We spent five days in Haifa at the beginning of our recent sojourn to Israel before boarding a train to Tel Aviv to stay at Irwin’s sister’s condo for a month. Rona and Hagai were in “America” to see their daughters so we decided it was a safe and fun place to be in the time of COVID.
In Haifa, we stayed at the Beit Shalom Hotel at 110 Hanassi, a hop, skip and a jump from the Carmel Center, once the luxurious upscale shopping area of Haifa. On Mount Carmel, Haifa exists on three levels: the Port, Hadar in the middle, and the Carmel heading toward to summit. Hadar lost its status of being the centre of Haifa years ago but has recently become quite trendy.
From the Carmel Centre you can walk mostly uphill to the area called Ahuza and from there on to Haifa University. It’s faster on one of the many buses that do this route. The last stop past the university is Daliat El Carmel, the Druze village.
As for COVID protocols here, young people are pretty lax while the oldies are usually masked up. At least this is the case in Haifa. Buses and trains require masks but some wear them on their chins. They don’t seem to mind when I do the “up” signal with my fingers.
It’s been incredibly freeing eating on terraces, walking without fear of falling on ice, listening to the birds even along the busier streets, and walking along the Hof HaCarmel (the Carmel Beach) walkway, smelling the sea air.
Haifa is a medium sized city (pop. 1,16 million) with a small town vibe, just perfect for our first week of our first trip overseas in over two years.
We walked several times along the main street, Moriah, which leads from the Carmel Centre to Ahuza and another ½ kilometer to my cousin Aliza’s home on Einstein street. We met with her twice, the first in her home after receiving our negative PCR test results from the airport here, the second on the grass outside her apartment wearing masks. She has been isolated for two years because of health issues and was very glad to see us!
Moriah Street is home to many, many dentists of all types and each has a sign outside on the street. We couldn’t believe how many there are on just one street in Haifa. There is the occasional sign for a neurologist and orthopedic surgeon but mainly it’s dentists who have taken over Moriah. There are also restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques as well as low-rise apartment buildings. If I could live anywhere in the world it would be on Moriah St. The low rises with the greenery and smell of honeysuckle are enticing me to move here one day!
The first day we walked along Moriah we spotted a wild boar several meters in front of us. At first I thought I was hallucinating but then Irwin saw it too. I was so stunned I forgot to take a picture of it. Later cousin Aliza explained that they are a problem on the Carmel and they have six to ten babies each and can be dangerous if you approach them. She once found a mother and six babies in her yard and called the police who rounded them up in a truck and took them somewhere, perhaps back to the Carmel forest from whence they came. A man passing at the same time as we were told us he saw one in the Carmel Center which is a small downtown area. Who knew?
The Carmel Centre has a great vibe. It’s full of restaurants including falafel joints, hamburger joints and slightly more upscale restos serving all manner of salads including hot mushroom salad and Bulgarian cheese or tuna salad with a myriad of fresh veggies. The veggies here are like nowhere else. So fresh and tasty as if they were picked an hour before we ate them.
The best plan for your restaurant fare is to order the Israeli breakfast for one…. For two…. And at any time of the day. It comes with eggs any style with little bowls of tehina, tuna salad, avocado, labeneh, olives, egg salad, Turkish salad etc. etc. etc. plus coffee and fresh orange juice. Yes, it’s a bit pricey but worth it especially when you’re sharing.
On Saturday which is the Sabbath here, Aliza’s cousins and my friends, Itzik and Avital, came to pick us up at our hotel and drove us down to the beach to watch the folk dancers. This amazing event takes place all along the seashore from the north to the south of Israel. Some dances are for couples and some are in circles for singles but the dancers we watched of all ages — but mostly 50+ — seemed to know the steps, well some better than others. Itzik told us that half a million people participate every Saturday along the coast of Israel. I believe there are lesson-sessions where one can learn the steps. All and all it was a beautiful outdoor event so no need for masks? We kept ours on and we do when we are with lots of people even outdoors. As for the restos we ate outdoors and when approached by a waiter without a mask we put ours on.
It’s sometimes a tough call and although being in Israel in the age of COVID is not easy, it’s definitely worth it.