ISRAEL IN FOCUS: HAIFA
Just over two weeks ago, before the current war broke-out in Israel and he returned home to join the war effort, Yair had prepared this article for what was meant to be a regular edition of the Daf Parasha. We have included Yair’s contribution as planned, and have him in our minds and tefilot as he is fighting defending Israel!
Haifa is a beautiful city on the coast of Israel, next to the Mediterranean Sea. It’s special because people from different backgrounds and religions live here peacefully. Haifa has one of Israel’s biggest ports and is the largest city in northern Israel. However, the origin of its name, “Haifa,” is a bit of a mystery. It’s not mentioned in the Tanach or the Mishnah, and we only start hearing about it in later writings.
The geography of Haifa is diverse. It stretches from the flat land along the sea to the slopes and mountain top of Mount Carmel. Modern Haifa was officially established in 1761 by a Bedouin leader named Daher el-Omar. It became a city in 1834 during the time when the Ottoman Empire ruled Israel. On Mount Carmel, an interesting story from the Tanach took place. There was a king named Achav who did bad things, and he had killed many of Israel’s prophets. But one prophet, Eliyahu, escaped, along with a few others who hid in a cave. People in those times were worshipping a false god called Ba’al, and there were many fake prophets. Eliyahu challenged them to a test: They would see whose god could send down fire from the sky to accept an offering. The prophets of Baal tried, but they couldn’t do it. Then, when it was Eliyahu’s turn, the real God answered his prayer, sending down fire.
That burned up everything, even the water. After this, the people of Israel believed in Hashem, and Eliyahu had the false prophets captured and punished. Jews started moving to Haifa in the 18th century, and the city grew over time, becoming the third-largest in Israel. Haifa is also known for the famous Technion University, big shopping centres, cultural places, and the beautiful “Baha’i Gardens,” which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Haifa’s story is one of different people living together and believing in their faith. Today, Haifa is a lively city that connects its rich history to a bright future.