Israel's Good Name

Archive for the ‘Haifa’ Category

Haifa Educational Zoo

In Haifa, Israel on February 1, 2012 at 9:49 PM

Yesterday I went to Haifa and I had one of the best times yet in that large coastal city! At first I stopped off at Kiryat Motzkin to interview someone for an article I am working on but before long I was back on the train headed for Downtown Haifa. When I got off the train at Mercaz HaShmona I had to walk swiftly through the light yet very cold rain to get to Paris Square, the lowest stop of the Carmelit Underground Train. When I set eyes on the little subway I immediately loved it.

Carmelit Underground Train - Paris Square

For me it felt like an amusement ride, going up the mountain in a snug tunnel sitting in a retro-looking train car with luridly painted tiles decorating each stop. No expert on subways, this may have been the first time I have ridden one, I delighted myself watching the stone walls of the tunnel whip by mere inches from the window. At one point I got a little queasy as I was watching the wall but looking downward. When the tiled floor of the next stop came rushing up at me a wave of confused nausea swept through me and made me look away. As I looked away I remembered my wonderful time in Orlando, FL, at the Universal Studios Amusement Park. Eight minutes after the tiny train left Paris Square we reached the end of our ride and I rode up the escalator to find myself in earshot of my next destination – the focal point of the day, the Haifa Educational Zoo.

Lion - Haifa Educational Zoo

I purchased my ticket and entered the world of exotic animals, the joyous laughter of the security guard trying his broken English on me mixing in with the noises of the animal kingdom. It was a slow day at the zoo, winter and rain attributing to that, and I was mostly alone as I peered at the animals in their habitats. I felt like a little child, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the animals. I was fascinated at the immense size of the sleeping Bengal tiger and wished that the Nile crocodile would move some instead of dozing in the water. At one point I heard someone singing and when I got closer, and into view, I saw a zookeeper singing softly to a huge white cockatoo. The bird loved it but the man stopped when he say me and told the bird to go ahead and dance. The bird followed the man’s instructions and danced gaily on the trees inside his enclosure. Other birds didn’t seem as friendly – one large eagle owl stood still and watched me walk by, his wise head turning slowly to a point where most chiropractors would have fainted away.

Eagle owl

One part I really enjoyed was the lemurs. I had just examined the capuchin monkeys as they leaped around and was surprised to see the lemurs adopting a sunning position. They broke away from the huddled line that kept them warm in the chilly winter breeze and began to sit with their arms spread out.  Then they each did something amazing. Each one turned his head to make sure he was not blocking another lemur’s sun-rays. It was fascinating. Several minutes later I bumped into two zookeepers who were heading to the lemurs to feed them. I asked if I was allowed in and they agreed, even though the official lemur visiting hours were already over. At the gate one of them said that I was a rabbi and I told them that no, I am not a rabbi. That was interesting. Once inside, among the chipper little lemurs, I asked them if they liked there job and they said that even though they spent 90% of the time cleaning, this was the best job in the world.  They looked like they meant it.

Lemur eating lettuce

After the lemur feeding I continued alone along the path. I was amazed to watch the lions eat – they had some huge leg bone or something – especially when I heard a bone crack. The male lion looked shabbier than the two female lionesses but after four weeks of rain and mud – this January being Israel’s rainiest recorded month, who can blame him. It made me laugh because to me he looked like a sad clown with his black lips and his eyes all muddy. After the lions came a huge Syrian brown bear in a huge enclosure but he was feeling sluggish so I kept going. The wolves, Israeli wolves also known as Arabian wolves, were having a good time howling and playing with one another.

Israeli wolves at play

Along with the wolves there were numerous foxes and other animals found locally in Israel such as camels, ibexes, wild boars, caracals, porcupines, jackals and the rare Persian fallow deer which I saw once during a hike in Nachal Kziv. Also found in Israel, the Griffon vulture, a huge bird that some people may recognise from The Jungle Book movie. Towards the end of the path, after the reptile building which I will explain shortly, there was a humorous sight. In one habitat there were dwarf mongooses and a large desert tortoise. The mongooses sat on top of the tortoise and even took their food up, sitting on the tortoise and using its shell as a table/chair combo. It was cute. Now, the reptile building, a climate controlled structure with places for lizards and snakes including pythons, vipers, boas, anacondas and a Nile monitor lizard. I was surprised at how big the anacondas were even though the ones in the zoo were far smaller than the behemoths that exist out there.

