My documentary showing a side in life in Israel/Palestine that will amaze you!

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Please view my documentary about my life in Haifa since I immigrated to this wonderful city in 2007. It has earned its title of “The City of Peaceful Coexistence”. 
Leaders throughout the world support these efforts.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws6kaH0EDUw

Scenes from a Haifa Mall


The Panorama Towers viewed from Hadar

The Ego Food and Coffee in the world famous Dan Panorama Hotel Mall is my favorite place in Haifa to eat Cinnamon rolls and sip an occasional vodka and diet coke. The cafe is located in the center of an upscale shopping mall within the hotel facility. There are two levels of jewelry shops, restaurants, clothing stores, and my spiritual home – the local Habad gift shop and study center. The building is modern and well lighted, unfortunately it seems to always have a musky smell perhaps that of mold in this humid metropolis, and the background music always seems just a bit too loud. The hotel is part of the Dan Hotels Corporation founded by the Federman family in 1947. They own the world famous King David Hotel in Jerusalem and luxury hotels throughout Israel. They operate a school for chefs in Haifa and help cater The Israeli Defense Forces. I am planning to study sugar sculpturing 101 at the vaunted institution of higher learning.

The Ego is owned by Serge and Hannah. They are vatikkim (or old timers) in Israel. Serge is a French oleh or immigrant who came to Israel in 1948. Hannah and family came during the same period from Chelm Poland, yes the famous home of Polish humor. Both of them were fortunate to come from families that managed to escape the horrors of the holocaust. They have two sons in their twenties and five grandchildren.

Sitting at the Ego cafe

The cafe serves family style meals in respects similar to a mid-priced cafe in the states. Patrons and employees come from every nation and background on earth. The world famous Bahai Gardens is a few hundred yards behind the hotel, which means that we hear several languages spoken every time we enjoy the culinary delights of The Ego. Baha’i visitors come from all over the world. The languages of Israel, Hebrew, Arabic, and English are dominant but Spanish and Russian are widely spoken as well. My favorite servers Samantha and Eileen are from Argentina and converse in Spanish at home and work. My American style Espanol is a great source of joy to them due to my accent plus hesitancy in pronouncing the words. We just laugh and enjoy the sense of camaraderie. Samantha is about twenty five and studying graphic arts. Eileen is just twenty and recently completed two years of national service in place of the required military service for women in Israel. Her family is Haredi or Orthodox and she chose to do volunteer service for our country. She had the option as a religious Jew to avoid any commitments. Eileen, like many Israelis never forgets the lesson of Nazi tyranny and found a way to serve her country. We have no other choice. Many of our enemies still vow our destruction.

Katia is another one of my favorite servers. She is razor thin, aged twenty, and a former citizen of Russia. She informed us yesterday with great joy that she just got married. We inquired about the details. All of us were taken by surprise. She responded by telling us that they eloped to Cyprus. It was not done simply for romantic purposes. She and her spouse are not from religious backgrounds and never received formal Jewish studies. The laws relating to marriage in Israel are strictly Halacha based. As a result, non-traditional Jewish couples are forced to submit to an Orthodox marriage ceremony with an Orthodox rabbi and are compelled to classes on family purity. No Israeli may marry outside his faith community. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish or whose Jewish ancestry is in doubt are unable to marry at all inside Israel.

Britt and Katia

Mati is another of the employees of The Ego. She is twenty and from Jerusalem. Her family is very Haradi or Orthodox Jewish. They immigrated from Morocco in 1952 along with tens of thousands of Olim from Arabic countries. Many of the citizens of Israel come from similar backgrounds. She has jet black hair and is a student of architecture at The University of Haifa. Sadly, my friend is now living in Haifa because she fled her Orthodox home to study and learn about the world outside of traditional Judaism. Her family in many ways has rejected Mati. “I wanted to learn to be an architect she moaned”. Woman should have the right to learn, study, and travel. Her story is not unusual in this complicated nation. She is leaving next month to work in Canada for a year. She wants to earn money of course, but fine tuning her English skills is her main goal. This is very common among young Israelis.

Earl and Mati

Serge is a hair stylist. He and his wife also own the upscale beauty salon in the mall. The services include pedicures, manicures, and facials. Liah who performs these wonderful services is in her late 30s, married, and the mother of two teen aged sons. 
She was born and raised in a Kibbutz or collective settlement in northern Israel. Her family moved to Haifa five years ago to enjoy the benefits of city life. “We were just plain bored and grew tired of agricultural life” explained Liah. The trend from rural to urban life in Israel is fairly widespread as it is in much of the world.

