JCHS News

Junior Journey: Exploring Diversity in Shfar'am

Merav Rozenblum
Ms. Rozenblum updates us from Israel: "We spent our last day in the North exploring some of Israel's minority groups. In the Arab Israeli town of Shfar'am we visited a mosque, an Episcopal church, and an old synagogue -- all within a short walk from each other."
We spent our last day in the North exploring some of Israel's minority groups. In the Arab Israeli town of Shfar'am we visited a mosque, an Episcopal church, and an old synagogue -- all within a short walk from each other. Both the Muazin who talked to us at the mosque, and the priest who welcomed us at the church spoke about how in their town people of various religions and ethnicities all live together and coexist peacefully. The Muazin talked about the prayer schedule and the Pillars of Islam and chanted for us in Arabic. At the church, the priest explained how for him, the work he does with the people of his community, not exclusively the Christian ones, is the most significant. 

Our local host, Nadra, then led us to the old synagogue of Shfar'am. Jews no longer live in the town; however, since Shfar'am was one of the sites to which the Sanhedrin moved after the destruction of the Temple, it has been restored and is maintained clean even though it is no longer active. The Muslim family that lives next door keeps the key to it. 

After lunch at one of the town's Community Centers, we heard more about the challenges that this uniquely diverse municipality face. We closed our visit with an activity that challenged students to think about the relationship that the Jewish majority has with the religious and ethnic minorities in its midst. 

In Haifa, Israel's third largest city, we stopped at the top of the Carmel mountain and overlooked the beautiful, famous Bahai gardens. The students enjoyed taking pictures in spite of the hazy weather. Sitting in the nearby park, they heard the story of the Bahai, an offshoot of Shiite Islam born at the beginning of the 20th century in Israel. 

We continued to Usafia, a Druze village on the Carmel, where students learned about yet another minority in Israel, the Druze, who identify as Israelis not through Judaism or Zionism, but through their decision to tie their destiny with that of the State of Israel and to serve in the IDF. The day ended in high spirits as beautiful large trays with some traditional Druze dishes and pita bread were laid on the tables in front of us. Following our host's instructions, we appreciated the generosity of our hosts by eating as much as we could from the food, which was indeed delicious. A cup of sage tea and a cookie for dessert, and on to Tel Aviv, where we'll explore Israeli culture and spend Shabbat.
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Jewish Community High School of the Bay
1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.345.9777
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The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.