Green Python

Close to the reptile building I found the Prehistory Museum which I thought was a separate entity but it isn’t, it’s part of the zoo’s educational experience. Inside I found mostly run-of-the-mill findings from excavations such as skeletons and broken pottery pieces but there was one thing that did stand out. Some years back divers did underwater research uncovering submerged villages off the coast of Haifa and Atlit (just south of Haifa). In one place they found a freshwater well and divers entered the well to explore. This photograph shows the diver entering the well:

Diver entering well off the coast of Atlit

After leaving the zoo I made my way to the Louis Promenade, a beautiful, serene place to be alone with the fantastic view of Haifa, Haifa Bay, the Krayot, Akko, Nahariya and Rosh HaNikra off in the far distance. On clear days one is able to see Mt. Hermon in its snowy splendour. Here is a panoramic shot of the view:

Looking down from the Louis Promenade

As I looked down I was tracing a small dark object far below as it made its way around the little seawall and into the port. The wake was odd and I know the Israeli Navy’s submarines are docked in Haifa port so I think it may have been one of Israel’s Dolphin submarines. If it was, cool, if not, it was still cool. If I would have had a telescope or a pair of binoculars it would have been better but I think that the view from the Louis Promenade is the best I have seen in all of Israel. So here’s to Israel, the loveliest place in the world!


In Haifa, Israel on January 10, 2012 at 10:31 PM

Today I had the obligation of being in Haifa, at the beckoning of the IDF. I left my house, travelled to Haifa via bus and train and attended my meeting. Afterwards, I decided to go on a little adventure… Here it is, a textual and pictorial account of my small journey down Mount Carmel. First, the bustling Haifa Port as seen from the Memorial Park next to the Iriya (City Hall) and the IDF Recruitment Centre:

The Port of Haifa

After snapping some shots of the park and the port down below I popped on over to the Iriya. There I was told to head West down the mountain if I wanted to see museums and such. I did so and on my way, walked by the old District Courthouse of Haifa established back in 1932:

The old District Courthouse of Haifa (1932)

From there I continued westward, slowing going down the the mountainside. After exploring a small “artists house” filled with modern-day small-time local artists’ work, most of them paintings, and then finding a historical house called the Gefen House, I found this unique act of nature:

A tree growing out of a wall at the Gefen House

Continuing on my way, I noticed a beautiful little garden with a bunch of small orange trees filled with bright oranges. I was wondering why there was a tiny little garden midst the large urban area and then, some twenty paces later, I saw the rest of the garden… the famous Baha’i Gardens. I figured I’d venture over and have a look so that’s exactly what I did. This marble fountain was quite peaceful and I knelt (oops) to take a picture of it:

Baha'i Gardens marble waterfall

As I went up to the next terrace I found a disappointingly tall metal fence with a locked gate. I waiting until one of the guards came up, with a tourist in tow, and unlocked the gate for her. I asked the guard if I too could explore the locked area and he said no, you are not a pilgrim. And no, I am not a pilgrim, so I left… but not without taking a picture of what the pilgrim what going to see:

Baha'i Gardens looking up from the lowest terrace

I then found the Tourist Information Centre and went inside, eager to learn more about the places available to a casual tourist like myself. There, a kind middle-aged woman helped me map out the next part of my journey and, after extensive talks, gifted me with an oldish map of the Coastal Region from Binyamina to Rosh HaNikra. The map was printed in 1990, the year I was born, and it reminds me of an old National Geographic in style and colour tone. After I had thanked the lady, having a definitive route penned out on another map, I headed down the long Allenby Street. After buying a water bottle, I passed by this interesting building, obviously quite a modern one:

Interesting building with Canadian and British flags waving outside

From that building onward there was not much to photograph, save the oddly placed red VW Karmen Ghia with the special licence plate and an “auto” sticker from Denver. Twenty to thirty minutes after I had left the Tourist Information Centre I reached my destination: Elijah’s Cave (the cave that Eliyahu HaNavi hid in and used during his “duel” with the worshippers of Ba’al). Unbeknownst to us at the time, we had been just minutes from the cave when we visited to wonderful National Maritime Museum sometime two years ago. Here is one of the welcome signs, this one situated on the road where a series of staircases takes one up to the cave:

Welcome to the Cave of Eliyahu Ha'Navi

When I had reached the complex of old stone buildings built in and around the cave I was greeted by a kind old man who blessed me. I then went into the cave where donors have turned the place into a special location for prayer:

A section of the cave

After exploring the cave I turned around to leave and this is what I saw, a wonderful view and even better in person:

Looking down from the cave to the Mediterranean Sea

And here is more of the complex, exactly what is in the buildings eludes me:

