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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)

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)

The Shulamit Hotel, Life in a Haifa Suburb

Yes-we have Pizza Hut!

We were sitting in our favorite cafe. Our server Chen was a native born Israeli or Sabra. She is finishing her degree in Social Sciences at the University of Haifa. I am an American immigrant to Haifa of five years. We decided to write about life in a Haifa suburb.

Kiryat Sefer is an upper middle class community in the Horev area of Haifa. It was my first home in Haifa, Israel. I immigrated to Israel five years ago from Colorado. What an adventure! Travel is wonderful in Israel. I can visit the Galilee, Nazareth, and Jerusalem, in the same day from my home in Haifa.

Horev is an alternate appellate for Sinai, where Moses received the Torah and the Ten Commandments. It is located on the bus route to the University of Haifa and two Druze Villages about thirty miles South of this quaint and sedate residential center. This wonderful community is a perfect blend of beautiful apartments, a large array of mid-priced restaurants, and upper-end shopping at a local mall.

In Israel, medical and dental care is universal. Their facilities are dotted throughout every community. It is even possible to receive care at virtually any time. Due to the nation’s socialized health care system, health care costs are 20% of most western nations. The quality of care competes with virtually any nation in the world. Horev offers health and dental care within walking distance from most homes!

My editor and I lived at the Shulamit Hotel, an institution of Haifa originally built in 1953 by the Feldman family. The Hotel originally had twelve rooms and was named after the owner’s daughter Shulamit. At the hotel’s prime, the desk clerk Debby mentioned that the capacity of the Hotel was 300 residents. Famous dignitaries such as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin visited this pristine establishment. The Hotel was a Hotel/Motel that had both monthly and short term residents when it closed two years ago.

Israel, can be a pleasant surprise to an American immigrant! The Hotel was within walking distance of a Pizza hut, Domino’s and McDonald’s. Many other restaurants of various culinary tastes and price ranges were also close to our home.

There is an English Bookstore named Lia's Books, which is owned and managed by two Vatekot (veterans) from the UK. The Bookstore serves as both as a source of reading material and impromptu welcome wagon for Anglo immigrants. The city Zoo is a fifteen minute walk or short bus ride. The world famous B’hai Center is also a short bus trip from this community.

The combined residential and transitional nature of our hotel community gave us an endless series of social adventures. Life in The Shulamit was interesting. The residents came from from a multitude of backgrounds,, I met a retired Florida resident who just finished a six week volunteer nursing program in Beer Sheva. There was a group of Nigerian sailors who were guests of the Hotel. I met a representative of the E.U. at our local Pizza Hut. Hotel residents include a graduate student in Biblical Archaeology, a retired Brazilian businessman, an American born school-teacher, and a certified massage therapist. At any given time, you could sit in the Hotel Lobby and listen to conversations spoken in multiple languages.

Local residents are quick to “adopt” newcomers, as most of our neighbours immigrated to Israel after its founding in 1948. My life was everybodys business. Gossip is the "national sport" of Israel. I learned very quickly that "silence is golden" in Israel. Muslim, Christian and others live in this community. This is a a reflection of life in Israel. Israel is a nation of immigrants from almost every nation on earth. We all live together in a fairly democratic, but jaded society. Please, come and see it for yourselves!

Posted by eshugerman 11:58 Archived in Israel Tagged hut society israel pizza haifa islam christianity judaism suburb immigrant Comments (0)

The Passion of Jerusalem!

My Favorite Trip in Israel

I am an Ammerican immigrant to Haifa, Israel of five years. I immigrated to Israel to share in the growth of this incredible nation. One of the great blessings of life in Israel is the opportunity to travel to many of the most ancient and holy sites with great ease. I can visit The Galilee, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem in the same day!

My favorite trip is to Israel's capital, Jerusalem to visit the Tower of David, where King David composed the 23rd psalm. When I finish my tour in the Tower of David, I dine at my beloved Arab restaurant where I enjoy the cuisine of traditional Arab cooking accompanied by a Miller Light. Then, I cross the street towards The Tomb of Jesus, where I am always inspired by the visit. It still amazes me that the distance between The Tower of David, my favorite traditional Arab restaurant and the Tomb of Jesus is less than one hundred meters. I visit The Western Wall,or Kotel. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the ancient Jewish Temple's courtyard, and is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism outside of the Temple Mount itself. According to the Tanakh, Solomon's Temple was built atop the Temple Mount in the 10th century BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the Second Temple completed and dedicated in 516 BCE. Two thousand years ago Jews were expected to pray in The Temple. According to classical Jewish belief, the Temple acted as the figurative "footstool" of God's presence and a Third Temple will be built there in the future.

