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Entries about peace

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)

Scenes from a Haifa Mall.

Life in Israel.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

Posted by eshugerman 02:21 Archived in Israel Tagged panorama mall israel dan peace haifa 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)

Haifa Israel is The City of Peaceful Coexistence

Hope for Peace

This current round of battling in our South has been depressing in that it had to begin; there has not been any political way of getting the Hamas to stop firing explosives at our civilians. This tragically has been the history of life in Israel since the Jewish people returned to our ancestral homeland in 1948. Many of my friends and neighbors have fought in several wars. Many of them spent their early childhoods sleeping in bomb shelters.
Hopefully, by the time it ends, there will be some important changes in the way of life here and in the Palestinian territories. Hopefully, 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. We yearn for the day that our Palestinian friends and neighbors will no longer suffer as the result of our need to defend our nation.
We are all saddened by the deaths and injuries of everyone on both sides of this battle. It is a shame that the assassination of the Gaza Chief of Military staff became necessary. He had the blood of Israeli men, women, and children on his hands. He believed in terrorism and mass murder. He called for the destruction of our nation.
Defeat in this region is not an option for us Jews, even though clear-cut winning/victory is also often not an option. The greatest hope is for a political settlement. Peace treaties will surely involve compromise. Settling the feuds will feel like a victory of sorts for all sides, and 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.
Yet, there is hope for peace for the people in our region. I am blessed to live in Haifa, which is the city of peaceful co-existence.
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 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 magnificant 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, 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.
Haifa has a multiethnic 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%).
In the past, peaceful coexistence, however, could not be taken for granted. Here too, in fact, the birth of the State of Israel was marked by tensions and blood. Haifa’s port became the arrival site of thousands of Jewish immigrants after World War II and the departure port for the Arabs fleeing during the 1947–48 Arab-Israeli war. Clashes between Arabs and Jewish paramilitary groups led to numerous casualties on both sides. Over the years, many worked at rebuilding this social harmony and religious tolerance that has very ancient roots. Haifa, in act, is built on the slopes and foot of Mount Carmel, where according to tradition the prophet Elijah lived. A cave called Elijah’s Grotto is inside a Carmelite monastery and is venerated by Jewish, Christian and Muslim pilgrims. .
The effort to integrate social, cultural, and religious identity in an area with a high risk of conflict has warranted the continued commitment of all the groups present in the area to administer it. The civic and religious communities both have a decisive role.
I have been blessed to participate in some of the efforts to maintain and even improve the harmony between faiths and cultures in Haifa. Each month for the past five years I have participated in a joint study session promoted by the Catholic Focolare. 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." We study each other's faiths with the goal of understanding not changing each others views and values. We have hosted and promoted an interfaith Choir performance which 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 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 sent 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. The last event was held in Caesarea in May last year.
My favorite interfaith experience 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. Jewish youth from Temple Or Hadash played soccer with the Achmadi team from Cababir in a tournament of a three game event. 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.
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.

I am writing this post while sitting at The Ego Cafe in the world famous Dan Panorama Hotel and mall. The cafe is owned by Hannah whose family immigrated to Israel from Poland in 1948. The cafe on the second floor of the center is managed by Muad who is a Muslim and my friend. On my way home I will stop to buy groceries at our local Macolet or quick stop grocery store. The owners are Christian Arabs who were born and raised in Haifa. i

I am looking forward to celebrating Hannukah with my Focolare friends as has been the case for the past five years. Joint celebrations of the holidays are common in Haifa. We will share Christmas together and plan activities for the coming year to bring harmony between the faiths in Haifa and throughout the region.

Posted by eshugerman 10:11 Tagged israel peace haifa palestinians judaism focolare catholicism ahmadiyya hamas Comments (0)

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