Haifa: welcome to God’s vineyards
How rapidly the landscape outside the bus window is changing – the Negev desert dotted with “moon craters”, the hills and valleys of the Galilee, Mediterranean beaches, caves, gorges, serpentines of mountain roads … It feels like someone is scrolling through a film in front of you that are so different from each other friend views of Israel. Only lonely cacti had just come across – and now, at the entrance to Haifa (on the way from Tel Aviv), along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, powerful eucalyptus trees lined up. They insistently invite to glance in the northern capital of Israel – Haifa. Well, why not?
Even in biblical times, this land was famous for vineyards. Hence the name of the city. Haifa in Hebrew – “the vineyards of the Almighty.” Here, on Mount Carmel, Elijah the prophet once lived, here he prayed to God to end the three-year drought, and from here, according to legend, he ascended into heaven. In one of the caves of Carmel, Virgin Mary also stopped on the way from Egypt to her native Nazareth. With the flourishing of Christianity, a whole network of monasteries arose on the mountain, but the largest of them is the Catholic monastery of the Order of the Carmelites (it was founded in the XII century, it has been destroyed and restored more than once). The monastery is also famous for the fact that in 1799, during the siege of Napoleon Acre, a hospital for wounded soldiers was organized in it.
But the most curious thing is that Mount Carmel is considered the world center of the Bahai faith – its adherents dream of uniting all religions into one. The golden dome of the Bahai Temple rises above one of the picturesque hills of Carmel. The temple is surrounded by eighteen terraces, the architecture of each of which is unique. Fountains, hanging gardens, flower carpets, decorative statues, stone fences, a fancy play of water and light – all this so reminds of beautiful Persian fairy tales. These terraces, together with the restored possessions of the German Templars and the Luis Gallery, form a 3 km long walking cascade – one of the most ambitious architectural complexes of the Mediterranean region. According to Faribors Sahb, the architect of this project, “the main idea was to create wonderful beautiful gardens; gardens that touch the soul so that the visitor can stop and think. This is a completely unique place, it has something special.”
Work on the creation of the Bahai Gardens took more than 10 years, with a total of $ 250 million raised by the Bahá’í donations. The official opening of the Gardens, attended by Bahá’ís from 181 countries and Israeli VIPs, took place on May 22 of this year. This magnificent event gathered more than 3,500 guests from around the world. At sunset, at the foot of the mountain, a grand concert was held, which was broadcast live on all five continents. Famous musicians performed works by contemporary authors of the world. The concert was accompanied by a theatrical light show. Floodlights illuminated the magnificent terraces of the Bahai Gardens, spread on the slopes of Mount Carmel.
According to experts, the completion of this key project for the city will increase the number of tourists to Haifa to 1.2 million annually.
Modern Haifa is the third most important city in the country, the northern capital of Israel. This is a major seaport, a scientific and cultural center (the best minds of Israel are collected at the Technion Institute, and the annual film festival, jazz and blues festivals are widely known outside the country). Which, however, does not prevent Haifa from remaining a beautiful Mediterranean resort with equipped beaches and a developed entertainment industry.
Comfortable hotels are located high in the mountains, and right on the coast, at the foot of Carmel. Many opt for a specialized resort, where qualified doctors, cosmetologists and masseurs are involved in the health of guests. Shopping centers, cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, numerous museums, art galleries and the zoo will not surprise a demanding tourist. But in Haifa, many of these institutions work on Saturday, which is considered unacceptable in most other cities in Israel (there is even a saying – “At the time when Jerusalem is praying, Tel Aviv is walking, Haifa is working”). But that is why Haifa is so loved by tourists. By the way, public transport in Haifa also works on Saturdays.
Those who wish to see the panorama of all Haifa are advised to go to the observation platforms that are equipped on Yafe Nof Street, translated from Hebrew to “beautiful view”. The views from here are really magnificent. You can even see the vastness of neighboring Galilee. On the other hand, why look from afar on where you can get in just an hour? But to visit Galilee, if you already ended up in Haifa, is definitely worth it – after all, it was there, in Nazareth, that most of the earthly path of Jesus Christ passed. Not far from Nazareth, in the town of Cana, Christ created his first miracle – turned water into wine. Here Jesus walked along the Sea of Galilee (the modern Lake of Galilee) as if by land. Now, on this very sea, you can ride on a small boat, recreated from ancient drawings. Once upon a time the Apostle Peter was fishing for such a thing.