Situated on the pleasantly mild Mediterranean coast and beneath a mountain made famous by the Old Testament, Haifa is a great place for pleasure seekers and culture vultures alike. In relation to the last point, Haifa is also famous for being the birthplace of a faith dedicated to bringing all the world’s religions together under one tent in the name of universal peace and harmony.
With an even distribution of Muslims, Christians and Jews dwelling here in co-existence, the influence of this temple sets the tone for this city. Hard working, but with a sense of play that belies its former stodgy reputation, Haifa definitely warrants a visit on your journey through the Holy Land of Israel.
The most imposing site that you’ll find in Haifa by far is none other than the Bahá’í World Centre. The centrepiece of the whole campus is the commanding presence of the Shrine of the Bab, a mausoleum where the remains of the founder of the Bahá’í faith rests for all eternity.
Surrounding the grounds of the shrine are lush terraced gardens that are the most visited attraction in all of Israel, to the surprise of many. The eighteen terraces that are patterned after Persian paradise gardens represent each of the eighteen disciples of the Bab that helped nurse this religion along from a fringe faith to a small but growing religion that has believers in almost every country in the world in the present day.
The Bahá’í World Centre is located on Mount Carmel, making the next destination on our list easy to reach, as the Cave of Elijah is where the famous prophet from the Old Testament took refuge on that very same peak. Accessible via a stone staircase up the side of Mount Carmel, this cave, disputed by some experts as the true location of Elijah’s temporary shelter during his wanderings in the Palestine wilderness, is a very sacred place for local Jews, who frequently pray here and celebrate milestones in the lives of their loved ones at this vaunted grotto.
Just outside the city of Haifa though, lies evidence of human life well before the time of organized civilization in the Middle East at the caves of Nahal Mea’rot. In these subterranean chambers, archeologists have found remains of prehistoric humans from over 500,000 years of habitation. From the findings, scientists have been able to track the evolution of man moving from hunter gatherer mode to the beginnings of agriculture. Signs of the development of traditions and rites are also present here, with evidence of a ritualistic burial also being uncovered at this site.
In 1868, German emigrants moved to Haifa with the aim of establishing the first agricultural community based on their principles of farming. Situated around the area of Ben Guiron Boulevard, the German Colony is a happening place in present day Haifa, with tonnes of trendy coffee shops, restaurants and bars being located here.
Those seeking to learn of the early attempts of Zionist groups to recolonize Israel before the British partition can find interesting, intriguing, and downright bizarre tales on this subject at the Clandestine Immigration & Navy Museum. Literally built around a ship that ran aground during a particularly brazen attempt to sneak into the Holy Land undetected, it tells the story of a people desperately trying to return home against the protestations of a colonial power (The British). It also details the countries’ naval military history, including much of the hardware that was used during the Israeli fight for independence against the incumbent powers in the region.
In Israel, Tel Aviv tends to hog the entire spotlight when it comes to beaches, all due to its well-deserved reputation as a party town. However, Haifa has several respectable strips of sand, the best one of which is Dado Beach. Here, a laidback waterfront with off-white sand and the tepid Mediterranean await your overheated body, while numerous cafes and bars that line the promenade that fronts the beach provide ample opportunity for a sundowner drink and a meal to mark the end of a successful visit to Israel’s third biggest city!