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haifa pride

Mayor of Haifa, Yona Yahav tells us that one of Haifa's more unique aspects is its mixed population of Arabs and Jews, living together with visible harmony and that Haifans pride themselves on the belief that they can be a model of tolerance in Israel.

Spending our last morning inHaifa we are fed a feast while Cobie Brosh, Executive Director of the Canadian Committee for the Haifa Foundationintroduced our morning panel by talking about Haifa and the work that he does in the community to advance educational, cultural, communal and environmental projects locally. Coby also happens to be the father of a lesbian daughter and has worked to build global support for the local LGBT Haifa Community Center known as the Haifa Forum. After Coby speaks our panel with local leaders begins with the Mayor of Haifa, Yona Yahav.

The Haifa Forum hosts a variety of groups and activities for young people to bears in collaboration with the City of Haifa, AGUDAH and Israel Gay Youth Organization (IGY) and multiple other groups from around Israel and the world.

Four more speakers follow Coby and Yona including the Chief Rabbi of Haifa since 1975, Rabbi Eliyahu Yosef She’ar Yashuv Cohen, the Secretary of the Bahá’í International Community, a leader from the Ahmadi Muslim community based in Haifa‘s Kababir neighborhood, a representative of the Christian community and a representative of the Muslim Community. The questions and conversations to follow the questions were a bit more on the intense side of diplomacy.

I always start my judgement of a speaker that is not speaking in his native language with the benefit of the doubt that something is lost in translation… so, when one of the folks in our group asked the man representing the Ahmadi Muslim community if he considers himself a Zionist, I took a deep breath in so I could hear the details to follow. The details were simple. The person receiving the question replied by saying a simple no and the room erupted into conversation about what Zionism means and how we define Zionism. It was refreshing to hear that not one person in the room from what I heard and experienced have the same understanding of Zionism.

Yona later says, "If you like the Jews you have to help ensure peace and support of community with the Arabs. We have to be friendly. The Arabs are our brothers. We have settled here with them and we need to continue to make a mutual life with them."

We left our morning meetings and our experience of Haifa filled with the mass amounts of breakfast foods sitting in our stomachs. On the tables we left enough food for 50 more visitors to eat a feast as well. We drove to a Druze village nearby walking around in the heat and listening to the stories of the people who have lived there for centuries and spent the evening at an incredible fish farm, Dag al HalDan, for a yummy fish dinner and stayed at the beautiful Hagush Kibbutz up north near Kiryat ShmonaSee more of the photos of our the day here.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2010 in Diplomatic Seminar, Israel

 

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