|Posted by Egonne Roth on December 21, 2014 at 7:20 AM|
Celebrating in Israel
We have friends from abroad staying with us and so we decided to take them to celebrate the Festival of Festivals in Haifa’s Wadi Nisnas. It incorporates all three faiths and dominant national groups in the country: it is Chanukah for the Jews, Christmas for the Christian Arabs and Eid-al-Adla for the Moslems. The celebrations last from end November until Christmas: each Shabbat the streets in the Wadi are closed to cars and filled with throngs of visitors from all over the Galilee
We found parking way on the far side of Ben Gurion Street that joins the Bahai Gardens to the sea and walked across into the neighbourhood. It was a riot of sights and sounds, colours and flavours. Our friends kept exclaiming at the profusions of images: Christmas kitsch at its best,
art of a high standard on street walls
and in small galleries, children in strollers or on their fathers’ shoulders often wearing Christmas hats with tassels,
little girls dressed up as ‘Mother’ Christmas. The air was filled with many of the languages of this country – Arabic, Hebrew, English, Russians, French. There were Christian groups singing gospels songs, Arabic music from the many cafés
and gifted street musicians playing in different corners.
The residents of the area sat on their balconies watching the crowds, enjoying it all without having to leave the comfort of their homes and their own pot of tea.One’s senses were assaulted by it all but not overwhelmed unpleasantly because the atmosphere was so friendly and relaxed.
“According to what we hear in England, Jews and Arabs never mix like this!” our friends said several times, watching as
a Jewish teenager plaited a little Arab girl’s hair Afro-style and another painted kids’ faces in the most magical designs. A Jewish street jester entertained a bunch of tourists and
a Druze mama served ‘koubbey’ – cracked wheat balls stuffed with spicy lamb meat that were totally irresistible.
There were hawkers selling syrupy cakes from large trays
and bright coloured sweets.
The local greengrocers had packed out their fruit and veg in generous mounds and in the bright winter sun they gleamed enticingly.
We visited Beit HaGefen, a community centre for all three faiths that live in the area, to see an art exhibition that was on there. It always amazes me how rich and vibrant the art scene is in Israel. As is often the case at times like this, there was
an installation that was interactive for the children and watching them was lovely. Where are my two grandchildren? I kept wondering, they would love all this.
But eventually enough is enough we staggered to our favourite Moroccan café in Ben Gurion Street for a drink before driving home with our heads still spinning from all the sounds and smells and colours – well satisfied by our outing.