'We're a city of live and let live,' said Haifa tour
guide Tzivit Sari.
A Muslim woman in traditional dress with a
white scarf covering her head holds onto a small boy and races to
the entrance of Rambam Medical Center in Haifa seeking shelter from
the impending rocket attack by Hizbullah from Lebanon.
Soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces in olive green
uniforms with rifles slug over their shoulders who had been lounging
outside waiting to visit their friends who had been wounded in
Lebanon but treated here also moved quickly under the hospital's
Members of the Rambam trauma team -
consisting of both Jews and Arabs - stood by in emergency room that
has treated almost 400 people wounded in the conflict.
Against a backdrop of current war which has seen over 100
missiles land in Haifa over the last weeks, the social fabric of
Israel's third largest city with a proud history of coexistence
between its Jewish and Arab residents, is alive and well.
"We're a city of live and let live," said Haifa tour guide
Tzivit Sari, who enjoys showing off how the different Jewish,
Christian and Muslim populations mix within the port city of
270,000, 20% of whom are Arab. The fear and tensions that exists in
other cities in Israel is absent here, she said.
As proof of
her words, Moshe Naman, who is a religious Jew, thought nothing of
bringing his daughter Netta, 4, to the safety of an underground
shelter the city set up for children of all persuasions in the
bowels of parking
garage. Instead of a line of cars, children
chased each other across the concrete pavement speaking Arabic and
Hebrew. In other parts of the garage they drew pictures or watched
"We're all one here," said Naman who added that
the common threat of violence that has enveloped the entire city has
united the two groups.
Police Sgt.Tammie Gourevitch who has
been manning the shelter said that the language the children speak
is meaningless. Some of the children in the shelter do not even
speak Hebrew, she said.
"But so what," she added. "Children
are children here and around the world."
As a physician in
Rambam Hospital, Hany Bahouth who grew up in Haifa, said that people
live together without any problem in spite of their differences
"People continue to live here with each
and to behave in a correct way," he said.
When the warning
siren goes off his thoughts are for the wounded who are about to
come into the hospital and for his family who lives only 10 minutes
"It's been a very stressful situation. In one case one
of the rockets fell very close to the hospital here and at the same
time you have to be in your position in the emergency room. You need
to be very calm to control everything. We need to take care of the
wounded patients and at the same time to continue our daily work,"
At times, he said, a siren rang out when he was in
the middle of surgery and he had to continue his work as usual.
Nama Yodfat Altschuler has kept her small coffee shop at the
top of the Carmel Mountain in Haifa open as usual every day in spite
of the missiles.
"I'm in my house and I don't see leaving my
house," she said, as she sat at one of its small outdoor wooden
tables in Cafe Netto.
Among those who sat there as well in
the first few days was Fady Najar, an Israeli Arab restaurant owner
whose family originated from Lebanon.
After that, he decided
that like Altschuler, he would open his doors. But while Altschuler
did so naturally as a statement of perseverance, Najar said that he
had coexistence in mind.
The entire theme of his small
restaurant called Douzan with its indoor and outdoors tables is that
this is a point of where east meets west. Even the food they serve
is a mix of western and eastern dishes.
On the first day
that missiles fell on Haifa on July 13th his brother-in-law was
among the injured who were taken to Rambam.
"When there is a
war everyone loses," said Najar who has had only a fraction of his
Among the few that did arrive was a woman
celebrating a birthday. "Yes, even during war, people get older,"
she said as she and her friends ordered cakes.
Life has to
continue, he said. Among the many things that make him sad these
days is the idea that the violence has marred the image of the city
he grew up in.
"I wanted it to be on the map as a site of
peace," said Najar.
Behind him as he spoke, the lights from
the Baha'i Gardens twinkled in the night. The multi-terraced gardens
that wind their way up the hill top around a golden dome Temple is
the second holiest site for the Baha'i religion founded in the 19th
century has its roots in Islam even thought the two are now separate
religions. Most of its five million members live in India, Iran and
the US, even though some of its founding members lived here in the
The Haifa shrine built in 1953, houses the
tomb of one of the religion's founders Siyyad Ali Mhammed, otherwise
known as the Bab. He was executed in 1850 and his remains were
brought to Haifa in 1909.
Its deputy secretary general
Murray Smith of New Zealand who has lived in Haifa for the last 12
years said that on an average month some 40,000 to 60,000 people
visit the gardens. But in light of the attacks the site is closed.
Still in an effort to boost morale in the city, Smith said he has
left the lights on at night beyond the normal number of hours.
"It's a nice symbol for world peace," said Smith who added
that such feeling is one of the central tenents of the Baha'i faith.
He noted that the slope of the mountain faces Lebanon, "so that
makes it a particularly significant symbol of hope for everyone