So I went to Haifa yesterday and it was beautiful. I think that it is probably the most beautiful city I’ve seen so far in Israel. The whole city is built into the mountain ridges. It looks like the buildings are rising out of the sea when you look down at it from Mount Carmel. From what I saw, Haifa rises up around Mount Carmel from the port. On the south side of the ridge is the less affluent areas and a major cemetery.
I took the train up around nine and arrived at ten. I visited the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery and Church and the Baha’i Gardens. The Church was beautiful with a lot of history behind it. It was amazing to see some of the ruins from the Byzantine Church. What was also very cool was the grotto under the altar. The grotto is supposed to the cave where Elijah lived and later the holy family hid with Jesus. Of course farther down Mount Carmel is another possible site for Elijah’s Cave, so who really knows.
At the Church I went to go into a doorway leading into the back but was stopped by a small Italian man. We couldn’t really understand each other but I got the impression I wasn’t allowed back there. That was fine with me, I just hadn’t been able to read the sign. The elderly gentleman started trying to talk to me, going through the list of languages he knows: Italian, Spanish, French, and Arabic. I felt bad and just kept repeating that I only spoke English. He smiled at me and gestured for me to follow him through the forbidden doorway, which I hadn’t been allowed to pass through a scant minute earlier. He led me back to an old statue of the Madonna. It was pretty cool because he left me alone to pray (which I did) and then I was a little bad and did some exploring on my way back out to the main room.
Next were the Baha’i gardens. The gardens were beautiful. I can’t think of words to do them justice. They were really awe-inspiring. The design and construction of them is amazing, with numerous terraces climbing up Mount Carmel. I joined a tour and walked down these terraces to the Shrine of Bab. After the tour I watched a fifteen-minute video about the Baha’i religion which was really enlightening. It was very strange to me to consider this religion as it is so young. The religion was created in the 1800s and isn’t even 200 years old yet. Christianity is millennia old. The stark contrast is interesting and it was fun to consider what Christianity must have gone through when it was first realized.
I met two wonderful women from Australia when I was in the gardens. We walked on the tour together and chatted. They helped me figure out my way to the metro station (which is just a whole nother level of weird, it has to climb a very steep cliff face and the design shows) and ended up walking with me.
The only thing that I thought was weird was that I’m not really reading about everyone else traveling around at all. Sure it seems like Liz and Leslie are in Tel Aviv every other weekend (sometimes every weekend) and Ashley has come down a couple of times but… I know that the guys in Jerusalem go to Bethlehem a lot and I think that the people in Ramallah go to but I’m honestly not sure. I honestly woke up incredibly tired and was contemplating not going but I realized that this was really the last weekend to do anything and I don’t want to come home saying “damnit I wish I had seen such and such.” I forced myself to leave the apartment and travel by myself which is something I was really nervous about. I definitely think the guys with me need to start exploring more and just plan doing more. You can live in a city any where.
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