The Open House in Ramle - a peace education center in Ramle, Israel
 

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Story of the House


For a short visual historic background - watch this presentation on Time.com.

The seed of Open House was sawn when Dalia Eshkenazi {now Landau} opened the door to three strangers who rang the bell in July 1967. It was right after the Six Day War and Dalia, like the rest of her people, felt a sense of the miraculous at the end of that war: not only was Israel delivered from the threat of being invaded on all sides by Syria in the North, Egypt in the South and Jordan in the East, but, in fact, it was all reversed; it was Israel, who in defending herself, invaded the Golan Heights from Syria, Sinai and Gaza from Egypt, The West Bank and Jerusalem from Jordan.

The Open House of Ramla

Dalia was alone at home when she opened the heavy green iron gate with the large heavy iron key which seemed to have always been there. The three young men stood shyly dressed in suits and ties in the summer heat. Dalia could sense their insecurity. One of the young men, Bashir Al Khayri, said they came to see their old home. They asked to come in.

Dalia who was alone at home at that moment had to make a quick decision: the voice of prudence told her “there they are the 3 of them and they are The Enemy”; yet there was another voice which told her she could trust these people, “they are coming from the West Bank to see their home, like many others”, she thought, “and they are ok people.” She could imagine herself searching her parents’ home in Bulgaria, standing before a closed door and wondering who would open it; except that the political context of such a visit would have been completely different.

On an inner impulse, or intuition perhaps, Dalia smiled and said “come in”..

{To read more—see Dalia’s letter to Bashir }

Opening the large heavy iron gate has begun a relationship with the Al Khayri family, which has, by now, lasted for over 40 years. The Open Letter to Bashir published first in the Jerusalem Post on the 14th of January 1988, has first made their story known to the world. Ever since, articles, books, poems and songs have been written about their connection as well as TV documentaries in the USA, England, Holland Italy France and Japan. It was the willingness of the two families, the Eshkenazi and Al Khayri to dedicate the house they both call ‘home’ to the children of Israel and Palestine that was the fruit of their encounter. Bashir and Dalia have persisted in their uneasy dialogue throughout the years despite their differences…

For a beautiful recounting of the story hear Sandy Tolan, the writer of The Lemon Tree

Open House Ramle

The City of Ramle

OPEN HOUSE Center in Ramle was founded in 1991 to further peace and coexistence among Israeli Arabs and Jews in this mixed city of 75,000 residents, 22% of which are Arabs. The Jewish-Arab ratio in Ramle parallels the Jewish-Arab ratio in the State of Israel generally, making Ramle a microcosm of the country. OPEN HOUSE is an even smaller microcosm, for the two families who have lived there before and after 1948 represent the two nations laying claim to the land of Israel/Palestine.

 

OPEN HOUSE has two inter-related goals: to provide educational and social opportunities to Arab children and their families through our Center for the Development of the Arab Child; and to be a place of encounter and cooperation between Jews and Arabs in the Ramle-Lod area through our Center for Jewish-Arab Coexistence.

The Center for the Development of the Arab Child seeks to improve the quality of social services available to the local Arab community. In the area of pre-school education, we inaugurated the first day-care center in Ramle for Arab children aged two to three years. The children attend the day-care center six days a week under the supervision of four qualified teachers. In addition to this “head-start” program for toddlers, other programs for Ramle Arabs have included a tutorial program for elementary school pupils, computer classes, and a telecommunications training course for Arab women.

 

The Center for Jewish-Arab Coexistence sponsors various joint activities for Jews and Arabs in the Ramle-Lod area. Through the center, OPEN HOUSE fosters greater mutual understanding between the two populations, forges friendships, and increases possibilities for cooperation among the citizens of this mixed city. Programs include our annual Summer Peace Camp, a Jewish-Arab Parents’ Network, and Coexistence Training Programs for teachers and other social service professionals, an Environmental Arts Program for Jewish and Arab youth, facilitated encounters between 7th and 8th grade students, sports tournaments, and holiday celebrations for Jewish and Arab families. Presently, the Itar School for Music is taking place in the house.