Open House, Ramle
About the program
Open House is a grassroots, interfaith, and intercultural hub created, implemented and sustained by residents of the mixed city of Ramle.
The 1300-year-old city of Ramle is home to a mixed Arab-Jewish population and to the three Abrahamic religions. However, there is little in the way of genuine encounter between the two peoples and three main faith groups, and this in turn leads to the perpetuation of misinformation, stereotypes and prejudice.
Situated in a building saturated with both Arab and Jewish history, the Open House creates new opportunities for the Rossing Center to impact in a specific locality, and contribute to Ramle’s transition from a ‘mixed’ to a truly ‘shared’ city. Endorsed by the Friends of the Open House NGO and supported by the Ramle Municipality, the City Council and associated outreach organizations such as the Center for Youth and Development of Human Capital, and the Center for Community Mediation and Conflict Resolution, the Rossing Center’s Open House activities create a ‘safe’ space for cooperation, dialogue, and personal and communal empowerment.
History of the Open House
The Open House is much more than a physical space for actual encounters: its walls embody the very complexity of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Originally belonging to the Palestinian Al Khayri family, it was assigned to Jewish immigrants after the family’s expulsion from the city during Israel’s War of Independence. The house was subsequently purchased by the Jewish family and is today owned by their daughter, Dalia Eshkenazi Landau. In 1967, following the Six Day War, the original owners of the house visited the house and a longstanding dialogue and even friendship ensued. Due to the house’s unique history and following decades of interaction between the former and present owners – including substantial and substantive differences in perceptions regarding the conflict – the Jewish owner decided to dedicate the property to the advancement of peace and coexistence and, at the Al Khayri’s request, to strengthening the Palestinian population of Ramle.
The house became known as the Open House and an NGO was established to organize Jewish-Arab encounters with a focus on working with children and youth through a kindergarten, summer camps and other activities. Today, the pre-schoolers are served by the municipal local education authorities and the summer camps are now held at more spacious premises in Neveh Shalom. In 2019, the Open House NGO approached the Rossing Center to take over management of the Open House, and in 2020 the Rossing Center launched its wide-ranging new Open House programming.
Open House projects
The Rossing Center at the Open House is currently focusing on four spheres of activity:
Interfaith Leadership Council: The Rossing Center is cooperating with the Center for Community Mediation and Conflict Resolution to establish the Ramle Interfaith Leadership Council which will include religious leaders and key actors, including women leaders, who will meet regularly for interfaith study and take an active role in community relations, dealing with tensions and crises; offering support, networking capacities and backing for the involvement of community members in different ongoing projects.
The Intercultural Events Taskforce, representing the very diverse communities in both the Arab and Jewish sectors (such as Ethiopian and Bukharan communities), will conduct monthly events and work together to help establish and maintain the Open House as a community hub for intercultural and interfaith activities for all Ramle’s residents.
Ramle Women’s Empowerment
- Ramle Women’s Stories: A taskforce of young women college students (Ramle residents from all faith backgrounds) are interviewing older women residents to document their personal experiences and perspectives on the city’s complex history for presentation via an exhibition and as book. Click here to see the book.
- Women’s Status – Gender Equality and Anti-GBV. Educators in this taskforce will participate in Gender Equality and GBV training will explore how the status of women in the different faith communities and in the public sphere in Ramle can be improved and will conduct anti-GBV training programs within the education system, specifically among pedagogic advisors and teachers in high schools across Ramle.
The Open Space for Civil Initiatives and Public Dialogue will include a series of public interactive events in which Ramle residents introduce grassroots initiatives (such as a community garden) to garner support for their implementation and kick-start Jewish-Arab enterprises. This new initiative comes to address shared needs among residents of a city on the country’s economic periphery.
Book a visit!
Individuals and groups are welcomed to book a visit and learn about the history of the house and current projects.
Visits and lectures can be arranged in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
Open House Program Director - Vivian Rabia
Born and raised in Ramle, Vivian Rabia has more than 20 years of experience in professional group facilitation in the field of Jewish-Arab relations, personal identity, women’s empowerment and more. As an active member of the community in Ramle, Vivian directs the Rossing Center at the Open House. Moreover, Vivian has worked in other programs at the Rossing Center, in which she is still active as a consultant, such as Educating for Change, Dialogue and Identity, and Healing Hatred. Besides practical experience, Vivian has an MA in gender studies from Bar Ilan University.