Before we departed for our morning adventure to Haifa’s famed Shuk haPishpeshim (flea market), we read up about Wadi Salib, the neighborhood where it is located, now mostly deserted and in ruins. Before the “Nakba,” Wadi Salib used to be an Arab neighborhood. (“Nakba,” literally “catastrophe,” is the Palestinian/Israeli Arab term for the exodus in 1948 in which more than 700,000 Arabs were either expelled or fled from their homes throughout the country during the Israeli War for Independence.) After 1948, the neighborhood was home to Moroccan Jews. Chaim and I located a couple of Moroccan synagogues that remain in that neighborhood.
In 1959, David Ben Haroush, one of the Moroccan Jewish residents there, started a protest movement of Jews from Arab countries against the white European (Ashkenazi) establishment that discriminated against them. The civil disobedience and protests that started in Haifa soon spread to the rest of the country. This was an important historical moment in Israeli history vis-a-vis relations between Jews from Europe and Jews from Middle Eastern countries (who often grew up speaking Arabic at home). The buildings in that neighborhood are still beautiful, but sadly abandoned.
Shuk haPishpeshim is Haifa’s vast flea and antique market comprising multiple streets, most active on Saturdays and Sundays. It was safe (financially speaking) for us to go on Shabbat since we wouldn’t spend any money, but it also meant that Chaim wouldn’t take any pictures of me, so I had to resort to a selfie.
After returning home to eat Shabbat lunch and taking the requisite Shabbat shluf (nap), we went out for another walk. This time we visited the Gan haZikaron/Memorial Garden, honoring Israel’s fallen soldiers. At the stone in honor of the Sinai Campaign of 1956, Chaim reminisced about his memories of that time, when his father was drafted (his job was to keep watch for Egyptian planes), and at home they weren’t allowed to keep lights on at night.
We meandered home (it does feel like home!) through the now-familiar Wadi Nisnas, an Arab neighborhood, filled with public art at nearly every turn. This time we discovered Poetry Lane with four poems by Hanna Abu Hanna written in Arabic, with both Hebrew and English translations.
Here is one, entitled “Fear,” that seems appropriate in this week following the horrendous events in Parkland, FL:
When fear prevails,
woes follow in rapid succession.
To lose the sense of shock,
the horror of horror,
to become sedated
and indifferent to suffering
to become immune to the spilling of blood,
the killing of a fellow human!
Woe to the target of the gun,
and woe to him who aims the gun.
Because with the sacrificed whose blood flows in the squares,
the sniper murders his conscience,
the very conscience of humanity.
We also noticed xeroxes plastered everywhere notifying the neighborhood about deaths that had taken place.
We wanted to be in Haifa because of the relative integration between Arabs and Jews and the spirit of coexistence that Haifa is known for. For instance, there is an Arab-Jewish pre-school downstairs in our very apartment building. And comparatively, I think the situation in Haifa probably is rosier than it is elsewhere in Israel. But my reading of what happened in Haifa after 1948 is rather sobering. The Arab population in Haifa was reduced to 3500 from 75,000, homes and neighborhoods destroyed, defenders killed, and those remaining urged to move to Wadi Nisnas. Remaining Palestinian homes elsewhere were confiscated and street names changed. Since most of the land is Jewish-owned, Arabs can generally only rent, not buy property. Legal discrimination in housing, at least, therefore remains even here.
In the words of Hanna Abu Hanna, I refuse “to become sedated and indifferent to suffering.” It breaks my heart that the world is filled with such injustice.
Tomorrow will be our last full day in Haifa, before we fly back to the U.S. on Monday morning. Two weeks has not been enough time to explore this city and its environs, but we are already talking about our next trip and our intention to be based in the south (Beersheba) for that extended visit, so that we can take day trips into the Negev.