Multiculturalism and Vistas in Haifa

August 27th 2012

Built at the foot of Mount Carmel on the shores of the Mediterranean, Haifa is Israel’s third-largest city after Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and it’s well worth a visit. A crucial port city for over 3,000 years, Haifa has been ruled at various times by the Phoenicians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, British and the Israelis. Today it is home to a stunning Bahai Temple campus, a restored German Colony, numerous museums and striking views.

The most iconic tourist attraction in Haifa is the Bahai World Center, the faith’s headquarters, which include the gorgeous Shrine of the Bab and remarkable gardens, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the second-holiest place in the World for followers of the Bahai religion. Regardless of your religious views, it is a beautiful place to visit, with its gold-domed temple and terraced gardens overlooking the bay.

Located on the slopes of Mount Carmel, the Stella Maris Monastery is a 19th-century Carmelite nunnery and another popular tourist attraction that highlights Haifa’s diverse population. Originally built centuries ago over the cave where the prophet Elijah is believed to have lived, it was damaged in 1799 by Napoleon’s campaign and destroyed in full by an Ottoman general in 1821. It was rebuilt shortly thereafter, though, and today is the world center for Carmelite spirituality.

In addition, visitors can also go below to see Elijah’s Cave, where he is said to have lived in the 9th century BCE. It is even said that Joseph, Mary and Jesus stayed in the cave for a night on their trip back from Egypt. Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze alike – all of which consider Haifa to be a shared hometown – revere Elijah, and so all consider this to be a sacred place. Today it is much more than a cave, with a domed chapel enshrining it.

The location near Mount Carmel also offers countless opportunities for stunning views of the area. One of the best is in fact from Stella Maris. Take the gondola lift to the top for the full effect.