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October 15, 2015 7:46 am

Amid Terror Wave in Israel, Haifa Remains Beacon of Coexistence

avatar by Alina Dain Sharon / JNS.org

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Haifa, Israel. Photo:  Wikipedia.

Haifa, Israel. Photo: Wikipedia.

JNS.org – This week, as Israel is dealing with a wave of Palestinian terror attacks across the country ranging from stabbings to car-rammings — and in one case on Tuesday, the reported use of a meat cleaver — there is one major Israeli city that seems to have been spared the violence so far. In fact, the city has long been known as a beacon of Arab-Israel coexistence amid eruptions of conflict everywhere else in the country.

Lying on the Mediterranean coast on and below the Carmel Mountain, Haifa is the third-largest city in Israel with a population of nearly 300,000. According to most readily available statistics, the city’s population breaks down to approximately 82 percent Jewish, 4 percent Muslim Arab, and 14 percent Christian (Arab and Non-Arab). Haifa is also home to the World Centre of the Baha’i faith.

“It’s beautiful to be now in the city of Haifa and be able to see how different people live together, and efforts are made to really promote dialogue and understanding. But not just for the sake of dialogue and understanding. It’s for the sake of living together in the same geographic space,” said Sarah Vader, a member of the Baha’i faith who works for the World Centre, according to US News.

Haifa is where I grew up before moving to the U.S. as a child, and in most of the years that I lived there, the city saw very few terror attacks, with the exceptions occurring around the year 2001 during the second intifada.

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“Haifa has become a symbol of coexistence,” said Hani Elfar, former director of Haifa’s Beit Hagefen Arab Jewish Cultural Center and a Christian Arab, in large part because “Jews and Arabs lived together [here] before the establishment of the state of Israel.”

“We get together. We study together. We grow up together. We live together. We work together” and “somehow it works,” echoed Meir Ben Zeev, a Jewish resident of Haifa.

“Jesus was not here in Haifa. Moses was not here in Haifa. Mohammed was not here in Haifa,” Ben Zeev said. “The place is relaxed.”

“Jerusalem is not a holy city. How people act there, all of them — Jews, Muslims, Christians — they destroy the holiness,” said Moad Ode, an Israeli Muslim from Haifa. “But if you come to this place you see the holiness in people’s eye and how they behave and live their life.”

“Honestly, I do not think Haifa is a special place. Haifa is not a special city…Haifa represents how normal human beings should live. We are normal here,” Ode added.

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  • I like to think the reason for the peaceful coexistence is the presence of the World Center of the Baha’i Faith, the tombs of the twin founders of the Baha’i Faith, the Bab and Baha’u’llah, and the sacred shrines and gardens which have been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

  • Mr.Ode is correct in his wishful thinking. The facts would be
    better if you did not have to name 3 religions to make a point.
    “Freedom from religion” is by far the best way to “live together”.
    My sons are raised as Atheists like myself: the intolerance all
    over the world starts with religion, which (Chr.Hitchens:) “does
    poison everything”, indeed. PEACE to all who do NOT hate each
    other: despite the hatred seeded by different religions. DHH

    • Adam

      I’m a secular Jew and I don’t have a belief in a god of any kind. But I find it very interesting when Atheists think that it is perfrectly all right to go onto a publication which is for Jewish people, TOTALLY ignoring the fact that being Jewish is an ETHNICITY and not all Jews are religious and many in Israel are secular, especially in haifa, and then insist upon the superiority of their belief system…in such a ludicrously RELIGIOUS way.

      The fact is, you DO have a ‘religion; and you gave it to your children. It just desn’t have a god. If you choose to think otherwise, that is your issue…just don’t come onto our pages and publications and shove it down our throats.||

      You aren’t one of our people and you are not one of our nation…and your opinion is irrelevant because of that.

    • Donald Schellberg

      Religion is like the old medicine in your medicine cabinet. It was once used to treat you from some illness but now mankind has a different illness and if you take the old medicine it could even make you sicker. That is why I am a Baha;i.

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