Published: July 3rd 2011June 28th 2011
Natural Spring/ Mikvah
The water in the cistern under the spring was very refreshing after our hike.
Good thing we were with locals for our stay in Haifa, because otherwise we wouldn't have had a fantastic hike down a valley in the middle of the city.
Apparently you can buy a map of Israel with all the major hiking trails on it. When you're walking, there are colour coded trail signs so that you don't get lost, so you don't even need the map if you know where to go. Iftach, Alitta's friend who we stayed with, brought us to one such path only 10 minutes from his house.
We walked past a primary school and then began our trek down into a valley, which is quite steep. When we got to the bottom of the hill, deep in the valley, we saw the natural spring where Iftach had planned for us to stop and have some tea (made from fresh herbs from his garden). There was a man there who told us he was a bus driver for Birthright, and according to him, the prophet Elijah bathed there.
We explored behind the many fruit trees surrounding the spring, where there were ruins of an unknown building. Rumour has it that it's some sort of
The barbed wire fence was easily breached thanks to the open gate, giving Alitta and I a chance to hang out on top of an arch and take in the beauty of the place.
Carmelite structure, but not a monastery, but maybe a monastery. I looked it up but couldn't find any information about it. It was really cool though - it definitely looked medieval with its barely-preserved arches. Part was surrounded by a barbed wire fence but the gate was wide open. The other part was not blocked off and it was crumbling. I climbed the deteriorating steps to look out over the valley.
The view was absolutely stunning - the mosque of a fashionable neighborhood on a hill, the valley framing the Mediterranean, white cliffs, wildflowers and fruit trees. The photographs don't do the experience credit because it's one of those places that "you just had to be there." It seems that there are a lot of these places in Israel.
After our exploration of the ruins (which would have been cordonned off in Canada but are left in the open in Israel) we sat around the basin of the natural mountain spring and enjoyed a few cups of tea. The water was freezing but refreshing to dip our feet in.
We thought it was chilly when we left in the morning, but on our way back up the
A room with a view
Alitta strikes a pose on a ruined wall in front of a backdrop that could not be duplicated.
valley the temperature had climbed to near-unbearable proportions. We changed our clothes when we got back to the house and hurried to the Baha'i Gardens.
The Baha'i Gardens and Temple were very beautiful. You need a tour to get into the gardens, but it's free and therefore worth the money. The whole tour was about 15 minutes - just enough time to walk down the first 8 terraces of the garden. Most of the tour was an explanation of the religion. You can look it up for details but in a nutshell they believe that there is one God and he has sent many prophets including Mohammed, Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, etc. It is a very peaceful religion, which is a nice contrast to the conflicts arising between other religions in this region.
After the Baha'i Gardens, we continued to walk down the mountain towards Wadi Nisnas, an Arab neighborhood that has amazing falafel. We were told to go to Falafel Hazkenim, which apparently is famous, but when we stopped to ask for directions the cute grocery store employee told us that the falafel across the street from the famous shop was better. We couldn't resist and ordered
A picture worth a thousand words
Looking down over the Baha'i Gardens toward the Temple with its golden dome. Haifa spreads out in the background.
a half of each, which we couldn't finish but they were both far better than anything you can get in Canada,
Despite our full bellies, we also had to stop at the Arab bakery that was selling mounds of baklava. We spotted the first churches I've seen in Israel in that area of Haifa, a city known for its religious tolerance and acceptance.
Alitta then had to meet up with her aunt, so we parted our ways and I made my way to Kfar Galim, the boarding school that is to be my home for six weeks while I participate in the archaeological dig at Tel Dor. The campus / compound is beautiful like everything else in Israel. The accomodations and food are simple but good, and the ocean is just a short walk beyond a fence. This will be a nice six weeks.
There are more photos below