Shari Eshet
Not giving up yet

Haifa- the City of Brotherly Love

Haifa has always been touted as the model Israeli city of coexistence between Arabs and Jews. No more. I have a friend who lives in Haifa. She is delightful, smart, engaging. She admires my handbags , I love her jewelry and we both share a commitment to building a better society for all. She was born in Israel. I moved here 34 years ago. I married here in Israel a Jewish Ashkenazi sabra   thirty two years ago in the rabbinate. I am not sure I would be able to marry as easily now as I still cannot produce my parent’s ketuba proving their ancestry as legitimate, official   Jews with the proper lineage. Thirty-two years ago, it was pretty much “don’t ask don’t tell.” My Haifa friend could not marry in Israel. She is a Christian Arab. Her husband is a Druze. There is no room in Israel for intermarriage between the two communities.  They married abroad. They chose to live in Haifa, the Israeli- version to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. This week, she went out to the streets of Haifa to demonstrate with others against the war in Gaza. They were attacked by right-wing thugs shouting death to the Arabs. The police eventually showed up and escorted them out of the mob scene although very few arrests were made. The police later announced their zero tolerance to hooliganism but it may be too late. The genie of racism and fear of the other has already been let out of the bottle. Two nights ago, a lone solider –Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli from Texas – was buried in Haifa. With no family here, a Face book message was sent out urging Israelis to attend his funeral, so that he would not be alone as he was lowered into the ground. Twenty thousand Israelis from all over the country heeded the call to gather round. It was a bittersweet moment for Haifa. When all of this is over, Israel’s people –  Moslem, Jew, Christian, Druze – all of us  must go back to the issues that should and do concern democratic countries all over the world, the right to assemble , freedom of speech, the right to defend your country, and the need to respect all of those values.

About the Author
Shari Eshet is the former director of NCJW's Israel Office, based in Jerusalem. Now a private consultant, she still works for the betterment of the State of Israel.