Experience the Arab community in Haifa: a tour for Russian-speaking journalists and bloggers

At the initiative of the Mossawa Center and Our Voice, a tour was organized for a group of Russian-speaking journalists and bloggers in Haifa, with the aim of getting to know the Arab community in the city more closely.

At the initiative of the Mossawa Center, the Advocacy Center for the rights of Arabs Citizens of Israel, and Our Voice, a tour was organized for a group of Russian-speaking journalists and bloggers in Haifa, with the aim of getting to know the Arab community with the city more closely. Haifa has about 39,000 Arab citizens, constituting about 13% of the city’s population.

The Director of the Mossawa Center, Jafar Farah, welcomed the participants by emphasizing the right of Arab citizens to participate in the administration of the city and addressing the challenges facing the Arab community in Haifa. Farah also spoke highlighted the prospect of discriminatory legislation that will harm the democratic fabric of the country.

During the tour, Russian-speaking journalists and bloggers met with a group of social activists, artists, and Palestinian Arab clerics from Haifa, who spoke about Haifa’s Arab community and the city’s social fabric in general. They also met with a number of Arab and Jewish municipality officials, who spoke about the political and social situation in the city.

The day kicked off with a lecture on the architectural history of the city of Haifa, presented by the former Head of the Building Preservation Department in the municipality, Walid Karkabi, who spoke about the important relationship between public space and municipal space.

After that, the group met Maria Jamal-Daoud, a social activist from Haifa, who established with her husband, Dr. Issam Daoud, an international refugee aid organization active all over the world called “Humanity Crew.” Established in the aftermath of the Syrian refugee crisis, the organization has won several international awards, and was established in the aftermath of the Syrian crisis and the asylum and displacement of millions of Syrians. Currently, Humanity Crew is working with Ukrainian refugees and employs foreign volunteers to respond to help support them.

The second part of the tour was organized by journalist Elina Schwerin, editor of the Russian language section of Our Voice, where the journalists and bloggers toured the Wadi al-Nisnas neighborhood in Haifa, in a tour guided by the journalist and social activist from the neighborhood Shaheen Nassar. During the tour, the participants received a glimpse into the history of the neighborhood, which was established in the nineteenth century and, after the Nakba and expulsion of the Palestinian people, became the central neighborhood and economic, cultural, and political center for the remaining Palestinian Arab citizens of the city of Haifa. During the tour, Nassar touched on the history of the Communist Party in Israel in general and its leaders from the city of Haifa who influenced public policy in the state and Arab society in the country. During the tour, the group also stopped at the house of “Santa Claus” in the

neighborhood, which has become a landmark of the neighborhood, and the “Festival of Holidays,” which is organized annually in the neighborhood in December.

The journalists and bloggers stopped to meet with artist and architect Suad Nasr – Makhoul at the Haifa Gallery in Wadi al-Nisnas. A collection of artworks, a bazaar for products, handicrafts, and embroidery for Palestinian women from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip were on display.

Later, the participants met with artist Abd Abedi in his gallery in the neighborhood. They learned about Abd al-Rahman al-Haj – the former mayor of Haifa – and a fruitful dialogue took place about Palestinian and Arab art in general.

During the tour, the participants also visited a number of churches and mosques, including the Orthodox Church, the Maronite Church, the Church of Our Lady, and the House of Grace – the only Arab hostel in the country for the freed prisoners.

The tour also included a meeting and conversation with Sheikh Rashad Abu Al-Haija – the imam of Al-Jarina Mosque, the great mosque in Haifa. The dialogue touched on the challenges facing the Arab community in Haifa in general, and the Muslims in particular. This conversation also touched on other important topics, including the status of the public education system compared to the private education system in Haifa, and the lack of official Arab educational frameworks that serve the children of Haifa. The conversation also covered the importance of preserving the historical buildings in Wadi Salib and downtown Haifa.

During the tour, the Russian-speaking journalists and bloggers traveled around the city on foot and by public transportation, getting a glimpse of the public transportation system in Haifa, which is the only city in which public transportation operates on Saturdays as well. Then the participants visited the old cable car in Haifa, where they met Fakher Bayadseh, the director of the cable car in the city, who recently ran for the position of Director General of the Haifa Municipality – a position that no Arab has held since 1948. Bayadseh talked about the history of the cable car in Haifa, which opened in 1984. He also talked about the role that Arab citizens play in the city’s municipal administration.

Since Haifa is the city of the sea and the mountains, it was not possible not to climb Mount Carmel. The tour participants took a cable car to the top of the mountain to visit the Monastery of St. Elias and the Carmelite monks, where they sat for a joint lunch with the head of the Council of Change in the municipality, Sarit Golan. Sarit spoke about the political unrest experienced by the municipality of Haifa, the challenges of running the city today, and the relations between Arabs and Jews in the city.

Jafar Farah, the Director of Mossawa Center, summarized the tour, where the participants expressed their gratitude for organizing this successful tour, stressing that they will visit the city again, and introduce their readers to Haifa’s Arab community and the city itself.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *