Episode 3: Haifa

The final episode on mixed cities is about Haifa. This port city is Israel’s third-largest city and likes to bill itself – though not without critique – as a place of more successful integration among its Jewish and Palestinian residents than in other parts of the country, that some trace to the days of British rule when strong ties were forged between Jewish and Palestinians across classes. The Palestinian population dwindled after a mass exodus from the city during the 1948 Mideast war and today makes up some 10 percent of the city, a growing number of which are University of Haifa students who decided to stay on. Politically outspoken, they’ve created a dynamic new cultural scene of their own in the city.  

During the war in May there were clashes, mostly between the police and Palestinian protesters, alongside arson attacks and some attacks on stores – although less than in other mixed cities. Among those at the protests against the inter-ethnic violence were longtime Haifa residents and activists, Jafar Farah and Merav Ben-Nun. Jafar is a civil rights campaigner who founded and directs Mossawa, a Haifa-based organization that promotes equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. Merav is an expert in peace education and a founder of the bi-lingual Arabic and Hebrew Hand-in-Hand School in Haifa and a longtime civil rights activist in the city.

Merav Ben-Nun was born in Berkeley, California to Israeli Parents. Most of her life was spent shuttling between the two countries and feeling comfortable in both cultures. She lived in Jerusalem, New York, and Haifa among other cities. After completing her army service where she served as an officer in the educational corps, she received her B.A. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a master’s and a Ph.D. in international education from New York University. Today, she is back in Haifa with her husband and three children, teaching, and mentoring teachers, and working as head of Hand in Hand’s community department, whose purpose is to cultivate and organize shared Jewish-Arab communities around the bilingual schools initiated by Hand in Hand. Merav is an expert in the field of peace education, civil society and third sector management, dialogue, and theory, training, and evaluation both in academia and in the field. She has spent time researching and creating opportunities for relationship building in conflicted societies, in Belfast and Israel.

Jafar Farah, Founder and General Director of the Mossawa Center for Arab Civil Rights in Israel (est. 1999), is a journalist and media entrepreneur, and a veteran activist in social and political activity in Arab society in Israel. He has extensive experience in leading projects and civic initiatives to change policy and exercise the rights of Arab citizens in the country, including advocacy to the International. He holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and education from the University of Haifa, worked as a journalist for the Haaretz local network, and for a number of Arab newspapers and the TV programs “Ouvda” and “Female Perspective” on Israel’s Channel Two. Wrote publicist articles published in the Arabic, Hebrew and English press. Served as a Lecturer in Communication and Spokesperson at the College of Management. Served as Chairman of the Arab Students’ Committee at the University of Haifa and Chairman of the Association of Arab Students in Israel. He was involved in the establishment of a number of Arab organizations, including the Educational Guidance Organization for Arab Students, the Ilam Association, and the Mossawa Center, and was one of the founders of the designated Arab channel.

This episode was produced by Dina Kraft and Yoshi Fields. Edited by Yoshi Fields. Scoring by Joel Shupack. Theme music by System Ali. Additional music from Blue Dot Sessions.