Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.
We’re writing this while the Jews are enjoying the holiday of lights: Chanukah. Chanukah is celebrated as a holiday of joy and memorial to our past.
For eight days we light candles in the Channukia – which represents the miracle of the Menorah in the Temple in the days of the Maccabim.
Haifa, though, is not just a home for the Jews, but also Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Bahai and other religions. The beautiful thing about Haifa is that we celebrate together the differences in our faiths rather than see it as a source of conflict. Each year we have the annual festival of Hag ha Hagim-the holiday of holidays. This festival attracts each year to Wadi Nisnas tens of thousands of visitors.
This year, is the 16th year of the festival. The neighborhood – has maintained its’ Arabic-Christian atmosphere and identity, and is known for the three churches and the market in the center. The festival takes place at this very lively market. At these times of the year, as Christmas approaches, the neighborhood is ornamented beautifully with Christmas ornaments that add a lot of color to the festival. This celebration is just one of Haifa’s advantages.
Another one of Haifa’s qualities is that you have a variety of lifestyles from the academic environment of the university to the orthodox Jewish community in Hadar to the Christian society in Wadi NisNas where the stores are adorned with Christmas lights and you can buy a real Christmas tree. Of course, there is also the Cababbir neighborhood where the Muslim majority lives peacefully-in a simple yet elegant middle-class environment. One of my favorite activities is to seat with my friends at the Cabbabir center, and enjoy the beautiful view of Haifa.
As we come to the close of the Roman calendar – I say to myself – if the people of Haifa can live in relative peace and harmony – why can’t we do it elsewhere. One of the most inspiring rewards of being an immigrant to Israel is that you have a chance to encounter different religions and cultures, and the personal growth that comes with it as result.
Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas from Haifa!
About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist, currently spokesperson in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.