by individual donors who choose to invest in the impact we are having through individual gifts or through family foundations. As of 2018, we have partnered with the New Israel Fund of Canada to support our ever-expanding alumni programming in Israel. Our two parent organizations, Givat Haviva and Hashomer Hatzair - Camp Shomria Canada also support local programming, primarily, though not exclusively, through in-kind support. Heart to Heart does not receive any direct funding from the governments of Israel or Canada. We are also able to accept and provide charitable receipts to American supporters through the Givat Haviva Educational Foundation in New York.
Participants are responsible for covering their flights to Canada. All other costs are supported through our fundraising efforts. We strive to make our programs as accessible as possible by reducing financial barriers through scholarships when needed.
How is Heart to Heart Governed?
Heart to Heart falls under the fiduciary responsibility of Givat Haviva and Hashomer Hatzair - Camp Shomria Canada's boards of directors. Most governance responsibilities are executed by the Heart to Heart Fundraising and Community Building Committee (HHC) in Canada, which reports to the board of our Canadian parent organization. The HHC is responsible for all matters of concern relating to raising funds for Heart to Heart both by holding special events, soliciting gifts, and making people aware of Heart to Heart’s mission and objectives. The committee also has a “value-added” function by providing strategic vision, leading and strengthening Heart to Heart through the establishment and monitoring of programs, goals, principles, policies and priorities for review and final approval by the board of Hashomer Hatzair - Camp Shomria Canada and Givat Haviva as needed. Please contact us if you have further questions or are interested in getting involved.
The alumni community, both its vision and programming, is primarily governed and led by the Alumni Leaders Forum, which is exactly what it sounds like. Dedicated alumni from all cohorts meet regularly with our year-round staff to discuss the future direction for the community, programming priorities, and community engagement and activism. Meetings are held via zoom and in person bi-monthly at minimum and up to weekly prior to major events such as the annual alumni conference.
Is Heart to Heart a registered charity?
Although Heart to Heart is not its own registered charity, it operates under the umbrella of our Canadian parent organization, Hashomer Hatzair - Camp Shomria Canada. All eligible donations made to Heart to Heart in Canada receive a charitable tax receipt issued by our Canadian parent organization. For more information on making a donation in Israel or the USA, please contact us for instructions.
Who can become a Heart to Heart Participant?
Heart to Heart summer camp participants are youth who have just completed Grade 9 and who have participated in Givat Haviva's Children Teaching Children (CTC) program. Eligible youth will be invited to apply by their CTC facilitators and teachers. Applicants will submit a written essay and participate in an interview held in their first language and in English. Selected candidates will be youth who demonstrate curiosity and openness, interest in the themes of the program, leadership qualities, and the capacity to navigate an experience abroad in English. Participants are expected to commit to ongoing alumni programming following summer camp throughout the next school year.
Where do Heart to Heart Participants come from?
All Heart to Heart participants are citizens of the State of Israel living in Wadi Ara, also known as the Northern Triangle around Kfar Qara, Umm al-Fahm, and Baqa al-Gharbiyee. This area is characterized by the geographic proximity of many Arab and Jewish communities, towns, kibbutzim, and moshavim. Despite the geographic proximity of these communities, there is a high degree of social segregation as a result of systemic separation, language barriers, fear, mistrust, and a general culture of habitual non-interaction. Heart to Heart aims to transform this reality and takes advantage of the opportunities presented by working with youth who live five to twenty-five minutes away from one another.
Why doesn't Heart to Heart work with youth from the west bank and gaza?
Although our participants are co-citizens, they do not experience that citizenship uniformly or equally. Heart to Heart is dedicated to creating an equitable, truly democratic and shared society for all citizens of Israel. We believe that this program can serve as a spark for the next generation of leaders, both Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel, that will connect them on a path toward an inclusive shared society.
We also believe that working toward Palestinian self-determination on a national scale, and ending the occupation is a central part of achieving our larger goal of all people in the region living with peace, security, dignity and liberation. Communities living under occupation and blockade have different needs that require different solutions. We admire and commend many of the organizations that are working towards these various solutions and with these communities, and consider Heart to Heart to be one initiative in this network. We are an active participant in ALLMEP (Alliance for Middle East Peace) forums and look for opportunities to connect and collaborate with other organizations who work on both sides of the Green Line and in Gaza.
Involving participants from the West Bank and Gaza is beyond the scope of the Heart to Heart program, which works within time, resource and political limitations. In addition, by involving youth who are geographically close to one another and who share citizenship, we believe that there is a greater opportunity for a small program, such as Heart to Heart, to make a lasting impact.
How are parents and families involved?
Heart to Heart engages the whole family in formal and informal ways. Parents develop a sense of community through pre-camp parent meetings, daily communication while their teens are abroad, and ongoing parent and family gatherings after the youth return home. Siblings and cousins often attend family programming as well. Camp is such a powerful experience that participants can't help but talk about it when they get home so families often report that dinner table conversation becomes focused on Heart to Heart and the values of the program long after camp ends.
Why is summer camp held in canada?
Givat Haviva runs many programs based in their campus in Israel as well as in participating schools and communities. In these spaces they challenge participants to question their identities and worldviews, but this work is made more difficult by the fact that participants return home to their families and friends each day, and are immediately surrounded by the ‘status quo’ once again. Holding the program far away from their everyday lives provides participants with the space they need to develop their relationships and opinions independent of their home environment, and to fully process the programming in which they are participating.
For most of our participants, Heart to Heart is the first time they have traveled so far from home, and certainly the first trip they have taken without their families. Experiencing this new adventure together is an important step in solidifying the sense of community and trust within the group, and helps participants to form a unique group identity.
Furthermore, Canada itself has a lot to offer in the way of content. Programming includes a visit to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, as well as discussions about bilingualism and the history and present day realities of Canada’s First Nations communities. These topics all offer valuable opportunities for participants to explore issues of democracy, multiculturalism, diaspora communities, discrimination and inclusion from new perspectives, and make connections to these aspects of their own society.
what happens when participants go home after camp?
Each cohort's transition home and reintegration into their communities is unique and to some degree influenced by the current political climate. Nevertheless, we have found that each of our cohorts goes home with a high degree of motivation and enthusiasm to continue their journey, often talking non-stop about their time at camp to the joy and irritation of their families and friends, and organizing social gatherings in their homes and at local cafes, movie theatres, malls, etc. In addition to an intensive academic year of cohort-based alumni programming, following their summer at camp, participants also become part of a larger community of Heart to Heart alumni. Learn more about alumni programming in the alumni section of our What We Do page.
in what language does the program operate?
Heart to Heart's summer camp program is officially run in English and that is the dominant language at camp. Although they are encouraged to speak in English, participants are always invited to express themselves in the language of their choice and are encouraged to act as translators for one another. Our summer staff includes English, Arabic, Hebrew (and French) speakers in order to support participants through out the summer.
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