My first trip to Jerusalem was five years ago. I was accompanied by my cousin Chaya, which is the Hebrew female name for life. Life has very special meaning to the people of Israel. We must never forget the Holocaust. Six million lost souls who died for the "crime" of praying in a Synagogue. Twenty thousand have perished defending this small and brave nation.

Chaya is Jewish Orthodox and by the age of thirty has six wonderful children. She is also an American Olah or immigrant to Israel. Her family immigrated to Israel two decades ago. Their intention was to be in the holiest city of the holiest nation on earth. My pride and joy is her now eight year old son, Elchanan. Elchanan is a handsome, brilliant, and very precocious young man with dark hair, brown eyes, and a very enchanting but somewhat sly smile. His mom refers to him as a walking Chamsin (turbulent storm), and his proud grandma jokes that he is Israel’s greatest threat to stability!

Chaya, like most residents of the holy city takes great pride in giving guided tours of her beloved metropolis. During my visit, we enjoyed touring the city on Israel’s double decker bus 99. El Chanon managed to get into everything and talk to everyone to the merriment of all, including our bus driver Haim. He has been a resident of the city for forty years. Chaim told us in great detail about his recently born and first grandson. We were enthralled to hear a Druze visitor from the North tell us about his families support of the Jewish Yishuv during Israel's War of Independence in 1948. We chatted with a group of Christian pilgrims from Belgium. They were seeing Jerusalem and neighboring Bethlehem for the first time.

The 99 bus navigates a route of both scenic and cultural interest. Mount Scopus boasts a visage encompassing the Old City, the Temple Mount and Bethlehem. As the Old City passes into the remote distance, the New City boasts iconographic sites. The Knesset housing Israel’s parliament. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial remembers all those that were the victims of history’s most insidious crime. The Israel Museum is a testimony to Jewish endurance and continuity of their presence in the Land of Canaan (between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea). It is also the home to one of the most impressive and famous discoveries dating back more than two thousand years. The Dead Sea Scrolls written by a group called “The Esseim” describes life in this region in the era of The Second Jewish Temple.

Jerusalem has been the holiest city in Judaism and the ancestral and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people since the 10th century BCE. Jerusalem has long been embedded into Jewish religious consciousness. Jews have studied and personalized the struggle by King David to capture Jerusalem and his desire to build the Jewish temple there, as described in the Book of Samuel and the Book of Psalms. Many of King David's yearnings about Jerusalem have been adapted into popular prayers and songs. The 23rd Psalm is my most revered. Traditionally, Jerusalem has been the focus of longing for Diaspora Jews who were forced from their land and the Temple of their God. Psalm 137 is the well-known lament of the Babylonian Jews who wept "by the rivers of Babylon" and declared, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither."

For Christians, Jerusalem's place in the life of Jesus gives it great importance. Jerusalem is considered a sacred site. The city is holy in both Sunni and Sunnite Islamic tradition, along with Mecca and Medina. Islamic tradition holds that previous prophets were associated with Jerusalem, and that the Islamic prophet Muhammad visited the city on a nocturnal journey.

The Holy City is one of the most studied and most controversial in the world. The city has great spiritual value to both Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It is also a political arena. Should Jerusalem be the capital of the Jewish homeland, Palestinian homeland, or both? The residents of all parts of Jerusalem, regardless of their background, feel that they are under the proverbial microscope. Please come and see it for yourselves!

The Holy City is one of the most studied and most controversial in the world. The city has great spiritual value to both Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It is also a political arena. Should Jerusalem be the capital of the Jewish homeland, Palestinian homeland, or both? The residents of all parts of Jerusalem, regardless of their background, feel that they are under the proverbial microscope. Please come and see it for yourselves!


Posted by eshugerman 22:55 Tagged king western wall israel david jesus haifa jerusalem islam christianity judaism 23rd psalm Comments (0)

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