Finding Common Ground

A first-hand exploration of the conflict between Israel and Palestine


Spent the first part of the morning getting a short introduction to Haifa from our guide, Claude. He continues to amaze me with his knowledge of ancient history as well as modern politics–both of which are inextricably linked in Israel. We’ll drive for hours through the countryside on the way to destinations and Claude is able to expound on much of what we see, putting it in context of Israeli history. In addition to looking like some popular depictions of St Peter he’s also a gentle soul with a great sense of humor. Claude sits in the seat behind me on the bus…he and Haim often argue in Hebrew about directions.

Our hotel in Haifa was at the top of a beautiful garden set behind the Ba’Hai temple (pictured, right). After a quick introduction from Claude as to what the Ba’Hai faith is all about we headed to Nazareth.

The old city of Nazareth–where, tradition tells us, Jesus grew up–is an arab town of both Muslim and Christians. Nearby is Nazareth Ilit which is a much newer–and seemingly more affluent–Jewish town.

Truthfully other than the Church of the Annunciation (pictured, left. Annunciation is the largest church in the Middle East…where Mary received word that she would give birth) there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to see there. Fr Daniel celebrated mass there right in front of the grotto where Mary supposedly recieved the news about becoming pregnant from the angel Gabriel.

We then had lunch with 4 Arab Israeli 16 year olds (pictured, right) and their 27-year-old teacher, Malka (4th from the left). They had been to NYC this past summer as part of a contingent of both Arab and Israeli students who competed against American kids their age at both soccer and basketball. They were a great group…very intelligent and very open to discussion. The more I speak with Israeli Arabs here it continues to strike me how they all have issues living as Arabs in Israel but none of them would want to move to the west Bank. Life clearly isn’t perfect for them here, but it is worlds better than what they see happening on the side of the PA (Palestinian Authority). Like many young people around the world they are big fans of American pop culture, including American action movies as well as superstar musicians like 50 Cent, Usher and Eminem. Even their teacher, Malka admitted to being a huge fan of the American daytime soap The Bold and the Beautiful.

We then headed out to our hotel in Tel Aviv and had a talk by a professor from Tel Aviv University who works on the question of anti-semitism. I can’t say that everyone agreed with our presenter on all his points but he certainly provided us with new ways to consider the issue.

Finally, Sara Meltzer invited all of us to celebrate Shabbat with her and her husband Guri (pictured second from right). They are observant Jews and were able to explain Jewish customs for the meal. Sara’s husband is a successful business man and professor. After we ate we had a great, and at times, heated debate on the haves and have-nots in Israel.