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April 2019
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Peace Education

Festival Celebrates the "Holiday of Holidays" in Haifa

Haifa, Israel - The crowd at Haifa's annual December celebrations, known as the "Holiday of Holidays," included Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze from Haifa and all around the country.

Though it was in mid-winter, a perfect day welcomed families and individuals to the picturesque Wadi Nisnas where multiple festival activities took place. The crowds began to fill up the streets as early as 10:00 in the morning. Walking through the narrow streets, one saw numerous stalls offering colorful tables filled with a large variety of products to attract the crowds.

Our program was conducted as a joint venture with Haifa’s municipal company, Ethos, that produces the yearly Hag Hachagim event, the "holiday of holidays." This is a month-long series of events every December honoring and respecting the four Abrahamic faiths.

The program began at 10:30 am and lasted until 4:00 pm, with more than 24 groups and individuals (200 artists in total) performing on two stages simultaneously. There were rock bands and choirs, martial arts demonstrations and dance groups, vocal singers and ethnic musicians, and much more. Altogether, police estimated that some 40,000 people participated in the day-long events in midtown Haifa.

Everybody seemed to be having great fun. Massoud, one of the neighborhood residents, said, “We haven’t seen such a celebration in years.” On one stage surrounded by historic buildings, a special Native American ceremony took place led by Dr. Shuki Ben Ami, who was the events’ master of ceremonies.

Twelve people were invited to the stage and paired with representatives of enemy nationalities, religions, or races. Each pair was then handed an authentic arrow and asked to break the arrow signaling the end of hostilities. To the sound of a Native American slowly beating her drum and singing a haunting melody, each pair broke their arrows and raised the pieces high above their heads before placing them in the urn at the center of the stage and embracing each other. When all had finished, the master of ceremonies set fire to the broken arrows as the music continued. The crowd cheered and Yona Yahav, the Mayor of Haifa, who participated in the activity, embraced several of the pairs.

Mayor Yahav welcomed everybody and invited the international participants to return in the coming years, and then jokingly said he would tax them after the fourth year! The celebration continued with more performances. The audience filled every available space, including the road overlooking the area as well as windows and balconies of nearby buildings.

After the mayor spoke, Dr. Thomas Walsh, Secretary General of the Universal Peace Federation, led the Middle East Peace Initiative representatives of more than 13 nations onto the stage. He highlighted the role of the family as “the school of love,” the place where we develop the skills of healthy relationships within society at large. The crowd actively participated, raising their hands in agreement to the motto proclaiming; “One family under God.”

A dazzling array of performances continued and, even though dusk was approaching, the crowds refused to leave the festival. All stood together as the final song, “Seeds of Love,” was performed by Naty Rosenfield with the whole crowd joining in.

All performances were offered voluntarily, and we had more willing performers than time allowed. The disappointed artists who were not able to perform were comforted with assurances of invitations for a future program.

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