With sparkling eyes, an open smile and infectious laughter, Osnat Aram Daphna fought persistently, and at times fiercely, for coexistence education in the Galilee. Osnat also persistently fought the cancer that unrelentingly consumed her for the last months. She had many victories in her battle for coexistence education in the Galilee. But she lost her final battle with cancer on August 6, 2008.
As principal of Kalanit elementary school in Karmiel, Osnat led her Jewish staff, students and parents to new horizons of possibility – and friendships – with their Arab neighbors.
For her brave and ground-breaking work, Osnat received Tanenbaum’s Middle East – North Africa Women’s Peace Initiative award just two years ago in 2006 with her partner Najeeba Sirhan, principal of Al-Salaam School in the nearby Arab village of Majd el Krum. Though briefly a part of the Peacemakers in Action network, Osnat’s spirit inspired all she met – including her fellow religious peacemakers, Tanenbaum leadership and staff.
Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Osnat moved to the Galilee with her family, becoming principal of Kalanit School in 1994. Always committed to the children and their future, it was after the Intifada events of October 2000 that she met and began her work with Najeeba. Together, they overcame great obstacles, becoming close friends and trusted allies who built a growing relationship between their two schools and communities. With faith in the power of educators to transform communities torn by ignorance and fear, they work to ensure that coexistence citizenship will one day be as much a requirement for graduation in Israel as mathematics.
In the midst of violence and hatred, and even through her illness, Osnat spoke about love of humanity – as the greatest value and the most joyful pursuit. Among the many efforts by other groups and individuals, Osnat and Najeeba’s intensive work with their educators and students stands out as a steadily growing commitment of eight years. Simply called “The Project” what they created together is a model for the region and their country.
Osnat’s death leaves a void. But her life gave us an example to follow. To her husband, her three children, her extended family of blood and of choice, to Kalanit and Al-Salaam Schools, her partner and “sister” Najeeba, and to all those who knew her, she leaves a legacy of love and “chutzpah.” This legacy will live on in our hearts and – importantly to Osnat – must live on in our deeds.
We will miss Osnat, always.