The Secret of Coexistence is a timely addition to the growing literature (e.g. Tamir Goren's recent book on Jewish-Arab municipal cooperation in the city[1]) about mandatory Haifa, but it also illustrates a nostalgic trend for pre-conflict Palestine when

The Secret of Coexistence is a timely addition to the growing literature (e.g. Tamir Goren's recent book on Jewish-Arab municipal cooperation in the city[1]) about mandatory Haifa, but it also illustrates a nostalgic trend for pre-conflict Palestine when Jews and Arabs are thought to have lived peacefully with each other under the umbrella of the British Mandate. The book offers an interesting collage of tangent points in which Jews and Arabs met and related to each other. For several reasons, Haifa was—and still is—the symbol of this relatively peaceful coexistence. Municipal cooperation, mixed labor in government plants and offices, attempts at organizing joint trade unions, a few joint business enterprises, and even a mixed underworld signified this idyllic life.

But peaceful coexistence was illusory. Like every collage, this one is selective. It blurs the mainstream and enhances what was marginal. While relations between Jews and Arabs in Haifa might have been better than in other mixed cities, Haifa was also a center of anti-Jewish agitation. It was the seat of Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam, an anti-Jewish, anti-British terrorist, and his disciples, a base of terrorist activity in 1931-33 and during the revolt of 1936-39, and the headquarters of the pan-Arab Istiqlal party and the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. Representing it as an innocent and cosmopolitan Mediterranean town is not totally untrue or inaccurate but remains misleading. The end of this apparent "golden age" in 1948 is the best proof of how precarious it had been from the beginning.

Sharfman writes a vivid description of daily life in Mandatory Haifa, encompassing every conceivable field from tourism to the building of roads, schooling, commerce, and industry. Her writing evokes a wistfulness also evident in her citation of testimony from Ruth Zuker—an immigrant from Germany, who was at that time a daring agent of the Shay (the Jewish intelligence service)—describing the cordial relations between Jews and Arabs.

During the mandate years, Haifa became the center of Palestine's heavy industry and Nachmias deals with economic issues. He shows that the image of Red Haifa did not reflect reality for the town absorbed a considerable bourgeois immigration in the 1920s and 1930s. He also demonstrates that the Jewish and Arab economies developed separately with few points in common; one of them was the attempt to form an Arab workers' union affiliated to the Histadrut.

Mansour's article brings plenty of valuable data on the growth of Arab Haifa and its transformation from a traditional to a modern community—an internal process violently interrupted in 1948.

[1] Shituf be-Tzel Imut (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 2008).