Bar Mitzva Boy's Gift

Bar Mitzva Boy's Gift





Bar mitzvah boy Adam Shurin from New York and younger brother Mark (7)

help themselves to the culinary delights of Amna Diaf in Kfar Kara.


When New Yorker Adam Shurin and his parents Michelle and Chip sat down to plan his recent bar mitzvah, the curly fair-haired youngster decided he didn’t only want to receive gifts but also to give.

When the Shurin’s sent out the bar mitzvah invitations they let it be known that they would be dividing monetary gifts between four good causes they had chosen together.  Three of those good causes were in America, one in Israel – the latter being the ‘Through Other Eyes’ project of Givat Haviva.

Guests arriving at the Shurin bar mitzvah did not find the usual bunch of fresh flowers on each table, but a card saying that the money the flowers would have cost had also be donated.  The Shurin’s also bought the tables and chairs the guests were seated on and around – and after the festivities were over, the extraordinary Shurin family and their more than special bar mitzvah boy donated the furniture to a local worthy cause.

‘Through Other Eyes’ is an innovative project focusing on coexistence in Israel using photography as a means to encourage groups of Arab and Jewish youth to come together for dialogue, to question their identity and that of the ‘other’ and promote the notion that Arabs and Jews can find a workable framework within which they can live together in peace – and take photographs to prove it!

Recently Adam, his parents, younger siblings Paul and Mark and other members of his extended family came to Israel on holiday and spent a day at Givat Haviva getting to know not only the campus, teaching staff and students but also the surrounding area of Wadi Ara.

Jewish youngsters from the Mevaot Irron high school and their Arab peers from the Kfar Kara participating in the present and eighth ‘Through Other Eyes’ project took time out to pop in to Givat Haviva to say hi to Adam and his family, sharing with them some of the highlights – and difficult moments – they had experienced through their own eyes, those of the ‘other’ and jointly through a camera lens whilst hopefully promoting a more positive future for all.

The funds contributed by the Shurin family and bar mitzvah guests and earmarked for ‘Through Other Eyes’ will be used to purchase digital cameras for the Givat Haviva Arts Center project under the directorship of Etti Amram, teachers Rauf Abu Fana – who also hails from Kfar Kara - and Tamar Avni-Shalit of Moshav Ramot Meir near Rehovot.

“I find it very encouraging indeed that a young Jewish boy and his family living the good life in New York should be concerned about relationships between Jews and Arabs here in Israel,” said one of the youngsters participating in the festive gathering in the Arts Center lobby, colorful balloons swaying to and fro above a large birthday cake that greeted the Shurin’s arrival.

Out and about in the Wadi Ara area, Adam and the Shurin family showed keen interest in learning more about the topography, present and former physical divides between the State of Israel and West Bank clearly visible from the Katzir vantage point before joining Amna Diaf, a graduate of Givat Haviva’s Women and Gender Studies Unit program, Women in Community at her home in Kfar Kara.


Rauf Abu Fana (left) chats with Michelle and Chip

 Shurin over lunch in Kfar Kara


Sitting on the second floor flat roof of the Diaf family home in the center of the 14,000 resident village, tables laden with typical, tasty Middle Eastern foods and fresh pita bread and the decorative brickwork and brightly painted domes of a few nearby mosques in the background, Adam seemed slightly over-whelmed at what his bar mitzvah wish of contributing something toward peace in the Middle East had actually brought about.



A few youngsters from the photographic project, Jewish and Arab teaching staff from Givat Haviva’s Arts Center, the Diaf and Shurin families and Givat Haviva’s New York representative Guy Tzfoni sat chatting on the roof together as the muezzin called out prayers.

“Wow - this is really incredible,” said Adam, the fresh faced kid from New York who really knows what it means to make a difference and the sense of achievement that comes with it.


By Lydia Aisenberg

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