Lori Lagziel, a former Squirrel Hill resident, immigrated to Israel with her husband, Nissim, to the moshav (cooperative farm) Even Menahem in the Galilee, where his Libyan family was sent after fleeing to Israel. She has discovered a passion for cooking. Here, Lori serves Nissim a plate of couscous, vegetables and soup.
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Nineteen years after a Katyusha rocket fired by Hezbollah fighter in Lebanon destroyed the bedroom of Lori Lagziel's daughter, she has something she'd like to tell the Iranian-backed group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
"The Hezbollah bombed our house. They're right over there," she said today, gesturing toward the Lebanese border just over the hill. "I would love to have [Nasrallah] come over here and have some of my couscous."
The Handshake and the Fists
Twenty years after an assassination changed the course of Israeli history, emigrants from the Pittsburgh region to the Holy Land live on all sides of the world's most intractable divide.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Rich Lord and Larry Roberts are in Israel this week, supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, exploring the lives of ordinary people in this polarized place. Some of the people you'll meet here believe that familiarity can ease the anger between Arabs and Jews. A few who came in peace now cry for justice. Others are standing firm on land where it often rains stones.
On Sunday, we'll look at Israel 20 years after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who famously shook hands with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the White House in 1993. Until then, follow Larry and Rich here every day as they bring images and stories from Israel's fault lines.
She and her husband, Nissim Lagziel, have moved on from the initial shock and anguish felt when the Katyusha hit two tanks of fuel beside their house and blew up the bedroom, when fortunately the wife and children were away. She has hurled herself into her cooking and social work. He is building a recording studio for their two artistic sons.
Their quiet chicken-raising town of Even Menachem is rarely in the firing line now. "Every once in a while, you have a lone Katyusha that finds its way over here," she said. "You hear the boom. It disrupts your day."
They aren't in Jerusalem, the faith-charged town where historic animosities run deep and the tit-for-tat battles never end. They're in Israel's Galilee region, where the attitude is different.
"We can't change history," said Mrs. Lagziel. "We can't go blaming everybody [and arguing about] who was here first."
Here, people rarely use the word "Palestinian" to describe non-Jewish residents. They call themselves Arabs.
Liron Peleg-Hadomi, right, the community relations coordinator for ACAT, listens as Naim Obeid, the sound and acoustics engineer for the Akko Center for Arts and Technology, talks about being an Arab in Akko and working with his Jewish associates. ACAT is being created along the lines of and with the help of Manchester Bidwell in Pittsburgh. Liron is one of the Jewish staffers. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)
Here, you hear talk of giving people "an equal chance, Arabs and Jews, which is very important, especially nowadays, when there is so much misunderstanding," as Naim Obeid, 44, an Arab, put it earlier in the day at the Akko Center for Arts & Technology. He serves there as a board member. "If we can get over this fear, if we give the children an opportunity to sit down with each other, maybe we can do the change."
Printing a future
The plan for achieving Mr. Obeid's goal was cribbed from Pittsburgh.
The 11,000-square-foot Akko Center for Arts & Technology is being built on the model of Pittsburgher William Strickland’s Manchester Bidwell Corp., and will open early next year. Downtown Pittsburgh attorney Mark S. Frank is raising the $1.5 million needed to launch the center and run it for a year.
The unfinished space for the auditorium at the Akko Center for Arts and Technology. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)
Shimon Lankri, Akko’s mayor for 12 years, who is Jewish, has been a big supporter. So has Saba Hassan Sayed, the city’s vice head of education, an Arab.
They're acutely aware that Israel's largely segregated neighborhoods and separate schools for Jews and Arabs don't breed familiarity. "Sometimes it could be the first time you meet the other community, in the university," said Liron Peleg-Hadomi, the center's director of community relations. The center will bring them together starting at age 14.
The Akko center’s philosophy, like Manchester Bidwell's, has five prongs: respecting others, embracing lifelong learning, listening, influencing others positively, and shaping solutions.
Sogood Zeini, 3D Lab director for the Akko Center for Arts and Technology, talks about being an Arab in Akko and working with her Jewish associates. ACAT is being created along the lines of and with the help of Manchester Bidwell in Pittsburgh. Sogood is holding a plastic symbol for peace that was created in the 3-D printer. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)
Jewish and Arab youths will learn the art of photography and the skills of 3-D printing and laser cutting. Adults from both cultures will learn computer-aided manufacturing and hospitality management.
Like the students, the teaching posts will be split between Jews and Arabs. Sogood Zeini, 27, an Arabic mother of two, will teach 3-D printing.
Kids love it, she said. "Everything you can think about, a thing that you need, just draw it in a program and print it here," she said. The goal is to build both skills and confidence.
This effort comes to an industrial city of 54,000, where mills turn out steel, electronics and plastics, but unemployment runs at 14 percent, more than double the rate in Israel as a whole. Because it is urgently needed, the computer-aided manufacturing program has already begun through a temporary arrangement with Erez College in the town of Shelomi, and has moved from a classroom phase to apprenticeships.
Amir Shaib, 36, of Akko, has drifted through perhaps a dozen jobs before ending up on public assistance. Dressed in a Chicago Bulls cap, he's now in the pilot class of computer-aided manufacturing trainees — one of three Arabs who study beside five Jews.
"We don't engage or talk about politics here in class," he said. "The conflict is politics. Here, it's normal life."
Lori Lagziel, a former Squirrel Hill resident who immigrated to Israel with her husband Nissim to the moshav (cooperative farm) Even Menahem in the Galilee, where his Libyan family was sent after fleeing to Israel, stand outside and talk about how their home was hit by a rocket from Lebanon in the 1990s. Lori and Nissim say they still believe in the peace process but have lost faith in governments being able to do anything about it after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated 20 years ago. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)
Growing up, Mrs. Lagziel’s family lived on Murray Avenue and then Windsor Street in Greenfield. “From the minute I read about the Land of Israel, I wanted to live there.”
She did a self-designed Jewish studies program at the University of Pittsburgh, including participation in an exchange program with Haifa University. There she met Mr. Lagziel, who later got a summer job at a Jewish camp in New York state. She finagled a position at the same camp. In 1979, she moved to Israel, and they were married that November.
Mrs. Lagziel had a rough string of years, a while back.
Her mother died in 1994. The next year, Israel dealt with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was killed by a Jewish extremist because he was trying to negotiate a long-term arrangement with the Palestinians.
"I cried a whole week," after the killing, Mrs. Lagziel said. "I thought hope for peace had died at that moment. Before that, we were sure it was coming.
"It's kind of hard to accept that your country is always going to be at war."
Then came the Katyusha. Compounding her anguish: Israel's retaliatory strike went horribly awry, hitting a refugee camp and killing around 100 civilians, in a mistake that prompted the country to halt its policy of hitting back with massive artillery and air power.
Mrs. Lagziel worked as an English teacher before entering the youth social work field. Mr. Langziel was also in social work, and recently retired from a post as volunteer coordinator for Western Galilee College. There he placed 600 students annually, both Arab and Jewish, in the service of schools, disabled people and Holocaust survivors. Along the way, they raised two sons and a daughter.
“When your son or daughter is in the Army, it’s concerning,” said Mrs. Langziel. “If, God forbid, there’s a war, you worry a lot. … You’re very, very sensitive when there are military problems, which happens a lot.”
Will peace come back? Mrs. Lagziel answered without hesitation: "That's miracle material."
Coming tomorrow morning: What’s tougher, being a Republican in Pittsburgh, or a Jew in East Jerusalem?
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