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Love your enemy



I spent the final day of our trip to Israel staring down the slope of Mount Carmel in silent reflection.

I wondered how such a beautiful and unified place had come to exist in a country most everyone here equates with injustice and violence. I pondered how the example of Haifa, dubbed the City of Unity by the locals, could expand its reality to the whole of this troubled region. The solution seems lost in the guise of greed we mistake for politics. It seems mired in a history so few understand and even fewer care to give due credence.

There was a bombing in Haifa over a year ago, which I recalled while staring into the belly of the city below. The news we received in America was the same as always--a suicide bomber entered a night club. What we didn't hear was that the night club was a hot spot for Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. We also didn't hear that the club was co-owned by a Muslim and a Jew. After the bombing, the owners didn't wait for an inquiry. They rebuilt it, and today it thrives again.

I took one more look down the mountain before heading back to my motel, which is owned and operated by the Rutenberg Institute, an educational facility atop Mount Carmel. In the early 20th century, Pinchas Rutenberg willed a significant sum of money for the construction of a school for Muslim, Jewish and Christian children from across Israel. It proved to be one of many stories of cooperation I never expected to hear.

Upon my return home, people asked if I felt unsafe. I told them, "Only when tempted by the best hummus on the planet. I'm allergic to tahini."

No, I never felt unsafe. Israel doesn't exist in a time warp. Its citizens don't shut themselves inside, waiting for the next bombing. They live life like us. They share our disdain for violence. Haifa bustles. The inhabitants search for solutions.

No, I never felt unsafe; just worried that places like the Rutenberg will close or business people will be financially forced to succumb to the disunifying forces of ignorance.

I returned to my life refreshed and with an unmistakable sense of clarity. A week later, I came home late to find our back door damaged. I walked quickly to my bedroom. I took the change from my pocket and threw it where my change plate had sat since the day we moved in. The coins clanked off the dresser top. After accusing my wife of pulling a fast one, I noticed other things missing.

"We've been robbed."

The police gave us information about our neighborhood, of which we had no idea.

"I don't want to make you feel unsafe," he said. "But you should take precautions."

"Should we move to Israel?" I joked.

He looked confused.

"Forget it," I said, hugging my wife as I laughed at life's minor ironies.

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