Before going to Israel, my mental pictures ran in a more biblical direction. There were a lot of places that lived up to my mental images; and we had already visited a lot of those places. So I was not at all prepared for Haifa. I have never been to San Francisco, but I have mental images of that place too. Haifa lived up to my mental images of San Francisco pretty well and probably then some. Set against the backdrop of the glittering blue Mediterranean, Haifa could easily be a resort destination. It is modern, it is urbane and it is like nowhere I have ever been.
Haifa is not mentioned in the bible, but according to Byzantine tradition it is where Elijah hid to escape King Ahab. The city has undergone a long history of being conquered and reconquered much the same as any other city in Israel and relics have been found dating back to the Stone Age. The city is divided into four main areas beginning at sea level and ascending to the commercial area and then to the Mt. Carmel area which is residential. Beyond all that is the University of Haifa. Haifa is considered progressive, and there more than anywhere else in Israel, Arabs and Jews make efforts to coexist. Also found in Haifa is the headquarters for the Baha’i faith whose shrine is at the center of the city.
We weren’t in Haifa for very long. We stood at the second level looking down on the city and the gold-domed shrine, and it was here that we learned a great deal about modern day Israel. The view was breath-taking but all too soon we were on our way to somewhere else. It was important to see this city though because it provided such a contrast to other parts of Israel both aesthetically and politically. It seems to offer a glimmer of hope to an otherwise dismal situation. If people can learn to respect each other’s differences and live peacefully here, then perhaps that influence will overlap to other parts of Israel. Israel is small, so the overlap would not have to all that noticeable…except in relation to people’s lives that is.
Click on the album cover for pictures: