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Premier Greg Selinger, far right in white, Christine Melnick, Minister of Water Stewardship, centre, Mel Lazareck, (with glasses) MB’s Special Representative to Israel, and far left Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv. At Playground For Peace in Ajami neighborhood of Jaffa.

New play structure in Playground For Peace.

Members of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet at the inaugural ceremony of the park.

This photo was taken of the playground in Ajami, Jaffa in August by Rhonda Spivak, prior to all of the new enhanced structures and upgrades that were unveiled in the inaugral ceremony of the Play Ground for Peace. The park overlooks the sea.


Playground is project of Manitoba Shared Values Roundable, in partnership with JNF, Jaqueline Simkin and Tel-Aviv Foundation. Premier Announces $40,000 to Local Leadership Program At Inaugral Ceremony Held in Israel This Week.

By Rhonda Spivak, October 12, 2010

A playground for peace, facing the Mediterranean Sea, in the poorer neighborhood of  Ajami in Jaffa, where both Jews and Arabs reside, has been built  as a  joint  project of,  the Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable [ an organization  which fosters the common interests shared by Manitobans and Israelis ] the  KKL-JNF and  the Tel-Aviv Foundation. 

Christine Melnick, Manitoba’s Minister of Water Stewardship, who is also a  founder of the Roundtable and was a driving force in initiating the concept of a park for peace in  Ajami  spoke at the inaugural ceremony of the Playgound for Peace held on October 10. 

 Melnick noted that “Over a year ago, we were thinking about how to celebrate Tel Aviv's centennial…We got in touch with the Tel Aviv Foundation, and the idea of the Park for Peace came up, and we felt it was the perfect project. Earlier in the day [of October 10], before the ceremony, I walked along the beachfront to the park, in order to see it before the official ceremony. I walked by the play stations and noticed little footprints around them, which meant that the children had already claimed the playground as their own. My prayer is that we all move forward in peace."

The ceremony was attended by dignitaries from Canada and Israel, along with members of a Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s currently visiting Israel, and members of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, who will be performing in Israel and working with local children.

Melnick added: "Maybe these children, who will grow up playing together, will provide answers to some of the questions we have left unanswered. Maybe they will be able to solve some of the problems we have left unsolved." 

Mel Lazareck, President of JNF Prairie Region,  who was also appointed  last week by Premier Selinger as special representative for Manitoba to Israel for Economic and Community Relations, referred “to  Minister Melnick as one of  Israel’s most stalwart friends.”

Lazareck said: "The Park for Peace is the brainchild of the citizens of Manitoba. It is a means of celebrating democracy, multiculturalism, education and human rights, principles that mirror our shared values. “

He added that the  funding for the parks project came from the Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable, KKL-JNF and the Tel Aviv Foundation. " Larry Vickar, who was the 2009  honoree at the JNF Negev Gala in Winnipeg, gave a generous contribution to help realize this project, as did [former Winnipegger] Jacqueline Simkin of Miami, Florida. A lot of people have been instrumental in making this dream a reality…, and I would like to thank them all."

Premier of Manitoba Greg Selinger put the icing on the cake by announcing that the Government of Manitoba will be “contributing $40,000 in support of the local leadership program"  of the Arab-Jewish Community Centre in Jaffa.The program provides training to enable many young people within the community to become active in  neighborhood committees, gain relevant experience and engage in community building.

“ The children of Jaffa, who are growing up together, are future organizers, scientists, teachers and more, and we hope they will all contribute to a better future. We look forward to the great things that will come out of this project."

Selinger said that he was proud to be a partner in the creation of the playground for peace in Jaffa, ““where children who live together will come to play together. I would like to thank all the organizations who participated in this project, particularly KKL-JNF for bringing everyone together.”

The park is located next to the Jaffa's Arab-Jewish Community Center, and  during the ceremony  the  Center’s Girl's Choir sang beautifully in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Erez Rotem, JNF Emissary for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta told the Winipeg Jewish Review from Israel that "The Jewish National Fund and KKL is proud to be a partner in this project for peace. We are looking forward to continuing to on work with Minister Melnick and the Shared Values Roundtable group on other projects and to keep on developing the connections and relations between Israel and Manitoba."

Director General of KKL-JNF  Ms. Yael Shealtieli  noted  that “One of KKL-JNF's priorities is to help bring the diverse population of our small country together. This park shows what can be accomplished when everyone works together to create projects for life and coexistence.”

She added that  “Minister of Water Stewardship, Christine Melnick,  as “a guiding light.”, indicating that  Melnick's  love of Israel  "never ceases to amaze us."

Mayor of Tel Aviv Ron Hudai spoke fondly of his recent trip to Winnipeg : "I will never forget the warm reception I received in Winnipeg, when I was there last year to participate in celebrations in honor of Tel Aviv's centennial. It is my honor to reciprocate and host you in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.”

“Tel-Aviv-Jaffa is also sensitive to the needs of its less fortunate and needy, whether they are Jews, Christians, Muslims or migrant workers. We need to enable everyone to lead a life of dignity. Education is the key for closing the gap and providing equal opportunities for everyone,” he added.

"We cannot succeed alone. The support of our friends the world over is critical. This playground is a shining example of what can be achieved when all forces combine to achieve a common goal. It is my hope that this will be the first of many joint projects that we will see in the future."

Yael Dayan, the chairperson of the Tel-aviv  City Council  who was present at the  inauguration ceremony told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that "The park is lovely" and that  she was very pleased that the extensive renovations have ensured that  it "is also accessible by children with disabilities."

After Mayor Huldai finished speaking, he presented Premier Selinger with the Tel Aviv centennial medal, and Premier Selinger reciprocated with a framed picture of a polar bear, "something I don't think you have too many of in Israel."

Avraham Ben Shushan, outgoing president of the Tel Aviv Foundation, who  emceed the ceremony said that the ceremony  it was the last inauguration ceremony he would be presiding over,” and it was fitting that it should be one devoted to fostering peaceful relations between neighbors

After the unveiling of the plaque honoring the  partnering organizations that helped build the playground, attendees toured the Community Center.
According to  Rotem,  local children, who had been waiting patiently for the ceremony to conclude, ran to thee playground,  with shouts of joy and excitement.

After the dedication, RWB Principal Dancer Jaime Vargas and Soloists Amanda Green, Jo-Ann Sundermeier and Yosuke Mino  conducted dance workshops for children at the Arab-Jewish Community Center.

KKL-JNF and the Province of Manitoba have been collaborating and sponsoring joint projects and research on water-related issues for a number of years. The Second Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium was held in January 2010  hosted by KKL-JNF and followed on the footsteps of the  First Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium held in Winnipeg in August 2008.

In his remarks, Huldai no

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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