Exploring the Non-Jewish communities of Israel – by Anjelika Nella

Webegan the day learning about the political spectrum in Israel and how underrepresented the Palestinian society is. The parliamentary system consists of 9Zionist parties, and only one non-Zionist party that is a combination of several parties that unified together into one. We then travelled to Haifa to visit the Bahai Gardens. Haifa is not a religious city and does not have an ancient history. Most Jews live in upper Haifa and the Arabs live in lower Haifa. Haifa is the only place where both Arabs and Jews attend school together. Until coming on this trip I had never heard of the Bahai religion. It is extremely wealthy which was obvious after visiting the garden. The entire garden was perfectly symmetrical. At the top of the garden was a view of the Haifa bay which was a semi-circle. While looking down at the bay, our guide, Yahav, told us the story of how the garden and religion formed. In short, it was created after an Iranian man named Bábwas in the Ottoman Empire’s prison. Báb was the leader of a new religion called Bahai. It consisted of values from a variety of other religions but with a more modern type of gender equality. From prison, he had a view of the land where we stood, which at the time was a German colony. He asked his father to buy land and over time the Bahai’s acquired more and more to build the garden that now is the world center of the Bahai religion. Ironically no Bahai people live in Israel. This mainly is because of Israel’s religious conflicts. This garden has a shrine with Báb’s body.

We had a big lunch with hummus, pita, falafels, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh and much more!With our stomach’s full we walked a short way to speak to an activist advocating for equality and both the human and civil rights for Palestinians throughout Israel. The lawyers at this NGO take cases to the Supreme Court weekly and some consider this NGO to be a terrorist organization. Listening to her was very fascinating, especially since she had so much hope even though the NGO has had more failures than successes. Her main point was that people need to understand that the conflict began with the Nakba in 1948, not 1968 which is what the international world believes. She gave us astonishing facts such as 74% of Palestinian children are living below the poverty line and that 43% of Israel towns cannot be accessed by Palestinians which is legal segregation. She explained many laws and policies where the Israeli state is creating an environment revolving around identity and the supremacy of Israeli-Jews. For example, a Palestinian community has not been built since 1948 while most the Arab towns have been depopulated which forces Arabs to be living in tight and excluded communities. After the NGO, we met with Yousef who is part of the Druze religion. There are Druze people across the world. Druzes have two options, either to be religious or secular. This is decided at age 15 and parents are claimed to be indifferent on the matter which I found to be interesting. Yousef allowed us to ask any questions we had on the religion. The point that I found to be most interesting, was that they do not have a proclaimed God. They believe in reincarnation and are constantly trying to be the best person they can be, and reincarnation gives them another chance. It was very captivating to learn about two religions I had not heard of. I never realized Israel had more religions and communities other than the Jewish and Arab community. We finished our day by going to dinner at Jaffa port with appetizers of over ten dips for pita bread and vegetables, and fish for our main course. Overall, today was an eventful day filled with learning about three minority groups in Israel while hearing new and different perspectives.

 

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