The Beautiful city

Haifa

Haifa:

The city of Haifa is built on the slopes of Mount Carmel. It is the third-largest city in Northern Israel. Throughout the centuries, Haifa has been conquered and ruled by many invaders, of which were the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Persians, Hasmoneans, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, British, and finally the Israelis. On the top of Mount Carmel, there is a grotto known as the “Cave of Elijah,” where Prophet Elijah lived and hid. Elijah’s cave is one of the most sacred caves in the Holy Land, according to the traditions of all faiths (Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze). All go there to pray daily, and large ceremonies are held  several times a year. The highest peak of the Carmel mountain range is called the Muhraka, or “place of burning,” going back to the time when burnt offerings and sacrifices where carried out. According to the bible, this is the location where the people of Israel, having gone more than three years without rain as a punishment from God for their worship of idols, many were called to watch prophet Elijah as he confronted and challenged them to sacrifice a bull for their Gods, god Baal and the goddess Asherah,without fire, while he would do the same for his. The God who answered sending fire from the sky would be considered the true God of all.

Above the cave lies the Stella Maris lighthouse and the Carmelite Monastery with the same name, Monastère Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel in French for the nuns. Carmelite tradition traces the origin of the order to a community of hermits on Mount Carmel, which succeeded the schools of the prophets in ancient Israel or the Crusader states. There are no certain records of hermits on this mountain before the 1190s. By this date a group of men had gathered at the well of Elijah on Mount Carmel. These men, who had gone to Palestine from Europe either as pilgrims or as crusaders, chose Mount Carmel in part because it was the traditional home of Elijah. The foundation is believed to have been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. (The Carmelites were forced to leave the site, and the Holy Land, in 1291. Their original conventual buildings were destroyed several times, but members of the order were able to return in the nineteenth century under the Ottoman Empire. A monastery of Discalced Carmelite friars was built close to the original site under the auspices of Fr. Julius of the Saviour and consecrated on 12 June 1836.)

Some time between 1206 and 1214 the hermits, about whom very little is known, approached St. Albert of Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Papal legate, for a Rule. (Albert is credited with giving a rule to the Humiliati during his long tenure as Bishop of Vercelli, and was well-versed in diplomacy, being sent by Pope Innocent III as Papal Legate to what was known as the Eastern Province.) Albert created a document, the Rule of St Albert, which is both juridically terse and replete with Scriptural allusions, thereby grounding the hermits in the life of the universal Church and their own aspirations.

The rule consisted of sixteen articles, which enjoined strict obedience to their prior, residence in individual cells, constancy in prayer, the hearing of Mass every morning in the oratory of the community, vows of poverty and toil, daily silence from vespers until terce the next morning, abstinence from all forms of meat except in cases of severe illness, and fasting from Holy Cross Day (September 14) until the Easter of the following year.

The Rule of St. Albert addresses a prior whose name is only listed as “B.” When later required to name their founders, the Brothers referred to both Elijah and the Blessed Virgin as early models of the community. Later, under pressure from other European Mendicant orders to be more specific, the name “Saint Bertold” was given, possibly drawn from the oral tradition of the Order. During the mid-17th Century the Carmelite monks returned to reside in the caves below Stella Maris and established a makeshift monastery between the cave and the lighthouse. In 1886 another monastery and church were built over the ruins of the earlier church. Pre- historic remains, human fossils and artifacts have been also discovered on the slopes of Mount Carmel.

