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Middle East Abeja Dispatch

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'Twas the Holiday of Holidays!
January 5, 2000

Holiday of Holidays festival

The Holiday of Holidays festival in Haifa, Israel is month-long celebration of Ramadan, Christmas, and Hanukah. It is sponsored by the Beit Hagefen Jewish-Arab Center, which attempts "to create a supporting atmosphere and a social and cultural meeting place for Jewish and Arab citizens of Haifa in particular and the whole of Israel in general." In addition to youth leadership groups, an active touring theater company, seminars, art and language workshops, an art gallery, and a library, Beit Hagefen has sponsored the month-long "Holiday of Holidays" for six years now.
For more information, click here for the Beit Hagefen Jewish-Arab Center

'Twas a rainy wet Christmas when all through the town
Muslims, Christians, and Jews were partying down.
Artwork was hung throughout Haifa with care
for a celebration of hope that was happening there.

The children were dressed up in costumes to play.
The Holiday of Holidays would happen today!
And I in my raincoat was given a map
I left Beit Hagefen center to find all of that.

When down in the streets there arose such a clatter
I bound down the steps to see what was the matter.
Passing many great sculptures by Arabs and Jews,
through the old winding streets, which way would I choose?

Click images for larger view
Like Disneyland?

The sun burst through the clouds to the wet streets below,
signs in Arabic and Hebrew, which way should I go?
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear
but Sufi drums playing and spinning--stand clear!

The kids clapped and danced, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment, there's no need to panic!
Then the Sufis made way for the jazz band that came,
and they whistled and shouted the Holidays' names.

Vocabulary Box

Sufi - a sect of Islam that believes God is in everything and prays through dance and music
pogrom - a systematic massacre or persecution of a minority group, especially Jews.
propagation - multiplication or expansion
clandestine - secretive or hidden
coexistence - two or more things existing peacefully side by
Bahai - a religion that is an offshoot of Islam
Druze - a monotheistic (one God) religion begun in Syria
"Merry Christmas and Ramadan, Happy Hanukah greetings
on the Holiday of Holidays, all religions are meeting!
We bring Peace and Goodwill, between Arabs and Jews!
You create your own future, so what do you choose?"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
the kids danced in the streets as the rain clouds passed by!
To the top of Mt. Carmel the good will it flew,
past the cave of Elijah, Muslims partied with Jews!

And then, in my mind, I remembered the story,
of Haifa's long history, both hopeful and gory.
For the story of Elijah, King Ahab, and Jezebel, click here
From ancient cave dwellers to the prophets of Baal,
who were slain by Elijah, despite queen Jezebel.

The village lay quiet between Mt Carmel and the bay,
until Zionist Jews came from Europe to stay.
In boatloads they escaped, anti-Jewish pogroms,
to arrive on this shore, and find something was wrong.

Discover more by clicking on the following topics:
State of Israel
"A land without a people," the Jews had been told,
and so all they came, tired, frightened, and cold.
And when they arrived, and set foot on dry ground,
they discovered before them this small Arab town.

Click image for larger view
Anyone thirsty?
Soon riots broke out, against Zionist propagation,
and the British forbade more Jewish immigration.
So clandestine boats tried to keep hidden,
and Jews kept on coming, though it was forbidden.

Fear gripped Arab hearts, Deir Yassin on their tongues,
But the Jews all assured them that no harm would come.
All around Palestine, Arabs ran away,
Yet not here in Haifa, where they felt safe to stay!

On the hills of Mt Carmel, live Arabs and Jews,
Click image for larger view
Rockin' out
along with the Ahmadians, Bahai'is and Druze!
So let us all celebrate diverse coexistence,
and pray greater peace will meet little resistance.

Soon nighttime was falling, Jewish Shabbat did end.
And the Muslims could eat, and break bread with new friends!
And so I recalled, as I rode out of sight,
"Coexistence is cool, there is no need to fight!"

Land of Palestine
In the Early 1900's, European Jews poured into Palestine. One slogan the Zionists used to promote immigration was "A land without a people for a people without a land." But, of course, Palestine wasn't without people, and the Palestinian Arabs began to riot and protest the large numbers of Jews. In 1939, the British, who controlled Palestine under a UN mandate, issued a famous proclamation known as the "White Paper." This was an attempt to end Jewish immigration to Palestine, which failed because thousands of Jews still came illegally.

In 1948, just before Israel was declared a state, Jewish nationalist armies massacred the residents of Deir Yassin, a small Arab village near Jerusalem. Word quickly spread about this massacre, causing thousands of Palestinian Arabs to leave their homes and flee Palestine, for fear of being killed by the Jews. These refugees and their descendents to this day have not been able to return to their homes. Kavitha will visit Deir Yassin and some West Bank refugee camps soon.


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

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Team - Exercise Your Right and Write

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