Israel’s third largest city and one of its prettiest, Haifa has a lot to offer visitors. It has the country’s largest port, a particularly active beach and is the home of the World Center of the Bahai Faith. Surrounded by abundant nature sites, the city contains an interesting mix of modern neighborhoods and older districts; churches and mosques; mountain and sea.
Haifa is a multi-faceted city with several unique characteristics making it an attractive place to visit. Its proximity to the sea and its active port contribute to its prominence. The bustling port area draws merchants, shoppers and tourists. The beautiful beaches are popular for sports and recreation, and are filled with people during summer weekends. In addition, because of their excellent surfing conditions, the beaches serve many of Israel’s top sailing enthusiasts and host sailing competitions and other sporting events.
With residents from the three largest religions as well as from various minority faiths, Haifa is also a symbol of outstanding co-existence and tolerance. Nine percent of the population consists of Arabs (Moslems and Christians) who reside mostly in three neighborhoods: Khalisa, Abas and the famous Wadi Nisnas whose charming alleyways have turned it into a tourist spot. The annual Holiday of Holidays marking the city’s special lifestyle is held there.
The Christian presence in Haifa, with its many churches, also contributes to the city’s image. A Maronite church is located next to Kikar Paris (Paris Square); adjacent to that is the Carmelite church dedicated to the Prophet Elijah; and not far from there is Saint Mary’s Greek Orthodox Parish Church. The Sacre Coeur Catholic School on Allenby Street has a well-tended garden and building, in front of which are impressive statues of Saint Mary. Atop the Carmel, holy to Christians, is the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery. In the monastery’s Baroque-style church is a cave considered by Christian tradition to be the grave of the Prophet Elijah, and in the monastery is a small museum dedicated to his life. On site is also a hostel which serves the many pilgrims who visit the city.
This does not complete the city’s religious mosaic. Israel’s only Ahmadi Muslim community is based in Haifa’s Kababir neighborhood. The Ahmadiyya is an Indian sect of Islam, founded in the late nineteenth century, which promotes peace among nations and opposes religious coercion. Their large mosque houses a prayer hall and a first-floor exhibit of their history and significant contributions.
Haifa also boasts many institutions devoted to culture, art and science which offer an array of festivals and activities. Several types of museums are located in Haifa, including: the Dagon Grain Silo; the National Maritime Museum; the National Museum of Science and Technology; the Haifa Museum of Art; the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum; the Railway Museum; the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art; the Reuben and Edith Hecht Museum; and the Israel Oil Industry Museum.