Saturday, February 4, 2012

1/31/12: An Hour Distance And A World Away: My Day In Haifa

With only one day left in Israel I knew I couldn't leave the country without going on one last adventure of the fall semester. Despite living in Israel, visiting multiple times in the past, and participating in Taglit birthright, I never seemed to have time to visit one of Israel's largest port cities; Haifa. I was talking to a university friend of mine, informed him that I have never been to Haifa, and we decided to take a rather impromptu afternoon trip to the largest city in the North of Israel. After class on Tuesday we went to the train station, boarded our train, and were off. For those of you who aren't familiar with Haifa it is an integrated city (the only city where the busses run on Shabbat) where Arabs and Jews live and coexist side by side. Haifa also houses the tomb of the founder of the Bahai religion making it a pilgrimage city for followers of the faith.

I was a little worried about going to Haifa because the weather was so awful in Tel Aviv. It had been cold and rainy all week, and I was almost positive that the weather in Haifa would be similar if not worse. Luckily, however, I couldn't have been more wrong, and we found ourselves in the middle of a gorgeous afternoon in the North. The sun was shining, the wind was calm, and the weather only further illuminated the profound beauty of this amazing city. To be honest I don't know if I have ever seen a place more aesthetically appealing than Haifa. From the picturesque mountainsides, to the beautiful architecture, it was absolutely breathtaking and a wonderful break from loud, crazy, crowded Tel Aviv. The air was so fresh, the trees so green, and I felt like I was dropped in the center of a place resembling a romanticized Northern California.
View of the Bahai Gardens 

View of the Port of Haifa

Picture Perfect View 

Once I had soaked in the beauty of my surroundings Patrick (my friend from university) and I got some food before venturing to see the famed Bahai gardens. After we finished eating we decided to walk part of the way to the Gardens before catching a cab to take us up the mountain to the top entrance. The day was too beautiful to pass up a nice post lunch walk. When we reached the entrance to the gardens I was saddened to learn that, due to weather, they were closed, but what I saw through the gates was enough to give me a feel for how astonishingly beautiful they are. We read a little snippet about the founder of the religion, I learned a bit about what the Bahai faith encompasses, and then I saw one of the most beautiful sites I have ever been exposed to. The Gardens almost didn't seem real they were so incredibly stunning, and they literally took my breath away. The company was amazing, the surroundings were breathtaking, and it was really the perfect last little trip of my first half a year in Israel. 

Bottom entrance to the Bahai Gardens  
A little information about the shrine of the founder of the Bahai religion 

The gorgeous gardens 

Arab village in Haifa 

View from the top of the mountain looking down at the Bahai gardens 

No words can adequately describe the beauty I was seeing

Patrick and me at the top of the Gardens 

When we had absorbed all we could from the gardens we travelled down the hill to a Palestinian village in Haifa called Wadi al-Nisnas. It was like being back in East Jerusalem only much more calm and much less politicized. I was, for all intents and purposes, standing in the village of my dreams; a little slice of Palestine right in the heart of an Israeli city where everyone seemed to live peacefully side by side. We walked through the Shuk, enjoyed the quaint town for an hour or so, and then headed back towards the train station. By the time we boarded the train back to Tel Aviv I was utterly exhausted, I hadn't slept well the night before due to a rather unfortunate asthma attack, and I feel right to sleep. Luckily Patrick had Arabic homework to occupy him or I would have felt rather awful! 

When I finally got home the day only amplified in excitement when my roommate Ben brought his family dog back to our apartment to spend a few days. I was originally going to take the dog back to California with me so that Ben's family out in the states could have the dog but it ended up being better for him to stay in Israel. Luckily, however, I still was able to get some quality canine time in before I left!

Morgan bonding with Jet before he started biting him! 
Jet loved Aunty Jordana's room! 

The next day I had my last class of the semester, I came home to pack, and then it was off to the airport to return home to California! 

Stay tuned for a post on my first 2 days home :-)
Jordana Simone

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