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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 noted that Tel Aviv is the cultural and financial capital of Israel, and its population is constantly growing. “It was chosen by National Geographic magazine as one of the ten most beautiful coastal cities, and by the New York Times as one of the coolest cities in the world,” he said.

For our earlier article on  Mayor  Huldai’s visit to Winnipeg last year, see below:


By Rhonda Spivak , October 22, 2009

Over 500 people from diverse backgrounds attended an elaborate and lively multi-cultural concert celebrating Tel Aviv’s 100th Anniversary and sixty years of friendship between Israel and Canada, on  October 21 at the Pantages Theatre.

The 2nd annual concert was organized by the Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable  [MISVR] led by  the Provincial Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick.  Melnick founded the MISVR last year in order to recognize the values Manitobans and Israelis both share, such as democracy and free speech.

The concert opened with a spectacular performance by the Wushu Manitoba Training Centre, which performed a Chinese dance that is reserved for special occasions. Audience members were clearly delighted by the costumed dancers who joined together to form a large four foot dragon who walked through the audience.

This group was followed by was a unique aboriginal group, Walking Wolf Dancers, that performed a dance with hoola hoops, associated with promote healing and wholeness.  There were a   large number of aboriginal supporters of the State of Israel who  arrived from places such as The Pas in Northern Manitoba for the concert.

Following  entertainment by the well-known Rozmai Ukranian Dance Company, Rachel Manelson, director of the Tel-Aviv Foundation for  Europe, the UK and Canada, told the crowd, “ The horahs that Ashkenazi Jews dance were  derived from Ukranian and Russian  circle dances similar to the ones you just saw.”

Manelson arrived with the three term Mayor  of Tel-Aviv Ron Huldai, a former combat pilot and kibbutznik whose parents immigrated to Israel in the 1920’s.
After saying  he was  “proud to  be the Mayor of a dynamic city, that is tolerant and open,” Huldai joined  Israeli  singer Hila Eytan on stage as audience members were  invited  to come up to dance.   Enthusiastic adults and teens from a variety of diverse backgrounds filled the stage and danced a rousing round of horahs.

“In Tel-Aviv, we know how to dance,” said Mayor Huldai.

He noted that his  parents would never have dreamed  that Tel-Aviv, which began as a city of sand dunes built outside the old city walls of Jaffa , would have turned into the thriving city of arts and culture that it is today.

Following intermission, the audience was treated to a performance by Rockalypso, and then was introduced to the powerful vocals of teenage talent Cella Lao from Balmoral High School  who performed two songs in Italian.

The outstanding troupe of drummers and dancers in Viva Capoeira performed a high energy Brazilian dance, which was originally created by slaves who camouflaged their illegal practice of martial arts by turning it into a dance.

Earl Barish, Chairman of the Executive Board of B’nai Brith Canada  and Alan Yusim, of B’nai Brith were  presented with a plaque in honour of the 100th Anniversary of the organization this year.

The last performance was by our own Sara Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble, North America's oldest and largest Israeli folk dance ensemble, which has performed not only in Canada, but in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Mexico, in addition to Israel.

Barish, who introduced the group, said “One of our goals is to get this troupe back to perform in Israel and I have talked to the Mayor of Tel-Aviv about having them coming to his wonderful city.”

After the upbeat performance, Manelson said “It was amazing to see Chai perform. I would never have imagined that there would be such a Jewish group here. They were great.”

Sharon Blady, MLA for Kirkfield Park, Jonathon Kroft, President of the Jewish Federation her, Mel Lazareck, President of the JNF-Prairie Region,  Marra Messinger, of the  Canadian Committee for the Tel-Aviv Foundation, and  Pamela Rebello, executive Director of the  India School of Dance, all participated in the event by introducing various performers.

Princess Adenrele Adeniran-Ogunsanya from Lagos state, Nigeria, who attended the event while she  happened to be in the city said, “ It was a great evening.  I have never been to Israel, but maybe I will go. I am talking to Christine Melnick about this.”

Former Winnipeger Nathan Jacobson, who now lives in Tel-Aviv, flew in to the city especially for the event.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.