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Entries about haifa

A Delightful Encounter

The Baha'i i in Haifa Israel

The Baha’i World Center is located in Haifa, and the glorious Baha’i Gardens that surround the Shrine with its golden dome are a major addition to the natural beauty of the city. The Gardens are maintained by a group of young volunteers, Baha’i who come from all over the world to perform a year or more of service at the Center, often before beginning university. They and other volunteers are housed in a number of residential buildings that Baha’i owns around Haifa, or in apartments owned by the Center in other buildings.

One of these, generally occupied by older volunteers who give longer periods of service and take on more administrative tasks, is in my building. I recently said goodbye to one, who had become a good friend, and was returning to New Zealand after four years here. Now we keep in touch online.

Recently I met another Baha'i, Renata, and her delightful toddler, Flavio. She and her husband came as volunteers, but now she stays home with the boy. Every Tuesday morning, she and other young mothers meet on a shaded stretch of lawn between our two buildings. They come with their babies and pre-schoolers for a big play date and Mommy get-together. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, they meet in each other’s’ homes.

The morning I met them, there was Renata, who is from Brazil, a young woman from Sri Lanka, one from one of the Caribbean islands, and several from English-speaking countries. These families are all Baha’i volunteers, and I discovered how supportive the community is for them and all people like I had to leave before the singing started, but I must come back soon and stay longer. I wonder if they sing “The Wheels on the Bus”. If so, I’ll join them.

This story was written and coedited with my friend Zelda Dvoretzky. She was born in New Jersey and grew up in New York. She earned degrees from City College of New York and the University of Michigan, after which she wrote copy for the electronic and print media, and worked in public relations, editing and teaching. She retired to Haifa in 1997, is a member of Haifa Writers, Israel, an organization of writers of poetry in English, and the Haifa Chamber Choir. Zelda stays busy learning Hebrew, teaching English, and keeping in touch with grandchildren, family and friends in Texas, California, and, of course, Haifa.

Posted by eshugerman 05:16 Tagged israel haifa baha'i Comments (0)

Sukkot Chabad

life in Israel

We are home. The Jewish people have returned to our ancient homeland after a two thousand year exile. We have learned a tragic lesson from our bitter history. It is only when we are a free and safe people in Eretz (the land of) Israel that can we can truly enjoy and celebrate our faith. The journey became thousands of years ago in the Sinai Desert.

For forty years, as our ancestors traversed the Sinai Desert, following the Exodus from Egypt, we were sheltered by a cover of miraculous "clouds of glory" shielding us from the dangers and discomforts of the desert. We remember G-d's kindness and reaffirmation of our trust in His providence by dwelling in a sukkah--a hut of temporary construction. It has a roof covering of branches and can be located anywhere that we choose. For the seven days and nights of the holiday we eat all our meals in the sukkah and otherwise regard it as our home. Some celebrants choose to sleep in the temporary dwelling.

Sukkot is also called The Time of Our Joy. There is a special joy that pervades the festival which includes a nightly Water-Drawing Celebrations, reminiscent of the evening-to-dawn festivities held in the Holy Temple Jerusalem housed our most revered sites three thousand years before the rebirth of the Jewish homeland in 1948. People fill the synagogues and streets with song, music and dance until the wee hours of the morning.

I celebrated Sukkot this year at the main Orthodox Synagogue in my community. The Sukkah was built by our local Chabad community, but visitors came from all streams of Judaism. There were also a few visiting European Christians who stopped by to share in our joy. We ate Hummus and Pita, Burekas, Falafel, and drank a bit of Vodka. There was a lot of singing, dancing and kids running about. Our group of roughly fifty celebrants included old friends and a few new ones. My favorite visitors were the Rabbi Levey’s six children aged one to eleven years old.

This is my seventh year in Haifa. As an Oleh Chadash or new immigrant to Haifa, many challenges exist to succeeding in building a new life. There is the need to learn a new language, understand a different culture, make new friends and find employment. However, the joys of celebrating my faith in this wonderful city have make it all worthwhile.

Posted by eshugerman 01:11 Tagged israel haifa oleh chabad sukkot chadash Comments (0)

Chabad "Open Shul" on Yom Kippur.

life in Haifa Israel.

The sun began to set, and the Neilah or closing Yom Kippur service drew to a close. Rabbi Levi Tzeitlin's voice grew stronger and more eloquent with each sentence that he spoke. This was due in part to the inherent emotions inspired by our prayers during the Jewish Day of Atonement. There was also a palpable sense of excitement aroused by looking at the throng of more than forty congregants from several streams of Judaism and many personal backgrounds. We joined together to celebrate the most solemn religious event of the Jewish year. Yom Kippur is the last of the ten days of penitence that begin with Rosh HaShanna or The Jewish New Year.

We were holding our first annual "Open Shul," a makeshift, yet comfortable, Bet Knesset or Synagogue. The public was welcome to attend a free prayer service In the Dan Panorama Center. It is an upscale hotel and shopping mail located in the Mercaz or center neighborhood of Haifa. The services were appreciated by all those who attended. We had received permission to proceed just a week before Yom Kippur. Our Rabbi Levy, with the help of his valued assistant Zecharya Gonsher, scrambled around Haifa to secure an Aron Kodesh, Torah, prayer books, and everything else that we needed including refreshments to break the fast. Fasting is expected during this solemn holiday. We try to atone for the sins of the past year and commit to do better for the coming one.

I believe that due to the open atmosphere, and vibrant personalities of both staff members, that we received positive feedback and many thanks from those who attended. Chabad which is a large Hasidic movement is known for its hospitality, expertise, optimism and emphasis on Jewish spiritual growth.

In addition, Gonsher, who heads the "English Speakers of Chabad Panorama" branch, was able to give instructions and inspirational words to the number of Anglos or English speakers who attended. In an area lacking English language spiritual programs many of those attending expressed gratitude for this thoughtful act.

The successful program plans upcoming services which include a number of Shabbatot, upcoming holiday celebrations (including a Sukkot gathering), and other educational events throughout the year. The goal is to serve the vibrant and exciting English speaking population in The Carmel Center. I live in the community and enjoy the convenience of walking to activities. Many of my friends new and old share the same point of view.

"When the country shuts down and everyone goes to vacation on Chag Sukkot, an exhausted Rabbi Levi and I could easily convince ourselves to do the same...." says Gonsher, "However, after seeing the appreciation and satisfaction of our make-shift congregants, well, it gives us the inspiration and strength to push forward and have another event in the Sukkah. We look forward to expanding our services and programs exponentially, and hope you all can be in touch. Chag Sameach!"

For needs, assistance, and anything Jewish, please feel free to contact the Chabad Panorama, Panorama Center, Sderot HaNasi 109, Carmel Center, Haifa. Rabbi Levi Tzeitlin (chabadp2@gmail.com), 077-411-2770, and for English Speakers, Zecharya Gonsher (ChabadPanorama@gmail.com), 058-5454-770. On Facebook: English Speakers Chabad Panorama.

Posted by eshugerman 10:13 Tagged israel haifa prayer judaism spirituality yom kippur chabad sukkot Comments (0)

Are We Afraid to Live in Israel?

War in Syria

Are We Afraid to Live in Israel?

The question that I get asked the most often from friends, family, and visitors is "Are We Afraid to Live in Israel!"

Today is Thursday and therefore massage day. My massage therapist, Jonah Taylor and her husband are immigrants to Israel from Colorado. It is September 2013 and once again the region is "heating up." Jonah and I discussed our respective views about living under the constant threat of war and terrorism. This is Jonah's perspective on the emotions associated with this life in a war engulfed region:

All of you keeping up with the news are aware of what’s going on in Syria - of the instability there. When I lived in Colorado, I was a member of the Multi-Lingual International Club. I knew a woman named Strasia. She was from Syria. She seemed rather friendly until I mentioned my love for Israel. She distanced herself from me after that. She is now back in Syria. I sincerely hope that all is well. The conflicts in this region are felt all around the world.
Since the recent revolt in Egypt and the turmoil in Syria things seems to be changing in Haifa and throughout the country. You can feel a constant sense of fear and foreboding. Things are occurring that promote concern. Yesterday the Israeli government tested the air raid system. People here and throughout the country are rushing to buy gas masks. The Israeli Defense Forces called up thousands of reservists.

Please watch this video:

Maybe they test sirens once a year one way or the other. According to my husband David, for many years in Chicago the city tested the air raid sirens every Tuesday at noon. No one paid attention. The USSR needed to be sure to attack Chicago on a Tuesday at noon. In Atlanta they test tornado sirens on a weekly basis. Since we’ve been here, the first test of the air raid siren was yesterday.

Our view of the Mediterranean allows us to see northward toward Syria and Lebanon. A lot of times we hear fighter planes zooming overhead, but can rarely see the planes. We have been told that Israeli jets bombed arms depots in Syria three times in the recent weeks.

We try to listen to both the English and Hebrew news. The leaders of Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah have threatened to attack Israel if Syria is punished by The United States and other nations for the atrocity of murdering their own citizens with chemical weapons. The citizens of Israel have lived under constant threat of conflict and destruction since the rebirth of the nation in 1948.

Anyway, my husband David told me to always be aware. Israel is officially in a heightened state of alert. David managed to frighten the devil out of me. Obviously, I knew that something like this could happen even before we moved to Israel. It is one thing to understand something in the abstract and another to experience it firsthand. David said whatever Syria or Lebanon or Hezbollah does to Israel, that they will suffer worse damage. It is a small comfort indeed!

I, and most Israelis, feel the same way as Jonah. The constant threat of annihilation has most people in this small and brave nation in a constant state of tension and readiness.

Am I (Earl) and others afraid to live in Israel? Yes, of course the constant fear of destruction is always there and a part of life in this beleaguered nation. Yet, the joys of building our Jewish homeland are worth it to many of us and life does indeed go on.

Posted by eshugerman 23:22 Tagged israel war lebanon haifa syria Comments (0)

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)

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