Long-term, I believe that the best way to guarantee a better future for the coming generations is for people of all religions and nationalities to come together, and learn to live together. Our main tool has to be education. What I’m doing at my businesses is exactly this; our work in Akko and its success is the proof of concept.
I was born in Palestine in 1944, before the declaration of the state of Israel. My parents took in immigrant children who had nowhere to go. I grew up with these children from different and difficult backgrounds. Among them was an Arab girl who stayed with us for a few years. This very special childhood inspired my path in life.
Today, I am humbled by the remarkable way in which this spirit of community and mutual respect has found expression in my Uri Buri restaurant, Efendi hotel and other ventures.
The past three years contained challenges that we could never have anticipated. During the lockdown, when businesses were all closed, our workers volunteered to prepare warm meals for poor elderly residents of Akko who were alone at home. This kept the team together.
The consecutive events of the Covid-19 pandemic followed by the riots during which both the restaurant and the hotel were burned down, required unique and unprecedented solutions. The first task was to keep the team together, as I understood that the future of the restaurant depended on it. As I realized that workers who had been present during the riots started to develop signs of post trauma, we decided to go as a group to a trauma therapy session.
Two weeks after the fire, we opened a popup restaurant that served our guests for eight months until we could return to our original location, which underwent extensive renovations. I am proud to say that we stood strong and united in the face of these unique challenges.
I have ADHD, which was not even a part of the lexicon when I was in school. At a certain point I realized that my thinking process was different and that I could not learn in a traditional way. When I was thrown out of school at 16, I started hitchhiking through Europe. In subsequent travels I found my way from Germany to India via a small caravan.
Wherever I traveled, I tried to spend as much time with the locals as possible, staying at their homes and avoiding tourist attractions and hotels. This highly shaped my understanding of different cultures, showing me that there was always more than one way of doing things, more than one truth.
Our futures depend on our ability to teach and implement both tolerance as well as respect for different ideas. If we are to prevent the continuation of the violence and war we witness today, we must continue promoting mutual understanding while condemning radicalism. This is my hope for the future. Ultimately, respect is the most powerful tool to bind people by opening their ears and their hearts.