Identity--ies. We all have many that make up our one. Yet, some combinations of identities--especially some combinations within certain communities--make one's identity far more complex than others'. These identities help us describe, even define, who we are. They can be helpful in creating understanding. They can also be harmful in creating misunderstanding if we are recognized solely by our identities than by being known personally.
Artist. Poet. Writer. Friend. Son. Buddhist. Israeli. Jewish. Iraqi. Arab. Michael. Michael, also my marvelously hospitable AirB&B host in Haifa, Israel. I could also identify Michael as gentle, open, thoughtful and reflective, inspired, inspirational, and alive. To get to know him better than I might attempt to continue to describe him, I offer you his story in his own words.
Before moving to Haifa, Michael lived in Tel Aviv, about 60 miles south of Haifa. He shared with me his perspectives on the mindset of Israelis in the area and Israelis in general.
While many try to carry on with life avoiding the existence of the occupation, it consistently reveals it refuses to be avoided or normalized for long. When reflected upon, one can notice its infiltration into all aspects of daily life.
Can anything change?
While negativity and evil strive to prevail, positivity and hope appear to remain all the more resilient. Haifa is a unique city in Israel. It is one of the most mixed in the state, with Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Israelis--both Muslim and Christian, living together. Many try to simply live side by side, and manage to for at least periods of time.
Certainly currents of harmony and sprinklings of hope to be found in the integrated sections scattered across Haifa. Though, as witnessed in the fires that erupted just weeks after I interviewed Michael, presumed as terrorist attacks (whether they were or not, the presumption reflects the reality of ongoing tension) it is evident there is still much peace and reconciliation work to be done. In the next blog post I will share a conversation I had with the human rights group, Adalah, to add to mosaic of experiences that is the seaside city of Haifa.
ACTION: Get to know your neighbors.
Extend welcome or an act of hospitality to a stranger.
Spend time walking around or dining in a neighborhood with residents who are of a different ethnicity than your own. Say "hello" or chat with someone.
O Beloved One,
All people were created in the image of the Divine
We are thankful for the astonishing variety
of races and cultures in this world.
May our lives be enriched by ever-widening circles of friendship,
May we be shown Love's presence
in those who differ most from us,
until our knowledge of love is made perfect
in our love for all people;
(Prayer adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship)