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New Hope for Peace in Israel/Palestine?

news in Middle East

The horrors of war cannot be described strictly from the aspect of pure physical suffering. How can you ever truly describe in world the loss of a child due to a bomb strike or a parent as the result of terrorism? Tragically, the people of Israel and Palestine have endured more than sixty five years of warfare. The struggle for the control of Palestine started long before the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. One of the saddest parts of this conflict is that both sides have been the victims of injustices from outside of the region. Centuries of foreign conquerors and political exploitation have brought misery to Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze in this part of the world.

Israelis and Palestinians both are fighting for their right to self-determination and security. The constant fear of an imminent outbreak of fighting, children sleeping in safe shelters, parents unable to work and support their families, and fearing for the safety of friends and loved ones has been a way of life in this region for decades. Hopefully, this current round of talks will produce movement toward peace.

I was honored to be chosen by The Focolare, the largest Catholic outreach movement in the world to write an Israeli perspective on the recent fighting with Gaza. Below is the story:

This current round of fighting in the south has been very depressing because of the fact that it had to happen. There has been no political way of getting the Hamas terrorists to stop firing explosives at our civilians.

This, tragically, has been the history of life in Israel since the Jewish people returned to their ancestral homeland in 1948. Many of my friends and neighbors have fought in several wars. Many of them spent their early childhood sleeping in bomb shelters.

I am particularly saddened by the fact that I know many Palestinians through interfaith activities.

Hopefully by the time the fighting ends there will be some important changes in our lives in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. Most of us yearn for the day when the people who have been enduring such rocket fire will be able to live normal lives. The missile attacks have spread from the south to much of Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Citizens throughout Israel live in constant fear of missile and terrorist attacks.
Our friends and neighbors in the Palestinian territories are suffering from our need to defend our right to exist. We are all saddened by the deaths and injuries of everyone on both sides of this battle.

We pray that a ground war be avoided. However, no one knows which way this engagement will turn. We are bracing ourselves for the worst, yet still hoping for the best.

Defeat in this region is not an option for Jews. The greatest hope is for a political settlement. Peace treaties will surely involve compromise. Peace will allow our children and grandchildren and their grandchildren to live without fear of being bombed. They will attend their schools safely, without the need for air raid sirens and bomb shelters. We would rejoice to see our Palestinian friends and neighbors live in peace and dignity with us. I am convinced that most Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze citizens in our region yearn for the fighting to end.

Until that day, we in Israel do not despair of the situation, and we make the best of what has been, until now, a satisfying and fulfilling life within the shadow and pain of the constant state of military engagement with many enemies.

Posted by eshugerman 09:58 Tagged israel war peace haifa palestine gaza focolare Comments (0)

The Muslim Ahmadiyya in Haifa Israel

Prophets of Peace.

Most people outside Israel are not aware of the fact that 25% of Israel’s population, are not from a Jewish background, and among them are Christians, Muslims, and Druze. Many people outside of this region are not aware of the diversity of streams within these faiths. One of the most wonderful joys of life in Israel is that each of the major religions is represented by a myriad of religious streams. The differences aren't just theological, but are social, political, financial, and educational. For example, there are four Arab political parties in the governing body of Israel – The Knesset. There are numerous Jewish political parties with a wide divergence of philosophy and goals.

Haifa is the spiritual center of the Ahmadiyya in Israel. The meaning of the word Ahmadiyya in Arabic means stream. This is a Muslim religious movement numbering in the millions worldwide . The majority of the movements’ members are in Pakistan and India, but they have a significant population in over 195 countries in the world. In Israel their numbers are small, and they are primarily located in the community of Cabbabir. This is a village within Haifa, which is the third largest city in Israel. I live next to the pleasant community of mid-priced homes, tree lined streets, parks, and small cafes. The lower part of Cabbabir has a wonderful view of the sea. I love to wander around the neighborhood and mingle with the local residents. Arabic and Hebrew are widely spoken and some English.

The Ahmadiyya is an Islamic religious movement founded in India near the end of the 19th century, originating with the life and teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908). Mirza Ghulam Ahmad stated that he had been bestowed the attributes of all Biblical and non-Biblical Prophets, in accordance with a verse of the Qur’an which states that all prophets will converge into one person in the future. Mirza Ghulam. Ahmad stated that this was due to his receiving revelation from G-d in which G-d called him:

He claimed that he was the Mujaddid (divine reformer) of the 14th Islamic century, the promised Messiah and Mahdi awaited by Muslims. The adherents of the Ahmadiyya sect are referred to as Ahmadis or Ahmadi Muslims. Ahmadi emphasis lay in the belief that Islam is the final law for humanity as revealed to Muhammad and the necessity of restoring to it its true essence and pristine form, which had been lost through the centuries. Thus, Ahmadis view themselves as leading the revival and peaceful propagation of Islam. The Ahmadis were among the earliest Muslim communities to arrive in Britain and other Western countries.

Orthodox Muslims consider the Ahmadi movement to be heretical and non-Muslim for a number of reasons. The primary reason is the question of the finality of prophethood, since they believe members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community do not regard the Islamic prophet Muhammad as the last prophet. Mainstream Muslims do not accept Ghulam Ahmad to have fulfilled the prophecies about the Promised Messiah and Mahdi. According to mainstream Muslims, Ghulam Ahmad’s failure to establish a perfect worldwide Muslim government invalidates his claim to be the promised Mahdi and Messiah and hence he is seen as a false prophet. The Ahmadis suffer discrimination in many Muslim nations due to their interpretation of Islam and in other nations that see all Muslims as violent or as cultural threats.

Ahmadis also hold that the Muslims have erred with regard to the rights of creation for they, unjustly raising the sword and calling it Jihad, have misunderstood the concept and purpose of jihad in Islam. The motto of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is “Love for All, Hatred for None.”

Islam, a name given by Allah to this religion (Quran 5:4), is an Arabic word which literally means obedience and peace. ISLAM is derived from the Arabic root “SALEMA”: peace, purity, submission and obedience. So Islam would mean the path of those who are obedient to Allah and who establish peace with Him and His creatures. Its follower are called Muslims.

The Ahmadiyya live as peaceful and responsible citizens of Israel, as they do in all countries in which they inhabit. I have been blessed to participate in many interfaith activities during my five years in Haifa. Several of these activities have been with my Ahmadi friends and neighbors. My favorite was a youth soccer tournament held at their school in Haifa in October of 2009. Jewish and Muslim youth enjoyed a beautiful fall day of sports, pizza, and fellowship! Rabbi Edgar Nof brought a group of young sports enthusiasts to play soccer, basketball and build friendships with their Muslim counterparts. The coach of the Jewish team was a visiting Southern Baptist envoy from Texas named Timothy Crowe. We all enjoyed a great experience and built new friendships that we still enjoy and treasure today.

Posted by eshugerman 01:43 Archived in Israel Tagged israel peace haifa islam judaism ahmadiyya coexistence Comments (0)

HERE I AM AGAIN, ALONE in Israel

A senor widow in Israel

By Sharon Amov and Earl Shugerman: Sharon is an eighty six year old widow and recent immigrant to Israel. I immigrated to Israel at the age of fifty nine alone as well. She is from California. My home was in Colorado. Below Sharon tells her story.

My dear husband died a few years ago. I was desolate. The loneliness was overwhelming. I missed him terribly. For many years I struggled to regain my balance, and then I decided to move to Israel, to live near my daughter and family. They made aliyah or immigration to eretz Israel fifteen years ago.

I remember my flight to Israel, peering out of the airplane window, viewing the outline of Israel's shoreline. Many people in the plane were clapping as we approached the landing field. My response was a combination of quiet joy and apprehension.

“What will it be like to actually LIVE in Israel” I thought to myself? I have visited my daughter and my family s often, but always with my husband. To reside alone in Israel....although I had made the decision seemed absolutely unreal to me.

Southern California was my home since birth. I was eighty-four years of age and frightened. Terrified might be a better description.

My daughter and son-in-law would be waiting for me in the public area. I picked up my luggage and off I went to my uncertain future.

There she was, my one and only daughter....waving at me, all smiles. Perhaps she expected me to be exactly as she had last seen me, a year or so ago. And I expected her to be as I had last seen her. Oh our expectations--how very difficult, if not impossible to meet.

How unprepared I was for the depth of pain, separation from relatives in the United States, and lifetime friends, along with familiar voices and places. I missed the beautiful beaches, the familiar shopping malls, and even the traffic jams at rush hour.

We manage to arrive at the car in the airport parking lot, numb with our own overwhelming feelings. We drove to the nice little house that my daughter and son-in-law had prepared for my arrival. The physical work of making a house into a home ahead lay ahead of me. The mental and emotional work would be a daily project.

I plopped right down in the middle of relationships and lives that have been going on without me for fifteen years. I knew that my main priority would be to keep myself separate and still stay close to my loved ones. How very difficult that is especially in a new homeland.

We went for a drive, to once again see the lovely Israeli countryside. I lost my way in the twisting roads, unfamiliar buildings and lush green fields. The people seemed helpful but not overly friendly.

We returned 'HOME'. I sat alone and the enormity of my move to Israel engulfed me. How would I find a comfortable place within my family again? How would I make new friends, develop interests and start anew at my age?

Well, we shall see what the future shall bring. However, in the meantime, here I am again, alone.

Posted by eshugerman 23:10 Tagged israel haifa seniors immigrant widows Comments (0)

The Madam.

Inspiration.

The Madam.

I am writing this story from the Kapiot Café in Haifa Israel. My status in life is that of an oleh chadash or new immigrant to the land of Canaan. I moved here six years ago at the age of fifty nine from Western Colorado. Retirement has many advantages in this splendid city. The balmy Mediterranean climate, the beautiful beach and tiyelet or boardwalk make Haifa a wonderful place for hiking, swimming, fishing, and leisurely walks. There are many historical sites, three major universities, and spiritual shrines including the Bahia Gardens and Elijah’s tomb.

I was blessed to live most of my adult life in the beautiful woods of Western Colorado. Hiking, camping, fishing, and viewing wildlife made life a wonderful experience. My career was servicing the employment needs of people with disabilities for various government agencies. Blessings indeed adorned my life.

That brings us to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Life in the steel city of my youth was gray in the truest sense of the word. I often left for Taylor Allderdice High School in a white shirt in the morning. Many times I returned home in a grey shirt which was victimized by the infamous pollution of the era. School was either an hour walk in the cold and rainy climate or a crowded bus ride. The Pittsburgh Steelers were then the goats of professional football, but the Pirates blessed us with their 1960 miracle World Series victory and sadly little more than that.

Dad was a grocery executive and rarely home. Mom suffered from serious medical problems and was very distant from me and my two sisters. Life (except for golf) was bleak and dull. Thank goodness for the Madam.

Mom’s faltering health necessitated the need for nearly full time domestic help. Lulu was an African American woman in her fifties when she first came to our service. She was thin and walked softly. One of many joys that we enjoyed with the Madame was ongoing quips about her age. She was born and raised in Tupelo Mississippi in the late nineteenth century and refused to tell us her true age. We found out when her time came that she was born in 1870. She died in 1971. She was blessed to live a long and healthy life. She was still active at the age of 97! The good do not always die young.

Lulu (the Madam) was raised in a sharecropper’s family of nine children. She married an alcoholic mill worker who abused her physically and mentally. Life for a blacked skinned woman anywhere in America in those days was a disgrace. She ran away from her husband after nine years and settled in Memphis Tennessee where she worked as a seamstress and housekeeper. Pittsburgh became her home in 1955 when her family moved there to work in the steel mills. She came to us through a friend Mrs. Feldman and was a part of our family until the end.

She took care of mom’s health, served as a surrogate mom to us, cleaned our home, cooked, and served as the secretary of her church. Many of us go through life with frowns on our faces; she always had a bright smile on hers. I learned to appreciate Chili Stew with egg noodles, lemon meringue pie, Chicken Fricassees, and most importantly spirituality from this humble yet brilliant and talented woman. She was a wonderful public speaker and outstanding singer. Her greatest talent of course was her ability to motivate and bring joy to the lives of others. Dad often mused about her potential in a world with more equality and justice.

I left Pittsburgh at the age of eighteen and never returned. There were the wonderful visits with family especially Lulu. We spent hundreds of hours discussing the value of faith in life. She was a fervent Christian yet urged me to explore, understand, and adore my Jewish faith. “The Golden Rule should be universal”. She admonished me to live by it. Hopefully, I have not let her down.