Today is Monday and, as usually is the case, the mall is filled with shoppers, employees, and hotel guests from virtually every background and nation on earth. I am writing this post while listening to numerous languages spoken simultaneously around me. Jews, Christians, Druze, Muslims and of course Baha’i work together, shop together, and of course enjoy the food at the wonderful cafes. The is a reflection of life in this wonderful city. The manager of the elegant Dan Panorama dining room is a Christian with Italian roots. His family came here long before 1948.
Another of the cafe managers, Muad is a follower of the Ahmadiyya stream of Islam. There are about one hundred million Ahmadis in the world. They rarely get much attention due to the fact that are universally peaceful. 

Ego Cafe (All rights reserved to http://www.haifacity.com site)

Haifa indeed earns its reputation as The City of Peaceful Coexistence. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, and others live together with a fair degree of respect and freedom. The mall is a panorama of life in our beloved city. People often ask me why life in Israel and the rest of the region is not similar to the one that we share. The answer is that this is a unique and separate urban entity. The conditions that exist in Haifa differ from those in other communities in our region. Is life in Detroit the same as San Francisco? Hebron and Ramallah are also different places. Israel has a wide variety of political parties, social views, family backgrounds, and ethnic origins. The same is true of our Palestinian neighbors. Life here does offer hope that people can live together in harmony in this troubled region. Will it happen? Haifa is an example of one community in this region where it has been done. Hopefully, others will do the same.

The Baha’i in Haifa Israel

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Haifa has a multicultural and multi-religious population of 260,000, with a Jewish prevalence (91%). The well-integrated Arab minority is Christian (4.5%), Muslim (3.5%) and Druze (1%). Road signs in Cyrillic, alongside Hebrew, Arabic and English, are signs of the extensive Russian community here (25%). It is known as the city of peaceful coextensive and the third largest city in Israel. I am blessed to live in the Mercaz (central) community in Haifa. The community includes some middle class and upscale housing, several swank hotels, the city zoo, and of course the world famous Baha’i Gardens. 

There is a popular expression in Israel: “In JERUSALEM people pray, in HAIFA they work, in TEL AVIV they have fun”. Haifa gives the impression of a world light-years away from the religiosity of Jerusalem and the skyscrapers of Tel Aviv. Here everything is different; the city is positioned on top of a magnificent bay, and although the typical white stone that is characteristic of the whole country prevails, the buildings and skyscrapers have a variety of styles, and the port is busy with bustling commerce. The many industries in the area are mainly concentrated in the so called Krayot, surrounding villages. The city is dotted with gardens. The most prominent is at the world center of the Baha’i religion, with the tombs of the Bab (Mirza Muhammad Ali) and Abbas Efendi, son and successor of the founder of the faith, Baha’ullah. The presence of the Baha’i for so long persecuted in various Middle East countries, is evidence of the tolerant social fabric of this city.

Haifa is the international headquarters for the Baha’i Faith, which began midst persecution in Persia in the mid-19th century. Baha’i s believe in the unity of all religions and believe that messengers of God like Moses, Jesus and Muhammad have been sent at different times in history with doctrines varying to fit changing social needs, but bringing substantially the same message.

The most recent of these heavenly teachers, according to the Baha’i s, was Baha’ullah (1817-92), whose arrival was heralded by the Bab. Baha’ullah was exiled by the Turkish authorities to Acre (Akko), where he wrote his doctrines and died in peace at the Bahji House.

The Bab’s remains were hidden for years after he died a martyr’s death in front of a firing squad in 1850. Eventually, the Bab’s remains were secretly carried to the Holy Land. During one of his visits to Haifa in 1890, Baha’ullah pointed out to his son the spot on Mount Carmel where the remains of the Bab should be laid to rest in a befitting tomb.

At first, the Bab’s tomb was housed in a simple six-room stone building, constructed in 1899-1909. In 1921, the Baha’i leader Abdu’l-Bahá (eldest son of Baha’ullah) was also buried in the shrine.

In 1948-53, Shoghi Effendi oversaw a major enlargement to the shrine designed in the Neo-Classical style by architect William Sutherland Maxwell. The Seat of the Universal House of Justice, where the governing body of the Baha’i Faith meets, was added in 1975-83. Also Neo-Classical in style, it was designed by architect Husayn Amanat.

The famous Baha’i Gardens (a.k.a. Terraced Gardens) were designed by architect Fariborz Sahba and constructed between 1990 and 2001.   In 2008, UNESCO named the Baha’i Shrine a World Heritage Site along with the shrine and tomb of Baha’u’llah in Acre.

I enjoy wandering around my community, visiting the zoo, taking the daily tour of the gardens in English, visiting the Cinameteque theater and several museums which are in the mercaz, and of course eating. The Mercaz houses several high quality restaurants as well as your expected McDonald’s and lots of pizza and falafel shops.

