Haifa is the largest city in northern Israel, and the third largest city in the country, with a population of over 272,181.
Built on the slopes of Mount Carmel, the history of settlement at the site spans more than 3,000 years. The earliest known settlement in the vicinity was Tell Abu Hawam, a small port city established in the Late Bronze Age (14th century BCE). In the 3rd century CE, Haifa was known as a dye-making center. Over the centuries, the city has changed hands: It has been conquered and ruled by the Phoenicians, Persians, Hasmoneans, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, British, and the Israelis. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the city has been governed by the Haifa Municipality.
Today, the city is a major seaport located on Israel's Mediterranean coastline in the Bay of Haifa covering 63.7 square kilometres (24.6 sq mi). It is located about 90 kilometres north of Tel Aviv and is the major regional center of northern Israel. Two respected academic institutions, the University of Haifa and the Technion, are located in Haifa in addition to the largest k-12 school in Israel, The Hebrew Reali School.
Baha i Gardens
The Bahai faith had its origins in the in Iran, where its followers severed themselves from the existing Moslem Shi’ite faith. Its founder, Baha'u'llah, was exiled from his homeland at the end of the 19th century, and came to Akko (Acre) and Haifa after suffering persecution in neighboring Muslim countries. He was impressed with the beauty of Mount Carmel and expressed the desire that the Bab, the forerunner of the faith, would be buried there. About 20 years later the bones of the Bab were interred in Haifa on the site that then developed into the center for the Bahai faith.
The impressive gardens surrounding the shrine were designed and inspired by the doctrines of the Bahai faith. They succeed in blending in and creating harmony with the surrounding slopes of Mount Carmel. The gardens extend over 19 terraces, the highest of which contains the Persian Gardens, with their topiary sculpted into eight-pointed stars. Stone steps lead down the slope to the breathtaking Hanging Gardens below.
The gardens are designed in nine concentric circles that look like waves extending out from the shrine at their center. The gardens combine works of stone and metal as well as fountains, shrubbery, and expansive lawns. The main path is surrounded along its entire length by colorful well-kept gardens that blend in with the natural flora and enliven the surrounding panorama of the mountainside while creating a small nature reserve. The garden has earned the name “The Eighth Wonder of the World” and its beauty offers visitors a feeling of calm and enchantment during the day, while special lighting converts the garden to a romantic quite place at night.
Stella Maris Monastery
The nineteenth-century Carmelite church and monastery of Stella Maris is perched at the western edge of Mount Carmel, atop the bayside city of Haifa, high over the Mediterranean. Its name, which means “star of the sea,” comes not from the beautiful view, but from an ancient epithet for Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The Carmelites have lived in the area since medieval times, and are known for their warm welcome to people of all faiths. Their church has a beautifully painted dome and a magnificent altar over a cave Elijah is said to have inhabited.
Elijah’s Cave in Haifa brings visitors both the sanctity of a Jewish holy place and the sharing of traditions for which Haifa is famous. The stairway to the cave, located off Allenby Street in lower Haifa, reveals spectacular vistas of the city.
The site was first mentioned in a letter written from the land of Israel in 1626 by a Jewish visitor telling about the holy places, which described “Elijah’s large and magnificent cave” on Mount Carmel. Here, according to legend, Elijah came to pray before challenging the prophets of Baal and calling down fire from heaven (I Kings 18). The cave has a Torah Ark and a space in the ceiling where visitors insert prayer notes.
The right-hand wall of the cave, which in various periods has been sacred to Christians and Muslims as well, is covered with ancient Greek inscriptions, and one in Hebrew, along with two seven-branched candelabra.