Haifa – From the Bahai Gardens to the Port

Haifa is spread on the northern slopes of the Carmel Mountain with the Mediterranean and the Bay of Haifa to the west and the north and is Israel’s third largest city.

Although the first settlement in the area has been dated to the 14th century BCE, it was and stayed a small village until the middle of the 19th century. The first push to growth and modernization came when members of the German Christian Templars settled there in 1868. They built and operated a steam based power station, opened factories and established a carriage service to Acco, Nazareth and Tiberias. The area they built is still known as The German Colony. The area has seen an almost complete restoration, and is today one of the “in” areas for good dining and living.

German Colony late 1930's

The next boost was in the late 19th century when European Jews settled there, developed agriculture and commerce. During the following waves of immigration many settled in Haifa, which was developing into the industrial area of the country. A further boost came during the British Mandate, when they built deep sea port, opened in 1933 and the oil refinery completed in 1944).

 

During the War of Independence the great majority of Arab residents of Haifa fled, so that today they are app. 10% of the total population.

Bahai Shrine, most famous landmark in Haifa

In 1909 The Bab, the forerunner for the Bahai faith, was laid to rest on land sloping down from the top of the Carmel Mountain to its base. Over the years, the Shrine has been enlarged and improved, and received its final shape in the 1950′s. The Shrine of the Bab, the second holiest place to the Bahai, and the surrounding 19 layers of terraced gardens have become one of the most famous landmarks of Haifa.

Haifa is today Israel’s third largest city with a municipal population of app. 275.000. But metropolitan Haifa includes a population of up to 600.000. It is the largest mixed population, with the majority being Jewish (90%), but with large minorities of Arabs (Christian and Muslim) as well as Druze.

Government building with port in background

For years Haifa was known as the “red” city, referring to the predominant population of manual workers. This was also expressed in the saying “Haifa works, Jerusalem prays, and Tel Aviv plays”. True, round Haifa are some of the largest industrial complexes in Israel (due in part to the proximity of the port). True, the port still plays a vital role in the economy of Haifa both as a commercial port and as a port for cruise ships. It also has the largest and oldest business park in the country (Matam).

But culture has always played an important part in the life of its residents.  It boasts the first municipal theater, as well as other theaters, The Haifa Cinematheque and congress halls. There are dozens of museums, as well as major institutions for higher learning, two of them with international credit – Haifa University and the Technion.

It is also still the only town in Israel with a subway and a cable car.
In short there is plenty to do and see while visiting Haifa.

Sites to see:
The Bahai Shrine and Gardens
Haifa Cable Car
Stella Maris and Elijah’s Cave
Israel National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space
Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum

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