Day 10: Haifa & Tel Aviv

On Friday, we drove to Haifa and visited the Bahá’í Gardens on the slopes of Mount Carmel. The gardens surround the Shrine of the Báb, which is the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í faith. Our guide described the intent of the gardens – a place to give peace and connection, as well as a celebration of the eighteen founding members (a tier for each) – and gave us an outline of the faith and its tradition. It was a fascinating visit. I’ll do a specific blog post to cover it in more depth.

Then we visited House of Grace which is an absolutely amazing place. We were welcomed by Agnes Shehade who, together with her late husband, Kamil, worked tirelessly to convince the bishop to allow them to attempt to renovate a disused church where they had a vision of creating a half-way house for released prisoners in Israel. House of Grace also works with the most disenfranchised and marginalized members of Haifa: Christians, Jews and Muslims who are in need of counseling, guidance, and material aid. We heard from a social worker who has been with the organization since it’s inception in 1982 and heard the testimony of a gentleman who used to be a resident and comes back to volunteer. It was another powerful sign of hope.

Our day ended in Tel Aviv at the Comme il Faut Café in the port area. It was very bohemian and another in the line of contradictions we experienced each day in setting, climate, altitude, rights, wealth, etc. Before a delicious dinner at the café, we heard from three journalists from, Noam, Mairav, and Ami. They were all Israeli and very socially and politically conscious – of the Occupy generation. They offered some salient insights into what might turn the tide of the conflict.

Again, I’m going to blog more about particular experiences and will keep adding photos – I have 3,000+ so it’s taking me a little time to sort through them! So I hope you’ll visit again and leave comments and/or questions. Thanks for reading along so far.

My trip home was uneventful – passing security on the Israeli side was a little stressful but was without incident. When our plane was 20km from Tel Aviv we were hit by lightening. The pilot later told one of our party that he’d never experienced it being so “big” – there was a loud bang, the steward making an announcement at the time shrieked (as did many passengers), and everything lit up for a second outside. But the pilot soon reported that all the instruments were fine and we proceeded without further hassles. All to say – I’m pleased to be home safely now!

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