Haifa, Israel's third largest city and northern capital is the heart of it all! Situated in a broad natural bay between the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and the inspiring Carmel Mountain, the city's terraced landscape offers a rich variety of breathtaking panoramas, giving the observer the sensation of being on a heavenly peninsula.
To the Northeast, across the sparkling waters of the harbour sits the medieval walled fortress city of Acre. Directly North, if the weather is good, beacon the heights of Rosh Hanikra, the white cliff, checkpoint on the Israel-Lebanon border. Further East towers the snow capped peak of Mount Hermon.
Haifa is home to 250,000 inhabitants, members of five different religions, living side by side in harmony, peace and mutual respect. A rich tapestry of contrasts and colours, varying cultures, and ethnic groups makes up the fabric of life in Haifa. Secular, Religious and Ultra-Orthodox Jews live side by side with Christians, Muslims, Bahai and Druze.
Wadi Nisnas, with its colourful souk and bustling streets is an authentic Middle Eastern neighbourhood. Nearby, the Orthodox Geula Street, recalls the sights and sounds of an East European community.
Close at hand, reside the carefully manicured bahai gardens and the glittering gold dome of the Bahai Shrine, World Centre of the Bahai faith.
The Carmelit monastery of Stella Maris ("Star of the Sea"), headquarters of the Roman Catholic Order resides on the summit of the Carmel above Haifa, on a spot considered holy since the dawn of time. Oracles and shrines were built here for the pagan god Carmel, Canaanite Baal and Roman Zeus.
All city synagogues, mosques and churches are open to the public.
According to some sources Haifa derives its name from "Caiaphas", the High Priest during the time of Jesus. Other traditions trace the name to the blending of two Hebrew words "Hof" and "Yafe" or "beautiful shore", embracing Mount Carmel, "The Vineyard of the Lord", as far as the eye can see. Here Israel's largest national park of over 10,000 hectares, scattered with dozens of observation points and hiking trails, offers magnificent views and thrilling adventures for nature lovers, picnic fans and people in love.
Just over the crest of the mountain, minutes away from the park, are the picturesque Druse villages of Isfiyah and Daliat el Karmel. The Carmelite monastery, Mukhraqa, where Elijah the prophet challenged and defeated the priests of the Canaanite god Baal, is also nearby.
Haifa is a city on the rise, built on three levels: Downtown (old city, port and coast), the middle city (Hadar HaCarmel) and the upper city (Carmel and Ahuza). The change of altitude over such a short distance is emphasized by the only subway of Israel, the Carmelit, which travels from almost sea level downtown, through the middle city to the Central Carmel (280 meters above sea level) in 6 minutes.
To emphasize these three major sections of the city, quaint old stone houses alternate with modern glass walled towers as the eye follows the natural rise of the city slope. Red tiled roofs of the German colony dating from the Temple period (1869), bustling commerce and noisy produce animate the downtown district at the base of the mountain. The Hadar district, midway up the mountain, offers well kept pedestrian malls and colourful shops. Finally, at the top, the Carmel district features elegant, tree lined streets and residential neighbourhoods.
Haifa breathes culture with more than a dozen museums exhibiting a large variety of collections. Trains, boats and plains, archaeology, art and sculpture, whatever subject amuses your fancy, Haifa holds a variety of wonders. The Haifa Museum of Art, the National Science Museum, the Maritime Museum, the Railway Museum, the Tikotin Japanese Art Museum, the Natural History Museum and Zoo and the Prehistoric Museum are open all year round. The Haifa University offers a visitors' center and the Hecht Museum with rare archaeological artifacts and French Impressionists paintings. The Mane Katz Museum, formerly the artist's home, exhibits his works and collections.
Music and film are at home in this magnificent city with an annual international film festival as well as a Jazz and Blues festival in the port of Haifa. Park concerts and evening delights presented by the Haifa Symphony Orchestra await concert lovers everywhere.
Comedy and drama, Israeli and foreign alike, are staged by the internationally acclaimed Haifa Municipal Theatre, for the pleasure and amusement of theatre fans of all ages.
Dazzling by day, sparkling at night, Haifa is alive with sun and sand, cool mountain breezes, deep forest trails, beauty and the joy of living. Traditional, contemporary, sophisticated, relaxed, Haifa is a winning combination. Theatres, museums, cinemas, restaurants, side walk cafes, discos, elegant hotels, boutiques and air-conditioned shopping malls, pearly beaches, water sports bay cruises, a Central Park and Zoo - we have it all. Haifa is a party for the kids, for the family, for you. Dazzling by day, sparkling at night, Haifa is alive with sun and sand, cool mountain breezes, deep forest trails, beauty and the joy of living.
Haifa, the gateway to the north of Israel, less than an hour away from exploring the adventures of the past, makes an ideal base for touring the exciting, colourful, historical sites of Megiddo, Acre, Caesarea, Safad, Nazareth and Tiberias with their Biblical, Crusader, Roman and Cabbalistic legacies. At the day's end, Haifa welcomes you home to a romantic view of the port when the sparkling lights of the bay and the city join the glittering stars to turn Haifa into a dazzling jewel.
Reproduced with permission: ThinkIsrael