In Haifa, religion and nationality don’t get in the way of living side by side. I love my hometown Haifa. I moved back there after a long break away from it that lasted almost six years. I was in the army, I spent a year in Tel Aviv, and another year traveling around the world.
To me, my hometown is and will always be the place I call home. I see it through my eyes, so when I describe the city to someone who didn’t grow up here, my feelings will undoubtedly have a strong effect on my words. I won’t bother telling you about the touristy places to go, but will instead tell you some facts that I see fit.
Haifa is a medium size harbor city with a beautiful shoreline that gives way to the rise of the green Carmel Mountain. The combination of the sea quietly lapping at the grounds of the city from three different directions, and a mountain standing tall and glorious all contribute to Haifa’s unique character. When I was in the army, coming home on leave and seeing the mountain hovering over one side and the sea crashing on the other side gave me a feeling of home.
The city’s geography, what with the valleys of the Carmel that border each neighborhood, preserves a sense of nature in the city. Not far from the city is the uninhabited part of the Carmel with its many trails and the small creeks that spill over into the sea. Nothing in the world compares to the view from the Carmel, the northern part of Israel-the entire country twinkles like a handful of diamonds that someone threw down to blanket the world in.
The city’s population is comprised of Jews and Arabs living and coexisting in a way that should serve as a paragon for the rest of the Middle East. The reason this city is so unique in that sense may be because Haifa is a city without any historical pretenses and, relatively to Israel, it is a rather young one. Religion and nationality don’t get in the way of living side by side.
When my grandparents moved to Israel, they were given a house in an Arab neighborhood like many other Jewish families there. They lived among Arab families and despite small scale events here and there and the intense political situation of Israel’s early years, peace prevailed. More then three years ago, when the Intifada began, many Arab Israelis conducted violent anti-Israeli riots, but order was kept in Haifa and the pro-Palestinian demonstrations were never violent or disruptive to the public. The relationship between the Arab minority and the Jewish majority is one where each side respects the other’s rights and way of life, and this in turn allows prosperity and peace.
One of many known jokes about Haifa is that there are only three good things about it: The sea, Maccabi Haifa football team., and the Technion. Regarding the first two things, nothing needs to be said further, they are without a doubt the best in Israel. The third, the Technion, is truly a pride of the city’s as well as of Israel’s.
The Technion is the Israeli Technological Institute and without insulting either party, it is the equivalent to M.I.T. Its name and prestige are recognized all around the world. The institute has a respected reputation for training competent high tech engineers, (a reputation that will be shattered after I graduate). Aside from the Technion, we also host Haifa University, an institute with many advantages (namely female students).
Writing about the night-life in the city would be more or less like writing about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – it just doesn’t exist. If you ask a random Israeli to tell you something about Haifa, he will say that we go to sleep at 10:00 p.m. every night. It’s sad but for the most part, true. However, my friends do not despair, there has been great improvement over the last few years-student pubs and clubs are being opened all over the place. So if in the past the best thing about Haifa’s night life was the freeway to Tel Aviv, we now have many great things of our own to boast about.
So we don’t quite have the Tel Aviv night-life scene or Jerusalem’s holiness, but to me Haifa is the most beautiful city in Israel. It’s calm and pleasant to its inhabitants and visitors. You can fall for the city, as most who visit do, and build your life here, or you can just plan on spending a day here as a tourist – going to visit the remarkable Baha’i gardens and the great harbor, grabbing lunch in one of the fish restaurants along the beach, meeting the diverse population while walking through the Wadi (an old Arab neighborhood), and enjoying the green landscape and the Mediterranean view behind every curve in the road.
(Reprinted from Matzav.com)