Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, the founder and president of Dirshu, a global Jewish education initiative, met with representatives of the Afifi family, Afif Afifi, Khalid Mansour and Walid Muslemani, last Wednesday in northern Israel.
The Afifi family runs the Afifi Group, a tourism giant with a successful string of hotels and bus companies in Israel and Jordan, and Nateev Express, which provides public transport services to the Upper Nazareth Haredi community and all public transport services to the haredi residents of Tzfat and Meron in the northern Galilee.
The meeting between Rabbi Hofstedter and the Afifi family was just one in a series of grassroots outreach initiatives undertaken by Dirshu in Israel.
According to Afif Afifi, his family greatly respects the haredi community for its values, devotion and perseverance.
“I do not call this an ultra-Orthodox sector, but haredi society,” Afif Afifi said at the meeting. “I do not believe in sectors but in society,” he continued, adding that the word “sector” creates a divide.
“We have learned to know the ultra-Orthodox and we appreciate them and give them the best service,” Afif Afifi added. “The ultra-Orthodox have special needs in public transportation; there are special holidays and special occasions in which there is a need to reinforce service.”
Rabbi Hofstedter expressed his gratitude to the Afifi Group for its continued service to the haredi community and its demonstrated understanding of the society. Rabbi Hofstedter even asked the Afifi representatives how it is possible that they can understand the Haredi community so well when many fellow Jews of other denominations are unable to do so.
The small group then discussed how having a deep respect for one’s own faith and culture leads to a deep respect for another person’s faith and culture. They agreed that this kindred attitude does not come from ignoring each other’s faults and weaknesses, but from acknowledging them and choosing to place respect and perspective at the fore of their relations.
“Someone who has respect for his heritage can respect someone else’s heritage,” Hofstedter concluded. “But those who do not respect their own heritage cannot respect someone else’s heritage."
Rabbi Hofstedter also met with the mayor of Upper Nazareth (Natzrat Illit) last Wednesday, as part of an effort to strengthen ties between the city's secular majority and its burgeoning haredi community.