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In Haifa, a university serves as a base for Arab-Jewish coexistence — and a place to tackle global problems

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HAIFA — On a recent chilly morning, six Israeli Druze women gathered in a room at the University of Haifa library to discuss the joys and frustrations of living in a modern, Jewish, largely secular country.

Chatting in Arabic and Hebrew, many of the women, all students at the university, spoke about the challenges of balancing their traditional Druze identity with their modern Israeli aspirations.

“I spend two hours each way to come to school. But my education is so important, I’d do it even if I spent 10 hours a day,” said Walaa Bader, 20, an Arabic literature and music major from Horfeish, a Druze village of some 6,000 souls near the Lebanese border.

Adan Bader, 22, said she became secular four years ago in part to focus on her studies.

“I was a religious girl, but our religion doesn’t encourage young women to study,” she said. “At this stage of my life, I wasn’t ready for a full commitment to my religion.”

The get-together was part of a series of weekly meetings organized by Yael Granot, director of social engagement at the University of Haifa’s student dean office. It’s part of the university’s larger social and educational mission: to serve Israel’s Arab population and build bridges between Israeli Arabs and Jews.

Aside from being a world-class center for higher learning with over 18,000 students, the university runs various coexistence programs to facilitate dialogue and mutual respect between Jewish and Arab students. One is the Jewish-Arab Community Leadership Program, which facilitates dialogue and multicultural social interaction through joint community projects.

“In addition to creating scientific knowledge, our main mission is the expansion of professional opportunities for all members of society,” University of Haifa President Ron Robin said when he began his tenure as president. “We embrace the rich tapestry of communities that make up Israeli society.”

Approximately 40% of the university’s students are Arabs, including some 300-400 Druze women. Druze constitute an Arabic-speaking faith group with some 150,000 adherents in Israel, most of whom live in highly conservative villages in northern Israel. About 70% of all Arab students at the University of Haifa are women.

“We’re very proud to be Druze, and very proud to be Israeli,” said Bader. “But we are doubly marginalized because, even within the Arab minority, we’re not Muslims. And the Basic Law puts a question mark on our sense of belonging to Israeli society,” she said, referring to a 2018 law enshrining Israel’s identity as a Jewish state that many Arab Israelis complained relegated them to second-class status.

Granot sees her role as helping the Druze students balance their personal backgrounds with their academic and professional interests. The Druze women in her group recently created mentoring groups for Druze teenagers to encourage them to pursue higher education.

This approach is part and parcel of the university’s mantra of “thinking locally and acting globally.”

Druze high school students discuss “soft skills” with University of Haifa student mentors during a weekly meeting in the northern Galilee village of Horfeish, Israel. (Amal Merey)

On the local level, the university is trying to create a new broad and inclusive middle class. Its campus, located in a part of Israel with significant Jewish and Arab populations, strives to serve as an oasis of coexistence. Among the university’s joint community projects is Hai-fa Innovation Labs, a start-up incubator whose programs focus on social innovation and impact entrepreneurship.

On the global level, this university located on the Carmel mountains with sweeping views of the Mediterranean Sea has a strong research focus on the environment. At the university’s Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences, scientists are studying how to improve seawater desalination — a major source of Israel’s water supply. Among the elements most critical to sustainable desalination, experts say, are ensuring the quality of drinking water while reducing byproducts of the desalination process. The school is actively monitoring these issues to protect Israel’s coastal and marine environments and provide guidance globally for how to replicate successes worldwide.

The university’s Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies is partnering with the Scripps Center for Marine Archeology at the University of California San Diego to investigate the long-term impacts of climate change and rising sea levels in the eastern Mediterranean.

Students and scientists at the Charney school are exploring the viability of using ocean plants as sustainable food sources to meet the needs of the globe’s rapidly expanding human population.

As the university celebrates its 50 th year, it has aligned its academic strategic plan with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at eliminating poverty, hunger and discrimination worldwide.

On a concrete level, the university has mounted a $150 million fundraising campaign to build infrastructure, expand research areas and update its technology.

Back in Granot’s group, students are figuring out their own ways to effect change.

“We put a great emphasis on providing tools for social entrepreneurship and letting students work and find their own voice for social change,” Granot said.

In one initiative, the group asked 15 local Israeli municipalities to identify a cause or problem they’d like the students to tackle.

In Acre, a city in northern Israeli that saw violence break out between Arabs and Jews during Israel’s 2021 conflict with Hamas in Gaza, 10 students — five Arabs and five Jews — worked together to map out challenges. They came up with a plan in which Jewish and Arab youth in Acre would create joint tours in Hebrew and Arabic for local schools. The students get about $2,850 each for their participation and are expected to volunteer 140 hours a year. The tours are expected to begin in the coming months.

The university also has enlisted two institutions, Beit HaGefen and the Boston-Haifa Partnership, for a project in which students are encouraged to utilize their creativity, activism and aspirations to design initiatives and opportunities for shared spaces in Haifa. In the program, 15 students of diverse backgrounds — native-born Israeli Jews, Arabs, Christians and Druze, as well as new immigrants from Russia, Ukraine and Ethiopia — meet on Tuesdays with local entrepreneurs while conducting tours of Haifa.

“Our main objective is to get them to know their city, with all its challenges and complexities, and make them into active citizens working toward social change,” Granot said. “Even people born here don’t really understand the richness of this city. We’d like them to experience that.”


The post In Haifa, a university serves as a base for Arab-Jewish coexistence — and a place to tackle global problems appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Obituaries

PHYLLIS POLLOCK

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary

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By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre


Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station

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This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.


The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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