Haifa, October 4 - it is the 'in between days' of Tabernacles, which are known to be auspicious for hiking and touring in Israel, superseded only by the 'in between days' of Passover in the spring. The rainy season has just begun, and the temperatures, which combined with the humidity can get oppressive in Haifa in the summer, have dropped substantially. At the whim of the moment, I decided to go to Haifa. Even in Tel Aviv, on the way, the weather was pleasant.
The central bus station in Tel Aviv (bus fair NIS 20) is a well-known disgrace. Thousands of people pass there every day, and the holiday traffic was probably quite busier than usual. I got there around 9:00pm, and the whole building looked like an overflowing garbage can. Obviously, decision was made by administrators that such was the adequate level of maintenance on the holiday for the common person.
But other parts of the spectacle are obviously permanent - the electronic, digital displays are erratic. They can't even get the clocks right. They simultaneously show hours from 1-24. Schedule information regarding boarding docks, as displayed in the central board, at times conflicts with the sme information, displayed above the docks themselves.
This is from the hi-tech, "startup nation"...
Again, it is obvious that at some level of administration, decision was made that such services are not essential. I still remember in my childhood train terminals mechanical displays, with flipping boards for letters and digits. They worked fine half a century and a century ago in Europe, and were considered quintessential in any good-size terminal...
Ottoman train stations in Palestine: Haifa West, Haifa East, Jaffa, Jerusalem. Haifa was the only city with TWO stations!
In general, the contribution of the Ottomans to the public transit system was probably the most remarkable. The Jaffa-Jerusalem train line was inaugurated in 1892. A second line was inaugurated in 1905, connecting through the Valleys of Jezreel and Bet-Shean (Scythopolis) to Damascus, and to the line going down south to Saudi Arabia and Medinah.
The travel from Jerusalem through Tel Aviv to Haifa, both then and now, is a travel through three different worlds.
The Bahai temple and terranced gardens, as seen from the direction of the Mediteranean, Ahmadi mosque, Stella Maris Carmelite convent, Muhraka Carmelite Monatery
Haifa is a shiny jewel in comparison to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Life is slower, allowing people sufficient time to appreciate the beauty of the city and relax. Haifa is known as the Israeli center of Barcelona-style "Convivencia". It holds today a Jewish majority, including a substantial segment of Israelis of Russian decent, has a good-size mainstream, Arab-Muslim community. In addition, there is an Ahmadi-Muslim community, and a Druze Community. Although the local Bahai community is minute (to a degree through government visa restrictions), Haifa is probably best-known as home of the Bahai temple and Bahai Gardens. It is the world-center of the Bahai faith. In the pubs on Mount Carmel you hear Herbrew, Arabic, and Russian, side by side.
Pine Tree Mushroom - (Suillus granulatus) אורנייה מצויה
With my Parents, as a child I, I had the opportunity a couple of times to go mushroom picking with Dr Zvi (Hirsch) Zilberstein, who with Ze'ev (Wolff) Bernligner co-authored probably the first scientific survey of the flora of Mount Carmel. Dr Silberstein and his wife Margo, were part of the large Jewish-German community in Haifa and Jerusalem, to which my Father is a young member, coming to Palestine as a child. His mother was non-observant, to say the least, but on a personal basis with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. The German Jewish community in Palestine left a decisive, positive mark on culture and political structures.
My Mother, born in the old city of Jerusalem, eventually inherited Dr Silberstein's position as coordinator of biology for the high school. While Dr Silberstein was a botanist at heart, my Mother is a microbiologist, and her heart was with the fast-advancing field of genetics. Some of company were focused on the harvest, Dr Silbestein was always with an eye open to find a new species or variant, exclusive for the Carmel Mountain, and at the same time getting my mother more familiar with the local botany. Ideally, you had to find a specimen with a fruit, a flower or bud and leaves for definitive classification. They were both enthusiastic early members of the young Society for Preservation of Nature.
Conversations were simultaneously conducted in a Hebrew and German unmixed, each grammatically correct, part of a Tyrolean-Middle-Eastern Jewish experience.
The Mediteranean beach south of Haifa - bliss!
The beach south of Mount Carmel is fabulous, especially when you go a bit south, to the "undeveloped" part. I am partial, since I grew up on a hill, walking distance from the beach. The scenery is a bit reminiscent of La Jolla, California.
More to come…