Israel’s third largest city, Haifa is on the Mediterranean coast by Mount Carmel. The city is on three levels. The lower city is the commercial centre with a modern harbour, the middle level is an older residential sector and the top level has modern neighbourhoods overlooking the Mediterranean bay. The upper and the lower parts of the city are linked by Israel’s only metro. Haifa is the world centre for the Baha’i faith and Israel’s main port.
First mentioned in the Talmud (first to fourth century AD) as Sykaminos, the city was conquered in 1100 by the crusaders who named it Caiphas. Haifa took shape as a city in the seventeenth century. It was taken by Napoléon in 1799 and by the Egyptians in 1839, who surrendered it to Turkey in 1840. In 1918, British troops occupied the city. It became part of mandated Palestine, but in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Jewish forces gained control from the Arabs. Haifa’s deepwater port was opened in 1933 and expanded rapidly after Israel achieved statehood. Israel’s oldest power plant (1934) is in Haifa and the city’s petroleum refineries date from 1939.
Industries include oil refining, chemicals, textiles, electrical equipment, shipbuilding, food processing, steel foundries and cement. There is a university (founded 1964) and an Institute of Technology (founded in 1912). The city has an airport.
Places of Interest
The Baha’i Shrine, with its Universal House of Justice, is the international governing body of the Baha’i religion. The remains of Said Ali Muhammad (one of the religion’s founders) are buried inside the Shrine. The Stella Maris Church and Monastery of the Carmelite Order are centres of pilgrimage, as is Elijah’s Cave. There is a Naval Museum and a Museum of Art. The National Maritime Museum covers 5,000 years of maritime history. The Reuben & Edith Hecht Museum’s archaeological exhibits illustrate the theme ‘The People of Israel in the Land of Israel’. A Sculpture Garden displays 22 bronze statues. Established in 1953 by Marcel Janco of the Dada movement, Ein Hod Artists’ Village has become a centre for practicing artists from Israel and abroad.