My favorite gift shop in the area is Ahuva Art & Craft owned by Ahuva Kahana. The word Ahuva means beloved in English. Ahuva has been creating, designing and marketing jewelry and gifts since 1976, at which time she began distributing art and jewelry items of her original design and the design of other Israeli artists. She originated the idea of opening a gift shop in Haifa having in mind the needs of the Believers of the Baha’i faith, Jews and Christians. The gift shop is located in a very central and accessible area, just a short walk from the Baha’i Shrine, the Baha’i Gardens and the center of the Carmel. It is very important for Ahuva to pay special attention to the requirements and desires of all the religions. You can find in her shop all items regarding the Baha’i faith, including original jewelry and gifts. You can also find items regarding the Jewish traditional holidays and observances as well as kaballah jewelry and symbols. She also sells many jewelry and gift items for the Christian religion. Ahuva, as is true in the case of many residents of Haifa, is active in promoting unity in Haifa and in our region. She has a special relationship with followers of the Baha’i throughout the world.

During my latest shopping spree Rabbi Edgar Nof and I agreed to promote an interfaith activity close to the entrance of the Baha’i Gardens in the very near future. We are planning to invite Jewish, Baha’i, Muslim, and Christian members of our community to sing together, eat lots of food, discuss life in our city, and tell the world what we do in the City of Peaceful Coexistence. Many Muslim, and Christian leaders in Haifa already have loved the idea and we have began to plan the activity.

Building Bridges for Peace in Haifa, Israel

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I immigrated to Israel five years ago from The United States at the age of fifty nine. I can think of no nation or place anywhere that has more spiritual significance than “The Land of Canaan” It is the birthplace of the three major faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is the place where King David wrote the 23rd psalm, where Jesus of Nazareth promoted ideas and values that have changed humanity. In the Quran, the inspired scripture that Muhammad brought to the Arabs, venerates the great prophets of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It speaks of Solomon’s “great place of prayer” in Jerusalem, which the first Muslims called City of the Temple.

Haifa is the home of the Tomb of Elijah the Prophet considered one of the holiest and most venerated shrines to Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze alike.

Haifa is a city dotted with gardens. The most prominent is at the world center of the Baha’i religion, with the tombs of the Bab (Mirza Muhammad Ali) and Abbas Efendi, son and successor of the founder of the abor.faith, Bahá’u’lláh. The presence of the Baha’i, for so long persecuted in various Middle East countries, is evidence of the tolerant social fabric of this city. The greatest challenge facing this small and brave nation is to promote the values of peace in an area filled with strife and hatred. “The Golden Rule” is a common link in the three major faiths that can and will draw us together to promote Shalom and Salaam. It is happening in Haifa the city of peaceful coexistence.

I have been blessed to participate in many interfaith efforts in the past five years to promote peace through dialogue in Haifa.This holiday season I rejoiced to participate in several activities in Haifa to promote harmony. My favorite was an interfaith sports event hosted by the local Muslim Ahmadiyya school in the Kabbabir community in Haifa.

 On Wednesday, Dec 19th, 2012, between Hanukkah and Christmas, 50 teens: Israeli Jews and Muslim got together in Games for Peace organized by a new association called GESHARIM LETIKVAH: BRIDGES FOR PEACE- HEALING THE WORLD BY BRINGING HEARTS TOGETHER.
The new President of the association, Prof Jesse Lachter emphasized on what is the motto and core value of this new NGO: “Love Builds Bridges”.
 Reform Movement Rabbi Dr Edgar Nof started the games by reciting a Prayer for Peace. Then the teen girls played a basketball game for peace, while the teen boys play soccer. The Jewish children came from the Open School in Haifa with their teacher Ya’ir Shachar. The game referee was Manar principal of the Ahmadiyya Muslim School in the Kabbabir neighbor of Haifa. Previous to every game the teens shook hands, and everybody wins by promoting Peace in Israel and by bringing hearts together. Imam Muhammad Sharif declared that their slogan is “Love for all, Hatred for none”. The Ahmadiyya are a world wide movement of more than one hundred million followers dedicated to peace and universal brotherhood. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav has gone so far as to call them “Reform Arabs.” Most of the two thousand Ahmadis in Israel live in Kabbabir, they are leaders in the business, cultural and most importantly spiritual areas of our community.
 “You don’t hear about us because we don’t throw rocks at buses,” stated on Ahmadi leader. “We believe that nothing can be achieved through hatred and hostility.”
 All the kids said at the end of the games that it was too short and that they want to meet again. We have planned more activities for the spring. Below a Rabbi and Imam build bridges for peace.