By Gabrielle Peck
There’s a lot of talk about coexistence here in Israel, but honestly it’s been hard for me to discern. From my experience in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Jews and Muslims live in separate neighborhoods, go to different schools, and for the most part live different lives. However, my perspective drastically changed after visiting the city of Haifa, known proudly by the people as the “city of tolerance.”
Haifa is a mecca for Jews, Muslims, Christians, Bahá’i people, and the Druze, among others. They live in the same apartment complexes, shop at the same stores, and work in the same office buildings. They exemplify what it really means to coexist.
In order to make this coexistence palpable, we visited religious sites of all religions. Our day began with a conversation about the Bahá’i people at the beautiful Bahá’i Gardens, which is located just a few kilometers away from their World Headquarters. Just as the garden is perfectly symmetrical, the Bahá’i strive for social, economic, and political equality for all peoples. This monotheistic religion has centers in Haifa, New Delhi, Chicago, and other places around the world and are the fastest growing faith in the world.
Panorama at the Bahá’i Gardens.
Next, we visited a mosque home to the Ahmadiyya Muslims. Here we spoke with a courageous and virtuous man about his religion and personal beliefs. Ahmadiyya Muslims believe firmly in peaceful coexistence and outwardly condemn those who use the Muslim faith as an excuse for violence. While this condemnation has caused persecution of the Ahmadiyyas from other Muslim sects, they stand firm in their beliefs. I think that is something that is truly honorable.
Mosque of the Ahmadiyya Muslims.
We then spent our lunch at the home of a Druze family. They served us an extravagant yet delicious meal while we discussed the practices of the Druze people.
The day ended with a trip to the most beautiful church in Israel, or so the locals say, and a short hike to the cave of Elijah. All in all, it is unequivocally evident that the people of Haifa, who hail from different religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds, are living together people in this very open-minded city.
The most beautiful church in Israel.
Hike to the cave of Elijah.
As for our lives in Tel Aviv, I think we have all begun to feel so comfortable in this city. We have traveled to multiple different Shucks and neighborhoods, experienced a Kabbalah Shabbat service on the port, visited the Tel Aviv light show a few too many times, worked on our Hebrew a little bit, and participated in an architecture tour of the white city. We are becoming experts in public transportation, know where to get the best shawarma or falafel (well I guess it depends on who you ask, I think it’s still up for debate), have figured out that Aroma Iced Coffee is simply a tourist trap and the better iced coffee comes from Cofix, and have come to realize by the reactions of our coworkers when we say that we live in North Diezengoff, that we are living in the Beverly Hills or Upper East Side of Tel Aviv. Our neighborhood is absolutely wonderful.
In the weeks to come many of us will travel to our breakout seminars, parents of people on the program will arrive with the Cincinnati mission trip, and we will participate in some community building activities as well as spend time with the Cincinnati trip. Look out for the blog next week!
Internship Spotlight: Paulina Fisher
Company: Wise Data Media
Hello! My name is Paulina, and I am a recent graduate of Miami University where I studied Marketing. I have been interning at a small, but quickly growing, ad-tech company called Wise Data Media. I am very excited to be working in this industry, here in Tel Aviv.
As many of you know, Israel (and especially Tel Aviv) is often called the Start-Up Nation. To be working in this environment is very interesting and has taught me a lot already. I can really see how the Israeli mindset and behavior thrives in this entrepreneurial world where failure is an everyday occurrence. They don’t give up. They use their spunk and confidence to continue growing their business. I am very thankful that I ended up at Wise. Ziv and Keinan (pictured above) are the business developers that I have been working most closely with. Today is Keinan’s birthday and they are currently blowing up lots of balloons in the conference room to celebrate. It’s a fun place, but balanced with a drive and need to succeed. As a small company, everyone has to work very hard to keep it growing at the necessary pace.
I’m looking forward to the next month of work and life here in Tel Aviv and can’t wait to see what other lessons and adventures are to come.