Haifa, Israel. Haifa, Israel.
Haifa is a city in the north of Israel that impresses with its multiculturalism. It’s an important place for Jews, Muslims, Christians and Baha’is, who form a unique community. Learn about the mysterious Bahai faith and enjoy the beauty of the Baha’i Gardens located on the slopes of Mount Carmel.
History of an Israeli city
Haifa is Israel’s third largest city and is located in the northern part of the country, about an hour and a half drive from Tel Aviv. It stretches on the slopes of Mount Carmel, close to the Mediterranean Sea, which makes it an extremely attractive place. The city has had a turbulent history. Haifa was originally under Byzantine rule as early as 395, then passed into the hands of the Persians, and later was conquered by the Arab nations. In the 12th century, Mount Carmel was settled by monks who built a church, a monastery and a monastic hospital on the site. The 13th century brought much destruction to Haifa, but also cyclical rebuilding. Finally, when the city was captured and destroyed by the Bedouin ruler Akka in 1762, it was decided to rebuild it on a new site. In the following years, Haifa remained in Ottoman hands most of the time, and its importance grew. The turning point in the development of the city came in 1868, when German Christians settled and founded the German colony, which contributed greatly to the modernization of the city.
The history of the Israeli city
Today Haifa is most typically associated with Bahaism, which was brought to the city in the early 20th century. In the following years it has become a modern industrial city and the largest port in Palestine. This happened mainly when the city became part of the British Mandate in the Middle East . In the mid-20th century the port of Haifa became the most important destination for Jews arriving in the state of Israel. Today the Israeli city is inhabited by Jews, Muslims and Christians, among whom are many immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Representatives of various faiths form a multicultural community in Haifa.
This faith is a monotheistic religion of Persian origin, which accepts the spiritual unity of the various faiths and proclaims the integrity of the world’s major religions. Followers of this faith believe that one God sent many messengers to earth, including Abraham, Krishna, Buddha, and the Christian Jesus. Bahaism has in its tenets, for example, the rejection of all forms of prejudice, total gender equality and the rejection of extreme poverty and wealth. Today there are between five and six million adherents of this religion, which originated in the 19th century.
The history of Baha’ism begins with Babism, founded under the leadership of the self-proclaimed prophet Báb, who in 1844 announced the coming of the Messiah. The followers of Babism, along with their leader, were persecuted until finally Báb was executed. His successor, Baha Allah, accepted the revelation of the Báb, proclaiming that it represented the fulfillment of the prophecies of Babism, and thus Bahaism was born. A self-proclaimed revelation of God, Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned in the city of Akká, which is about a half-hour’s drive from Haifa. Akka is the city where the sanctuary in which Bahá’u’lláh rests is located. After the death of the founder of Baha’ism, his son and another spiritual leader of the Baha’i religion founded the Baha’i International Center in Haifa, which, surrounded by extensive gardens, is now one of Haifa’s major tourist attractions .
What is worth visiting?
Undoubtedly, a visit to the Holy Land will have much to do with the presence of religion, which is of great importance in Israel. However, in Haifa you can find much more: the first municipal theater, a symphony orchestra and cultural centers – performing arts Krieger, art and culture Rappaport. The city is famous for its International Film Festival, which has been held since 1975. During the festival screenings Polish films are presented. Moreover, it boasts many museums, and for those who like to travel full of art, there is Masada Street, full of street art in the form of colorful murals. Traveling through Israel, it is worth a visit to Haifa, if only for the Mediterranean coast and scenic views from Mount Carmel.
One of the religious sites on the map of Israel is Mount Carmel, which is considered sacred by Jews, Muslims, Christians and Baha’is. It can be reached by underground cable car, which is called the shortest subway in the world (although this is not true). The entire route takes eight minutes and six stops. It is not the most popular form of transportation among the residents of Haifa, but for tourists cable car is a sight to see. According to the Old Testament, the mountain was supposed to be home to the prophet Elijah, who hid on its slopes from King Ahab. Christianity says that the family of Christ stayed here during their return from Egypt. Part of the mountain range belongs to the Mount Carmel National Park, which is fascinating with its vegetation and archaeological sites. Some of them are open to tourists, such as the caves Nahal Me’arot . The mountain overlooks the city, the Haifa Bay and the Bahai Gardens. Mount Carmel is home to the monastery of the Catholic Carmelite order and the Bahai World Center with the mausoleum of the Báb. The mountain is a great place for those who love the outdoors and can go hiking there.
Baha’i Gardens and Temple
On the slopes of the previously mentioned Mount Carmel are the Baba Mausoleum and the administrative buildings of the Bahá’í World Center. The buildings are surrounded by spacious, well-kept gardens that attract tourists from all over the world. The Temple complex, as well as buildings in nearby Acre and the Western Galilee, have been designated as heritage sites. At the center of the Bahá’í complex is the Temple of the Báb, surrounded by gardens, where the remains of the first Bahá’í spiritual leader were secretly brought from Iran. The building is in the shape of an octagon and its construction began in 1909. The huge dome that adorns the mausoleum is impressive. In addition, the temples are decorated with numerous columns, reliefs and terraces overlooking the vegetation.
