Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Israel – CCXCVII. A Return Visit (12 of 19)

Sunday was devoted to visiting Haifa. There is a lot to see and do at Haifa; Gilbert volunteered to be my guide and he had an ambitious program; but we scaled down our plans since I was invited for supper by Joseph (Gilbert`s brother at Holon).

I couldn`t resist asking Gilbert:  “How does your family manage to always pick the loveliest city?”  Alexandria was a nicer city than Cairo; Haifa was a jewel; a city that surpasses Tel Aviv, having been blessed in many ways.

It is situated at the southern end of the beautiful blue Bay of Haifa; and at its heart is Mount Carmel on whose steep slopes the city is built.

Haifa is Israel’s leading seaport; and some of its main industries are oil refining and chemicals.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that Haifa is an industrial city with an industrious population.  There is a common Israeli saying:  “Haifa works, Jerusalem prays, and Tel Aviv plays!”

With a population of 268,000, Haifa is Israel third largest city after Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  Its population is mixed:  82% are Jewish, the rest are Arabs (both Muslims and Christians), Druze, and Baha’i.  Haifa is a model of co-existence between Arabs and Jews; nevertheless, flare-ups have happened from time to time.  Because of this mixed population, the religious laws have less hold; for example buses run on Shabbat, something you never see in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.  One last point:  just like cities and towns around Tel Aviv make-up Metropolitan Tel Aviv; the cities and towns around Haifa (with a population of 300,000 persons) make-up Metropolitan Haifa.

A visit to Israel must include Haifa. It has several museums, notably:  Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art; the Mané Katz Museum; the Prehistory Museum; the Haifa Museum; The National Museum of Science, Design, and Technology; and many others.  Not to be missed are the Zoological and Botanical Gardens; Chagall Artist’s House; The University of Haifa; The Carmelite Church and Monastery; and the Baha’i Shrine and Gardens.  Finally, there are miles and miles of glorious beaches and forested hills.  Even if you don’t intend to take a dip, walk along them and leave your stress behind!

Archeological evidence indicates that settlements have existed in this location for over 100,000 years.  In ages gone by, this place was made out of two settlements:  Shiqmona in the west and Zalmona in the East.  The name Haifa was first mentioned in the Talmud in the 200s CE; it is believed to have derived from Hof Yafe (beautiful coast).  Another possibility is a deformation (by the Crusaders) of the name of Caiaphas, the high priest of Jerusalem in Jesus’ time, who was born in this city.

Over the centuries many conquerors came and left.  The city as we know it today started when a colony of German immigrants settled in this location in 1868, and expanded with the arrival of Zionists settlers after 1900.

Gilbert and I strolled through the streets of Centre Carmel.  We climbed the stairs of Centre Carmel and at the top were rewarded with a breathtaking view.  When we got tired, we used the carmelit (the only subway system so far in Israel, more are planned) to see the rest of the city.

No visit to Haifa is complete without touring the Baha’i shrine and gardens.  And Gilbert made sure that I visit them.

Baha’i is a religious movement founded in the 19th century by the Persian Baha Ullah.  It calls for world peace and harmony; the ideals of a world federalist government; a new world language; and the recognition of the common ground shared by all religions.

The Bab (Siyyid Ali-Muhammad) left behind Islam and joined the Baha’i in Persia in 1844; he was publicly executed in 1850; and is considered a Baha’i martyr. His bones were transferred to Haifa in 1909 to be to be buried in the gold-domed mausoleum, the Shrine of the Bab.

Baha Ullah, the founder of the religion, died in 1892; and it is his son Abbas Effendi who built the mausoleum and the beautiful gardens in 1909.

The shrine is not only of historical interest, but it is full of beautiful thick Persian carpet and marvellous crystal chandeliers.  The gardens are enchanting and they envelop you with peace and harmony.  They are a true representation of this unique religion.

When we were finished, Gilbert took me back to Tahana Merkazit.  Before departing, I stressed how much I had enjoyed his gracious hospitality.

My next stop was at Holon to visit my cousin Joseph and his wife Rosette.  After the hugs, the kisses, and the reproaches (what took you so long to come to Israel?), I was offered a drink, then came cake, and other sweets; and I ate without restraint.  Big mistake!  They had cooked a five course meal!  I did partake of the meal since everything was so delicious; however, they were saddened that I couldn’t eat more.  To resolve the “problem” they invited me to come again for lunch; and I acquiesced.

I should mention that both Rosette and Joseph are outstanding cooks; mostly though, at the time, Rosette was the cook since Joseph’s work in the dye industry kept him very busy.

At my next visit, I didn’t make the same mistake twice.  Before the lunch, I only drank water!  I honored all the courses, and repeatedly congratulated Rosette.

When I went to Israel in 1996, I was looking forward to seeing them again; and perchance be invited to partake of their fine cuisine.  Alas, Rosette was very ill, and was being treated for cancer.  Shortly after I returned to Canada, Rosette passed away.

For a long time, Joseph was inconsolable, for she was the love of his life.  Being human, it occurred to me that Joseph would still eat well, for he was a first-rate cook in his own right.  But what about companionship?

Joseph found a companion, and together they traveled to many countries.  Sadly, she also died at a relatively young age.

Joseph passed away in 2011.  He was 87.

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