Lulu was so humble that she rarely talked about herself. We discovered after her death that she was a passionate civil rights activist and traveled in very famous circles. She refused to fly and traveled by bus to confront injustices in America. “I want to be as far away from my maker when my time comes”, she explained to us often. The only time that she broke her sacred rule was to attend my wedding.

She was born Lulu Robinson but spent her last thirty years known as The Madam. How did this occur? There were many times during my high school years that a man only known as the Bishop called our home to speak to her. “Is The Madam there he would quiz in a deep apparently southern voice”. She was the secretary of his church and her title was Madam Robinsom. I never understood it but loved the title and never ceased to tease my friend about her name.

I think often about my best friend as I pursue my greatest passions in life that of promoting interfaith dialogue and peace in this trouble region. Is there hope for these goals? Who knows” I was blessed to have a great mentor and hopefully can do my small share to bring these blessings to our region.

Posted by eshugerman 06:00 Tagged freedom pittsburgh inspiration interfaith dialogue Comments (0)

Hadar (splendor) in Haifa Israel

Life in Israel

I am sitting at my favorite cafe in Haifa, the Kapiot drinking Cafe, and am blessed to have met a nice Israeli bachura (young lady) named Tal Or who is an Israeli Hayelet or soldier. She is nineteen and like all Israeli women is expected to serve two years in the Israeli Defense Forces. She is from Haifa and suggested that I tell the readers about her favorite neighborhood of Haifa. We can see Hadar and the famous Baha'i Gardens from the pub which is located in central Haifa or the "Mercaz".

Hadar, which is located in the downtown part of Haifa, derives its name from Isaiah 35:2. The name Hadar is roughly translates into the word splendor in English. The neighborhood of Hadar Hacarmel was founded before World War I. By 1944, most of Haifa's 66,000 Jewish residents lived in Hadar Hacarmel. Haifa's city hall, courthouse and government buildings were located in this neighborhood, but relocated to the lower city (Downtown) in the turn of the 21st century. Israel was then part of the British Mandate of Palestine. Hadar at the time was a bustling booming community that served as a government, commercial, and residential center of Haifa. It indeed deserved the description of glorious.

The Technion which is a public research university in Haifa, Israel, was founded in 1912 and is located in Hadar. The Technion, the oldest university in Israel, was located in Hadar until the new Kiryat Hatechnion (Technion City) campus was inaugurated in Neve Sha'anan in the late 70's. The old historic building, dating from 1912, is now a hands-on science museum - MadaTech - the Israel National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space. One of the Technion founders was scientist Albert Einstein.

The Carmelit, Israel's only subway, runs from the Carmel Center to Paris Square via Hadar Hacarmel, where three of its six stations are located. It is unique in the sense that it is the world's shortest railway. I enjoy a weekly visit to Hadar to drink a cup of coffee on Nordau Street which is the entertainment center of the neighborhood. It is great Keff or fun to travel there on the Carmelit from my home in the Mercaz. My favorite McDonald's in Haifa is on Hertzel street which is the main shopping thoroughfare in the area. I love to eat an ice cream cone and window shop at the many shops located on Hertzel, which are often family owned.

Beit HaGefen, an Arab-Jewish cultural center, is located on the seam line of Hadar HaCarmel and Wadi Nisnas. The neighborhood has many Bauhaus Staatliches. Commonly known simply as Bauhaus, the Bauhaus Staatliches was a school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933. At that time the German term Bauhaus, literally "house of construction" stood for "School of Building" - buildings designed by German-Jewish architects who settled in Palestine after fleeing the Nazis.

Sadly, many of the challenges facing urban areas in most of the world today face Hadar as well. Many of the government agencies have relocated and in addition many Haifa residents are mall shoppers who prefer the Big Malls over the streets of Hadar, and yes Haifa has suburbs. Many of the once splendid homes are now run down and often overcrowded. However, the city is taking steps to renovate the neighborhood. The same challenges and changes facing urban areas in The United States are common in Israel.

Posted by eshugerman 07:48 Tagged israel haifa Comments (0)

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