Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Haifa Israel is the City of Peaceful Coexistence

The Muslim Times | AlislamSubscribe
Haifa Israel is the City of Peaceful Coexistence
Epigraph: "Indeed, Allah is with those who are mindful of their responsibilities towards Him  and are benevolent." (Al Quran 16:129)
Mahmood Mosque on Mount Caramel in Haifa
Source: Gather
The recent round of fighting between Israel and Gaza was depressing to most Israelis and Palestinians. 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. Many Palestinians have lived in refugee camps, lost friends and family, and lived in fear for decades.
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.
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 a 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 magnificent 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 ?eeing 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.

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