Haifa – More Than Meets the Eye
By: Brennan Caruthers Photos: Aaron Hoffman
Brennan Caruthers, Puzzle Israel’s intern from San Diego, spent a day learning more about Haifa and the surrounding areas with his fellow interns. Here’s what he recommends to do in the city that he’s living in this Summer
The waves of the Mediterranean Sea swayed, acting as a visual for Aaron, Geoff, Jon, and myself as we listened to Tamar from Puzzle Israel tell the story of the Dakar Submarine. The INS Dakar was purchased from the British in 1964, and when it didn’t return back from its first voyage, the search for the Dakar and its crew became the nation’s greatest mystery. Fifty years later, we admire the INS Dakar in Haifa and hear its story: how Israel grieved at the loss of their boys, how the country searched relentlessly for 31 years, and how the Dakar was finally found at the bottom of the ocean. You can now find the Dakar in the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum at the base of Mount Carmel, alongside Af-Al-P-Chen, a ship that brought illegal Jewish immigrants to Israel when Israel was under British rule and many other amazing findings explaining the role of the sea in the founding of the Jewish state.
Halfway up the Carmel Mountain lies the Baha’i Gardens, where we travel to next. The Baha’i religion is grounded in symmetry. If you visit the famous Baha’i Gardens, a mausoleum for the Bab (the founder of the religion) in Haifa, the focus on symmetry will become expressly clear. Nine ridges rest above the mausoleum and nine ridges lie below, which add up to a total of 19 ridges (19 being a holy number in the Baha’i religion). If you were to stand directly on the line-of-symmetry in the Baha’i Gardens, you would notice that the symmetry continues down Ben Gurion Street, all the way to the ocean across. Also, if you look closely at the gardens, you will notice that the center is well manicured and the further sideways you look, the vegetation becomes wilder, with plants representing the natural flora of the Carmel. Baha’i played a large part in developing Ben Gurion
Street and the surrounding German Colony in order to capitalize on the effect of the symmetry displayed in the Baha’i Gardens. Not coincidentally, the neat line-of-symmetry points directly at the Baha’i’s holy city of Akko, which lies directly across the bay from Haifa.
If you enter The Baha’i Gardens from the top on Yafe Nof Street, you will get a view of the Eastern side of Haifa, which makes the Baha’i Gardens a prime location to learn some Haifa history. You can see the changes made by Daher El Omar, the autonomous Arab leader that moved Haifa into a safer location in order to decrease the number of pirate attacks and protect the city from invasions. You will also be able to see the German Colony in the context of the surrounding areas, which provides perspective into how the German Colony developed in relation to the rest of the city. The terrace will also provide you with a perfect viewpoint of the lower city if you’re interested in finding fun locations to eat and drink.
When climbing further up the formidable Carmel Mountain, we arrive at the most West Northern tip of the mountain, at the site of the breathtaking Stella Maris Monastery. The entire compound belongs to the Discalced Carmelites who decided to build it in this specific place based on the belief that this is where Elijah the prophet visited and in fact is buried. At the entrance to the church, stands the monument to Napoleon’s soldiers who have been said to have been sick with the plague and left there to rest while Napoleon ceased Akko in 1799. Unfortunately, these soldiers were slayed by the Turks but their story is not forgotten.
In terms of food, you will find the most authentic dishes close to the large, rocket-shaped government building (you can’t miss it). Shwarma and falafel shops litter the streets, meaning you can’t go wrong when it comes to which stand you choose (just for reference, note that if you’re wrapping your main food in a pita, then falafel should never cost more than about 20 shekels and shwarma should never cost more than about 30). If you’d like a nice sit-down restaurant and an easy-going atmosphere, just head down to the German Colony and roam around Ben Gurion Street until you find an outdoor eatery that interests you.
Finally, we come to the nightlife. Us Americans here in Haifa usually take the two-pronged approach on the weekends. Our main event is usually this bar called Ha Sifriya, or “The Library.” The Library feels reminiscent of a college spring breakers trip, with loud, mixed American/Israeli House music blasting out of the corner, shots being poured off the bar into patrons’ mouths, bartenders frequently interacting sexually with customers and each other, and a carbon dioxide gun that shoots white compressed air into the crowd. Technically, Ha Sifriya is a bar. But The Library feels like a club. Oh, did I mention that you pay a fixed price for unlimited alcohol?
Our final stop is Barki, a medium-sized bar in downtown Haifa, halfway in between the rocket-shaped government building and the German Colony. Barki operates out of a dingy alleyway and provides a relaxed, secluded atmosphere that makes it a great place to cap the night, hang out with friends, swap stories, or just relax on a weekday. Try the half-liter of Barki! Barki proudly brews their own beer and affordably sells half-liter glasses for 25 Shekels.
There is so much more to do and see in Haifa and this is no doubt just a little description of what this beautiful and interesting city has to offer.
If you want to learn more about the city, just wait for the next article…
About the Author:
Brennan Caruthers, Puzzle Israel’s intern from San Diego, lived in Haifa for 2 months with his fellow in-terns and has worked for Puzzle Israel during that time.