More of the Cave complex

Descending the mountain, the Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum’s outdoor displays become more and more visible. Here is a small ship retired from the Israeli Navy (the ship is open for touring within the museum – admission free for olim in their first year):

An old Navy ship from the Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum

I then headed for the water and walked along the Bat Galim Promenade enjoying the damp sea breeze and the hot Mediterranean sun. Of course, as have been evident in most of my recent blog posts, there was a feeling of need for some panoramic footage. Here are two panoramics, taken as I stood in one spot, looking from side to side of the visible Mediterranean Sea (click to enlarge):

Looking West

Looking East

On the rocks that form a mini-seawall stood fisherman with immense fishing rods. I had the pleasure of watching one of the fishermen catch a fish, the myriads of huge beach cats lounging around just waiting for a snack. Here is one of these fishermen, sadly he did not catch anything while I was there:

A man fishing with the huge cargo ships in the distance behind him

When I had left the Promenade I continued to hug the coastline, walking along the beautifully shaded streets, and came across the official land entrance to the Haifa Port. Here it is, in all of its humble importance as the main gateway to the Holy Land by sea, the Haifa Port entrance (where a guard carrying an automatic rifle whistled sharply at me to not take any further pictures):

Welcome to Haifa Port

When I had successfully snuck away, camera in hand, I tried to find the Bat Galim train station to get back home. I ended up going the wrong way, consulted a passing soldier as to the current route and was shown, with much enthusiasm, the right way to go. I made it to the train station where I sat and “bugged out”, waiting for the train. In my idleness, I decided to snap a picture of the train on the other side of the tracks, being boarded for a Southbound journey, and to claim this as my train that I took (creative licence being taken advantage of here):

Taking a train home

The ride was pleasant and before too long I was home. ‘Till next time!

Hecht Museum

In Haifa, Israel on November 20, 2011 at 7:56 PM

Last week I was in Haifa on Army business. Once I finished with what I needed to do at the Army office I had plenty of time to explore Haifa. My mother suggested that I go to the free Hecht Museum in Haifa University. I agreed and hopped on a bus that slowly meandered its way up Mount Carmel and into the University. I got off the bus and called the museum for precise directions. I eventually found it.

Hecht Museum entrance sign

Once inside I browsed around finding several different sections. The first I visited was one of archaeological finds of the many groups that settled both within the Land of Israel and the surrounding area. The Egyptians, the Phoenicians and the Canaanite tribes were heavily portrayed.

The area dedicated towards local archaelogy and the Egyptians

There was an area that blended into the times of King David and his son Solomon and their business dealings with the Phoenician city of Tyre. Tyre had a monopoly on a purple dye that they discovered and introduced to the world, keeping the “recipe” a secret. When King Solomon built the First Temple the Phoenician’s purple dyed wool was used. Here we see that the more base parts of human life were taken care of in this find from the City of David, Jerusalem:

Toilet found in the City of David

The museum also had extensive displays on hunting in “ancient” times and a site breakdown of a camp someone found on the banks of the Kinneret where a group of people hunted and fished and buried their dead. I was a little weirded out to see two coffins of dog skeletons in clay coffins… But at least it wasn’t a human on display. There was another section on the Conquest of the Galilee where the Jews were being forced into an area of Israel between modern-day Maalot (where I live) and just on the other side of the Kinneret. The Romans were slowly taking over the land irregardless of the bravery of Bar Kochba and his defence.

A stone marker that attests to the presence of the Roman 6th Legion

Remains of metal scale armour probably used by a Roman soldier

As the  Romans had a lot to do with Jerusalem’s history there were tons of Roman and Roman-inspired archeaological finds in the special Jerusalem section. But during the dark Roman era there was a glimmer of light — Herod and his rebuilding of the Temple. This was a chunk of a door or something that was carved specially for Herod’s Jerusalem:

Herodian chunk of carved stone

Near the Jerusalem section there were ancient toys, tools and instruments including gold leaf jewelry. This is a mirror made of copper that when polished well was used by the women of old:

Ancient copper mirror now crusted over

Through a doorway I found another, slighty different archeaological display. A Phoenician boat was found off the coast of Akko and resurfaced. The wood was preserved by layers of sand and the ballast stones that spilled out of the cargo. Very carefully the ancient ship was restored and rebuilt to the best they were able and now it sits high up on Mount Carmel looking out north towards what was once Phoenicia.

Phoenician boat skeleton

The museum also features an art gallery with a special section of art painted by artists who passed away in the Holocaust. All in all the museum was quite informative and best of all, it was free so feel free to go there too…