Haifa, Israel

Haifa cityscape by night. Photo © zyzy.

Haifa (Hebrew Hefa) is a city in northwest Israel overlooking a bay on the Mediterranean Sea. It has been compared by some to the similarly-situated cities of San Francisco or Naples. A ferry service runs between Haifa and Athens. Israel's third largest city, Haifa is a major industrial center and has a population of almost 300,000. According to a popular Israeli saying, "Tel Aviv plays while Jerusalem prays. But Haifa works!"

Like most of Israel, Haifa has been populated since ancient times. Elijah is the city's most famous early inhabitant; here he meditated in a cave before defeating the priests of Baal. In April 22, 1948, the Arabs of Haifa surrendered to Israeli forces and the town remains under Israeli rule today. Most of Haifa's Arab inhabitants left after this, but the town still retains a cosmopolitan mixture of Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, and Baha'is. Haifa has several important religious sites and attracts many pilgrims and tourists alike each year.

Apart from its busy port on the bay, Haifa is situated on the northern slopes of Mount Carmel, where there are quiet and attractive suburbs for the city's wealthy. Residential and business districts are on the slopes, while the finest residences and resort hotels are on the mountaintop, commanding scenic views of the entire bay area. The lower and upper cities are linked by a cable car. Haifa also has the only subway in Israel, the Carmelit, dating from 1959. Just to the south of Haifa are magnificent beaches that locals flock to, but few tourists know about. Plans are now in progress to convert these unspoiled beach areas into Haifa's own "Riviera." There will be a great deal of hotel, apartment, and marina construction underway along the shoreline during the next few years.

Elijah's Cave
An important shrine to several religions, this is said to be the very cave in which the Hebrew prophet Elijah is believed to have lived and taught.
Baha'i Shrine and Gardens
This important holy site of the Baha'i Faith is home to the Shrine of the Bab, administrative buildings and famous terraced gardens. Pilgrims come to the shrine from all parts of the world to pay homage to the first leaders of their faith.
Stella Maris Monastery
The Carmelite order of Catholic monks, now spread throughout the world, was founded here in the 12th century during the Crusades. The present monastery dates from the 19th century and is made of fine marble.