Alon Raz in the sukkah of
Dan Panorama Haifa

Bahai Shrine

Syrian Brown Bear at Haifa Zoo

Kohen blessing woman at
Elija’s Cave

Yemenite lunch in Gan Ha’em

Haifa Is The Home Of
8th Wonder Of The World

Story and Photos by Tim Boxer

AIFA is a tourist destination that has much to offer in the way of beauty, history and friendliness. Having visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in past journeys, Nina and I decided to check out Israel’s premier port city in the north.

Our base of operations was the elegant Dan Carmel, a jewel in the crown of the Dan hotel chain. Perched on the side of Mount Carmel, in an area called the Carmel Center, the hotel affords visitors a distinctive view of the harbor and the old city below. Actually the city has grown down, up and all around the hotel.

Alon Raz is general manager of the two local Dan properties: Dan Carmel and Dan Panorama Haifa.

Dan Carmel is a five star deluxe, Dan Panorama a five star, and the newly opened Dan Gardens Haifa a four star. You can find accommodations to fit any budget and still bask in the lap of luxury.

Although the structures are magnificent, Raz said, “The buildings are not important. What matters is service – the food and the attitude of employees.”

To serve their guests with extra special amenities, the Dan hotels run free tours to Acco, Druze villages and the artists colony of Ein Hod.

“We have special activities for children in our Danyland,” Raz said. “And we offer coupons for free admission to the museums.”

In the lobby of the Dan Panorama we met Jacob Bendel who manages the Averard Hotel at 10 Lancaster Gate in London. Call him at 020 7723-8877 and say hello for me.

Bendel was visiting his son Daniel, 18, who came with a dozen other high school kids to do volunteer work for a year.

“They’ll teach English then do volunteer work in the Army,” Bendel said. “There are a total of 60 kids from the UK.”

First thing we did after the traditional robust breakfast was head out to the nearby Bahai Shrine. This showpiece is a must-see for every tourist.

Moshe Tzur, general manager of the Haifa Tourist Board, took good care of us, providing us with a highly competent and convivial guide. She brought us to the top of the temple compound, and we proceeded to walk down the 700 steps.

We marveled at the geometrically landscaped gardens and monumental structures, which make up the world center of the Bahai faith. The network 19 magnificent terraces begin at sea level, in the German Colony, and stretch an extraordinary two-thirds of a mile up Mount Carmel.

This must truly be the eighth wonder of the world.

Bahai was founded in the mid-19th century in Persia (Iran). With 3 million adherents throughout the world, the religion is based on brotherhood and charity. They accept Moses, Christ, Buddha and Mohammed as messengers of God and advocate a universal religion and language.

Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, got the Bahai to sign a promise not to engage in missionary work. They agreed that no more than 800 volunteers from around the world would live here at any one time.

This is the city of Elijah the Prophet, who challenged the idol worshipers of Baal on Mount Carmel. So we made a pilgrimage to Elijah’s Cave. This is where he rested before his momentous encounter with the false prophets.

It is a holy site for all three religions.

Arabs gathered at tables outside, with organized family feasts. Jews mingled inside, where there is an ark of the Torah for services. Some Jews come to pray for miracles of health and prosperity.

We met a Sephardic family of seven sisters and one brother, originally from Libya, that was enjoying a sumptuous feast in celebration of a sister’s successful heart operation.

People like to eat outdoors. There are numerous sidewalk cafes. In the Gan Ha’em Park (Mother’s Garden) there is an open-air restaurant. But there are also picnic benches, where one Yemenite family invited us to join them for an exotic meal.

In Gan Ha’em, the biggest of Haifa’s 400 parks, you will find a zoo with a variety of animals and snakes.

There are so much more to enjoy in Haifa – the port, the Arab enclave of Kababir (Arabs number 10 percent of a population of 300,000), the German Colony with its lovely houses and courtyards built by the Templers in 1868 (now a popular center of nightlife), the Stella Maris Church and Carmelite Monastery, the Arab-Jewish Cultural Center, museums, universities, Carmel National Park and, of course, the beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean.

No matter how much you see, you must come back and see the rest.

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