Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Road to Haifa

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Tour - Day 1

Up, packed, and out of the apartment and downstairs by 8:30. Nachum, our new guide showed up soon after in a very comfortable van. No extra driver this time, just him. We left Tel Aviv behind and headed for Haifa. Lots of stories and lots of talking. He is definitely one of my people. He appears to be around Geoff''s age. He is a hoot. We had a full day of various religions and history.

Our first stop was at Caesarea. A  lot of history here, We walked around the theater and most impressive was the hippodrome where they held the chariot races and gladiator games. Parts of  Ben Hur was filmed around this area :
The town was built by Herod the Great about 25–13 BCE as the port city Caesarea Maritima. It served as an administrative center of Judaea Province of the Roman Empire, and later the capital of the Byzantine Palaestina Prima province during the classic period. Following the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, in which it was the last city to fall to the Arabs, the city had an Arab majority until Crusader conquest. It was abandoned after the Mamluk conquest. It was re-populated in 1884 
by Bosniak immigrants, who settled in a small fishing village. In 1940, kibbutz Sdot Yam was established next to the village. In February 1948 the village was conquered by a Palmach unit commanded by Yitzhak Rabin, its people already having fled following an attack by the Stern Gang. In 1952, a Jewish town of Caesarea was established near the ruins of the old city, which were made into the national park of Caesarea Maritima.
In 22 BCE, Herod began construction of a deep sea harbor and built storerooms, markets, wide roads, baths, temples to Rome and Augustus, and imposing public buildings. Every five years the city hosted major sports competitions, gladiator games, and theatrical productions in its theatre overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. 
From here we went into Haifa to the Baha'i Gardens. It is obvious from the looks of their gardens and property that this is a very wealthy sect. They are allowed in Haifa but only 250 at a time and they cannot at any time evangelize within the country. All of the workers are volunteers:
The Terraces of the Bahá'í Faith, also known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, are garden terraces around the Shrine of the Bábon Mount Carmel in HaifaIsrael. They are one of the most visited tourist attractions in Israel. The architect was Fariborz Sahba ofIran and the structural engineers were Karban and Co. of Haifa. Along with the Baha'i Holy Places in Western Galilee, it is a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site.
The Baha'i faith is one of the newer world religions stemming originally from Shi'ite Islam in Persia (modern-day Iran). However, it has come to achieve a unique status of its own. The Baha'i faith has distinguished itself as a unique world religion because of its size (5 million members), its global scale (236 countries), its practical autonomy from its parent religion of Islam (there is little blurriness between the two), and for its doctrinal uniqueness, being monotheistic yet inclusive. 
After walking around the gardens, we drove up to the top of Mt. Carmel to take in the view. Truly amazing. Even though it was hazy, we could see out over the gardens and to the port. Nachum could tell that the Israeli submarines were not in -- not sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

Time for lunch at the Druze village. The religious women are recognized by their white head scarf and the men wear a white yarmulke and have big mustaches. Another culture and religion.

Daliyat el-Carmel is a Druze village high on the slopes of Mt. Carmel and has an exceptionally unique character. It is a colorful village that offers wonderful hospitality with a smile and is also very interesting. The Druze is an ethnic group that split off from Islam in Egypt about 1,000 years ago. According to the Druze, their religion is the renewal of an ancient faith that became a secret known only to the group’s sages. Daliyat el-Carmel was founded in the 17th century by Druze from Mt. Lebanon. To the south of Daliyat el-Carmel is another Druze village, Isfiya, which was united with Daliyat el-Carmel in 2003 into a single town whose official name is Carmel.
The Druze are very well liked and respected by the Israelis. They are recruited into the army here. In fact, the Druze are very faithful to whatever country they reside in. They can be found in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Joining those armies as well. So it is not unheard of that they could be fighting against each other.

By the way, the lunch was fabulous. I had a grilled bream fish that was the best fish I have had since we left home. Of course, we had to visit the gift shop before leaving.

Our last stop was at Akko citadel with a very long  and meandering history - from hospital to eventually a gallows :
The city occupies an important location, as it sits on the coast of the Mediterranean, traditionally linking the waterways and commercial activity with the Levant.[3] Acre is one of the oldest sites in the world.
Historically, it was a strategic coastal link to the Levant. In crusader times it was known as St. John d'Acre after the Knights Hospitaller of St John order who had their headquarters there. Acre is a mixed city, that includes Jews, Muslims, Christians and Baha'is. The mayor is Shimon Lankri, who was re-elected in 2011
The Templars, who were also known as the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, built this tunnel. In the second half of the 12th century they built their quarter in the southwestern part of Akko. Discovered in 1994, this tunnel, which was carved into the bedrock has been open to the public since 1999.
We quickly walked through the gift shop and skipped the market altogether. Got a refreshing juice drinkg and zwas time to find the hotel, so Nachum turned on his GPS, which he doesn't like using, and we now know why. We got the full tour of Haifa and its outskirts -- almost went through the new tunnel to the other side of the mountain.

After a lot a cursing and driving in circles, we managed to find our new lodging. It is a very nice place. We got in at around 6pm and were told that happy hour is from 5:30 - 8 with drinks and snacks. Also there is a free masseuse for a 20 minute back and neck, if you desire. GREAT! We dropped our bags in our very comfortable room and headed down to Happy Hour. Snacks??? This was dinner as far as we were concerned. Soup, pasta, breads, vegetables, desserts, wines, juices, on and on. Had something to eat and then we both enjoyed some time in the the massage chair. Aaahhhh -- perfect ending.

Tomorrow we are off to the Golan Heights. We have already altered our itinerary somewhat to fit our needs. We are not on a religious mission. We are more interested in the country and its people. Nachum seems very helpful and willing to adjust to our needs. He has also been very helpful with our Jerusalem plans. He has already made reservations for us for certain things and may even come meet us for a day to be a guide.  We'll see.

It feels good to be out of the city but I am really glad we started our trip in Tel Aviv. I will talk more on that later.  Right now it is time to rest.  Shalom

Next time.. Golan Heights

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Tour - Day 1


  1. You are a wonderful virtual tour guide!

  2. Wow, hotel room with free dinner, can't beat that. Bream fish...hmm must be really good for you to rate it the best. Maybe you'll have better luck if you use your GPS. Nice photos of the gorgeous B. Gardens and the Citidel is just awsome.

    Here's lookin at you in the Golan Heights.