Located off the cliffs of Mount Carmel and adjacent to the Mediterranean is the city of Haifa, Israel’s “San Francisco”. It is Israel’s largest port and 3rd largest city. The city was ruled for over 400 years by the Ottomans and grew into a cosmopolitan city servicing the Middle East. Much like many cities in Israel, Haifa came under both Roman and Arab control. There are a few sights in the city but one of the most intriguing is the Baha’i Shrine and Gardens. Note this was the city that was bombarded by rocket fire from Lebanon less than two years ago. I’m happy to saw we didn’t see any sign of damage and no rockets were to be seen while we were visiting!
Haifa is the world center for the Baha’i faith which was founded in Iran in the 19th century. Its main tenament the unity of mankind. The Baha’i teach that great prophets have appeared throughout history to reveal divine truths: Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed and most recently the founder of the Baha’i faith, Mizra Husayn Ali known as Baha’u’llah. Baha’u’llah’s remains are located at the Baha’i Shrine which is one of the most prominent domed buildings in all of Haifa.
We also had the opportunity to visit a Druze Village and meet several Druze. This is a small sect of Arabs who practice a unique form of religion. Some of their key tenets include reincarnation, marriage only among Druze, and identification of specific individuals who serve as repositories of religious knowledge, Interestingly Druze serve in the Israeli military despite the obvious conflict that they are likely fighting Arabs of similar ethnic background. We were treated to a great dinner which had enough food to feed an army!