Baha’i Gardens and Temple
The Bahai Gardens, covering the slopes of Mount Carmel, are a very popular tourist attraction in Haifa. More than a million tourists spend time in them each year. The place is impressive in its order – all the plants in the gardens are meticulously maintained, presumably mostly by Bahai devotees. The design and construction of the gardens began in 1987 and their appearance is the responsibility of the Iranian-American architect Fariborz Sahba who boasts of having designed, among other things, the Lotus Temple in India, which is also a Baha’i building. The gardens are full of symbolism, which serves as an important aspect for the followers of Bahaism, which attaches particular importance to the numerology of the numbers 9 and 19. For this reason it is possible to admire the gardens from 19 terraces, 9 of which should have orange trees, created from the seeds of the tree that grew in the house of Baba in Iran. Walks in the extensive gardens, including the terraces, were opened to the public in 2001. Free guided tours of the gardens are available Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. , but pre-registration is now required.
For centuries the Haifa Bay has played a key role in the Haifa area, making it an important seaport center for the Mediterranean. The port is the largest of its kind in Israel. The land at Haifa Bay began to acquire a modern industrial appearance in the early 20th century, when numerous warehouses and port offices were built there. The port was officially opened in 1933 and since then it has contributed continuously to the industrial development of Haifa, as a transshipment point for oil, was a very important place for Jews who used the Haifa bay for migrating to the Holy Land in large numbers. Haifa, as the port city of the Jewish people, helped make Israel a significant economic center in the Middle East.
In addition to the port, access to the Mediterranean Sea has given Haifa access to beaches where tourists can relax or engage in water sports. At the popular beach of Bat Galim you can rent the necessary equipment or buy windsurfing lessons.
Haifa National Maritime Museum
Those interested in the history of maritime communications might enjoy the National Maritime Museum located on Mount Carmel. There is an exhibition on the history of Mediterranean shipping, an archaeological collection and a collection of ship models and maps, and statues and sculptures related to Roman mythology. Admission tickets to the National Maritime Museum can be easily purchased online. Admission for an adult costs NIS 35 (about £42), and for those under 18 it costs NIS 25 (about £30). Children under the age of five, as in Medatech, pass free of charge. If you are traveling with little ones, this place is recommended to visit because of the exhibitions dedicated to pirate legends and maritime mythology, which are sure to delight them.
Haifa National Maritime Museum
Where to sleep? The prices for hotels are quite high. For a night in a hotel you will pay from 70 dollars. A cheaper option for budget travelers are hostels. Accommodation in a typical hostel, located in the German Colony Guest House, costs 20 dollars a night, close to almost all the major attractions of Haifa. A convenient way is to book online, where you can rent a whole apartment or private accommodation. If you are limited by budget, but want to have a view of the sea during your vacation, a good option would be a hotel located a short distance from the beach. Almog Haifa Israel apartment complex offers accommodation right on the beach.
Key information The currency of Israel is the new Israeli shekel. Prices in the country are quite high, both in supermarkets and restaurants. When traveling in the Israeli part of the Holy Land by public transportation, you will have to pay about $1.5 per ticket.
When planning a trip abroad, it is worth considering when is the best time to leave. In the case of Israel, July, August and September are the warmest, with temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius during the day and not dropping below 20 degrees at night. Winters are definitely warmer than in Europe – the temperature in Haifa in December is about 20 degrees Celsius during the day. Worth going there after the vacation season, such as in September and November, when the city will be much less tourists, but you can still count on the sun and high temperatures.
When choosing Israel as a destination, keep in mind the Shabbat, which begins at dusk on Friday and ends on Saturday evening. It is a very important holiday for Jews, but the restrictions associated with it may vary depending on the city in which you are located. In tourist locations such as downtown Tel Aviv, the vast majority of restaurants remain open during the Sabbath. The situation is similar in Haifa, a tourist city populated by followers of different religions. However, note that most stores will be closed at this time. Public transportation is also different, and some lines may not run at all during the holiday. When visiting Jerusalem, which is near Haifa, be prepared for a stricter Sabbath observance, as the city is home to orthodox Jews.
When visiting Haifa, it is worth considering a trip to nearby Tel Aviv (about 1.5 hours by car) and Jerusalem (about 2 hours). Another place to consider when visiting Haifa is nearby Akka, which can be reached in half an hour by car.
In case you want to be able to move freely to nearby places, you can rent a car in Haifa. The cost of renting for one day is about 50 dollars. If you fly from Europe to Israel, then you should consider the possibility of a fairly strict control at the airport. If your passport stamped in Egypt, Iran or Turkey, you can expect a few hours of conversation with a border officer, who will ask you in detail about the reasons for your arrival in Israel and the purpose of previous trips.
Despite the cultural differences and restrictive entry policies, Israel is definitely worth visiting at least once in your life. A good choice would be Haifa, a city that offers a relaxing vacation on the Mediterranean beach and dozens of activities for lovers of outdoor activities. Here you will find art, architecture and places that have made history all over the world. Bahai gardens and the charm of Mount Carmel are only a small part of what Haifa has to offer.