2011
05.10

SYNOPSIS:

From the second most important Baha’i Temple in the world, to a charming Druze Village via a unique Artist Colony – a day spent at the Mediterranean coast.

Haifa seems to be a quite beautiful town, but as long and spread out as it is there was no hope we could do it justice in just ½ of a day.  Therefore, we focused on the main attraction:  The Baha’i Shrine and Gardens dedicated to the Bab, predecessor and prophet-herald of Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith.

After a lot of mix-ups about opening and tour hours – this was the big Independence holiday for Israel – we wasted hours and only were able to see part of the gardens and the shrine of the Bab; nonetheless impressive.  The location of the gardens is simply breathtaking.  Alongside the steep Mount Carmel, the meticulously groomed gardens spread out from bottom to top in nineteen terraces; in the middle accentuated by the golden dome that tops the shrine and on the top crowned by a pedestrian promenade which allows stunning views over the town of Haifa.

Haifa has numerous museums worth visiting, but we decided to go for a more unusual experience, the Artist Colony Ein Hod, founded by the Rumanian born Jewish Dada artist Marcel Janco in the 1950’s.  According to our guidebook, about 140 artists revived an abandoned village and set up workshops, galleries, and residences there.  In 1989 and again in 2010, huge forest fires swept the area – we saw trees still blackened and plaques commemorating the tragedy.  Because of the holiday, most villagers were out in their garden grilling, socializing, singing and celebrating, but none of the public spaces, the gallery, the theater, or the museum, was open.  The village is a curious mix of creative modern architecture, revived old structures, overgrown gardens, and quaint corners.  If you make appointments with the artists, I can imagine it would be worth spending two days there.

We almost did not find the village.   Between our various guidebooks, the GPS system, and actual street signs we had about five different spellings for the place and to confuse matters further, there was a village up in the mountains with a name phonetically quite similar to the colony which came in its own spelling variations, all leading us astray!  But cruising around in the mountains is part of the adventure and we did not mind the detours.

Not far from the artists’ village there is Druze country.  Several villages in this area are home to the Israeli Druze community.  We were hoping, of course, to find a village full of traditionally dressed Druze but were mightily disappointed by all the shorts, jeans, and western clothes we encountered everywhere instead.  The few women in their full-length black dresses with long white scarves were a welcome exception, but to see any of the mustached men with baggy pants we had to look high and low.  A main street full of kitsh and shlock stores did not radiate much ethnic uniqueness either.  But we found a store that at least claimed to have some authentic local merchandise which we dutifully purchased to have some mementos.

And so went another beautiful sunny day.

Good night.