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Building Bridges for Peace in Haifa, Israel

Life in Haifa

The most difficult and challenging thing that I have ever done in my life was to immigrate to Haifa Israel at the tender 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, The City of Peaceful Coexistence. 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.

Posted by eshugerman 00:26 Archived in Israel Tagged israel peace haifa islam judaism achmadiyya Comments (0)

Interfaith Peace Efforts in Israel

Life in Haifa

I am writing this story from the vantage point of an American Immigrant to Haifa Israel. My five years as an "Oleh" or immigrant have been challenging but incredibly satisfying. I want to thank Rabbi Edgar Nof and my Temple, Or Hadash, in Haifa for warmly accepting me and helping me adjust to life in Israel. My experiences in interfaith activities at Or Hadash have made me a passionate supporter of dialogue between peoples and have helped me to cope with the challenges of immigration.

The side of life in Israel-Palestine that gains media attention is that of conflict and anger. Sadly, this side of life does exist in this region. However, there are efforts made by many Jews, Christians,and Muslims on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian borders to bring harmony. This is particularly true in Haifa "The City of Peaceful Co-Existence".

Or Hadash puts a great deal of emphasis and energy into interfaith actions and words. Or Hadash networks with the Muslim Achmedia, with the Druze community, and many other faiths to build better relations. We enhance our own spirituality by sharing our lives with friends from other faiths.

I would like to share a bit about our relationship with the Catholic Focolare- the largest Catholic outreach movement in the world.The Focolare does a myriad of spiritual, cultural, social, and economic programs worldwide- based on their primary tenet "Unity for All". The members of the Focolare live by the golden rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." For the past five years Or Hadash and the local Focolare have met monthly in a joint study meeting. We study each others holy writings. Our goal is to learn from each other not to change or judge the faiths of our friends. This past year, our monthly meeting was held on Dec 22nd, just three days before the Christmas celebration. It is very common for Jews, Christians, and Muslims to share our holidays together in Haifa.

In these monthly study meetings, we study both the Old and the New Testaments with the goal of understanding each other's spirituality and not contesting it. This year we met during the week of Easter and Passover. We talked about the origins of both holidays and some of the common traditions.

We have participated in activities sponsored by the Focolare that have been incredible. Or Hadash took part in a four day interfaith spiritual retreat at Kibbutz Nes Ammim in the Galilee. The event was done in the summers of 2009 and 2010. Jews, Christians, and Muslims from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian border took part in the retreat. We studied each others holy books, prayed together, and enjoyed meeting participants from dozens of countries. Our only real source of contention was the nature of the cuisine! We were the first Jewish participants in this convention in the history of Israel-Palestine. .

We also send a delegation to the world renowned Run4Unity. It was held for the first time ever in Haifa in the year 2007. Youth from Israel-Palestine participated in a variety of sports activities held at Haifa's Carmel Beach. Several hundred youth from Israel and Palestine shared this activity without contention. Jewish, Christian,and Muslim young people participated. This year the event is being held in Caesaria in May.

In April of 2011, Or Hadash held one of the most exciting, beautiful and historic events at our congregation: INTERFAITH-DIALOGUE-PEACE CONCERT, HEALING THE CARMEL.

It was a first time in our congregation’s history that Muslim, Christian and Jewish choirs, musicians and singers came together to sing in unity for peace at Or Hadash. A Muslim choir from the Achmaddiyyan community, along with their Muezzin Umar Sharief, two Catholic choirs singing in Latin, English and Arabic, a German group of 11 young musicians, and Or Hadash choir – Shir Hadash, all came together in an inspiring evening that touched everyone and will be remembered for years to come.

A crowd of almost 300 people gathered at our synagogue for the event. Representatives from the three faiths spoke to the guests, emphasizing the importance of music and the significance of coming together to sing for such a noble cause.

An Arabic TV channel (Al Hura) from the US, arrived to document the evening. The German newspaper Die Welt sent reporters to cover the event. Haifa’s local media was present as well.

My favorite interfaith experience at Or Hadash took place in November of 2009. We joined our friends from the local Muslim Achmadi School in Haifa to host a youth "Soccer for Peace" program at their school in the Cababir part of Haifa. The Achmadiyya are peaceful followers of Islam. They have more than one hundred million followers in the world. Many live in Indonesia, Pakistan and England.

Youth ages to played a three game tournament that had both boy and girl players participate. Our team coach was Timothy Crowe, a Southern Baptist envoy to Israel from Dallas Texas. The kids enjoyed the beautiful Haifa fall weather, and a feast of cookies, cakes, pizza and soft drinks that followed the games. We are looking forward to continuing and expanding this activity in the fall of this year. I am looking forward to telling the readers more about the "Soccer for Peace" program in future posts.

Posted by eshugerman 09:29 Tagged israel haifa southern baptists judaism interfaith achmadiyya focolare catholicism Comments (0)

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