 

The Bahai Gardens is the most famous tourist attraction in all of Haifa. It is the most holy site of the Bahai faith and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Bahai faith is a new faith which started 200 years ago by a Persian man by the name of (Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi), who revealed himself as the prophet Bab (meaning “gate” in Arabic) and sought out to spread his beliefs. He was fought and then shunned by the Shia clergy, despite the fact that he gained tens of thousands of followers. He was eventually executed, six years after he began his movement. His beliefs were continued by (Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri), who changed his name to Baha’u’llah. He too was fought by the clergy and was expelled to the Ottoman Empire. There he continued to do his missionary work, by writing letters to leaders such as Pope Pious IX, Napoleon III and Queen Victoria to preach about his new faith. In 1868, Baha’u’llah was imprisoned at the infamous prison in Akko (Acre). Eventually he was allowed to buy a house and lived in peace for the rest of his days. Baha’u’llah’s son, Abdul-Baha, continued his father’s work. All three mentioned above became canonized as the three most important figures in the Bahai faith. Today, with over 7 million followers, the Baha’i religion comprises the world’s fourth largest monotheistic religion.

Each Bahai follower is required to make at least one pilgrimage to the two most holy sites Haifa and Akko, both located in the Holy Land. Bahais pray facing Western Galilee and are buried in the same way. The Bahai World Centre in Haifa is part of the Bahai Gardens, which is off-limits to tourists. There the faith’s international collective body of nine elected leaders conducts all their meetings and makes the decisions. No worship houses are found in the holy land. Many of the gardeners working in the Bahai Gardens are actual Bahais who serve their faith by working the land.

The Bahai Gardens can be divided up into three sections: The lower section – opening up to the German Colony; the middle section where the gardens around the gold- capped shrine; and the upper section which is just off the Louis Promenade and the main gate where the tours start. The Bahai Gardens reach close to a kilometer in length from the lowest gate of the German Colony to the main gate way up top, comprised of 19 terraces of flowers, waterworks and small sculptures. The Bahai Gardens contains nine concentric circles each filled with flowers, small trees, small sculptures, water fountains and pools. To the sides of the gardens are wooded areas designed to house wildlife and to cut down on urban noise. The 200,000 square meters of land were designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba and funded by donations made by Bahais only, the world over.

Shrine of the Bab: is the gold- capped Shrine of the Bab (The prophet of the Bahai faith, Bab means (Gate) in Arabic) where the remains of the Bab are kept; the shrine, surrounded by the gardens, lies in the middle section of the gardens.

Bahai Archives Library:  is the first building to be built on the Arc and holds many of the most sacred items within the Bahai Faith. Most importantly it is built for the viewing of the paintings and drawings of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb, along with a single photograph of Bahá’u’lláh. Most Bahais prefer to see these items only in a reverent atmosphere during the pilgrimage.

The Arc Buildings:  makes up a number of administrative buildings, as was shown by Bahá’u’lláh in the Tablet of Carmel. Built in the shape of an ark, it includes the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, the Seat of the International Teaching Centre, the International Bahai Archives and the Centre for the Study of the Sacred Texts. The fifth building, is the Bahai Library.

Acre(Akko):

It is one of the oldest cities in the world, inhabited since the Middle Bronze Age some 4000 years ago. The remains of the oldest city at the site of modern Acre were found at the tell (archaeological mound) known as Tel Akko and dates to the Early Bronze Age I (c. 3500-3050 BCE). However, the inhabitants lasted only for a couple of centuries, after which the site was abandoned, possibly after being flooded by the rising sea waters. From then on Acre was inhabited continuously, although it was invaded , conquered and destroyed  several times, most recently in 1291 when the Mamluks seized it from the Crusaders. Therefore, Acre is counted among the oldest, continuously inhabited sites in the region.

Egyptians mentioned Acre in the execration texts from ca. 1800 BCE, which are ancient Egyptian hieratic texts, listing enemies of the Pharaoh, most often enemies of the Egyptian state or troublesome foreign neighbors.  The name Aak that appears on the tribute lists of Thutmose III (1479-1425 BCE) may be a reference to Acre. The Amarna letters (written on clay tablets, primarily consisting of diplomatic correspondence between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru during the New Kingdom) also mention a place named Akka. Acre’s Old City has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Archaeological excavations were undertaken to preserve ancient sites, and in 2009, renovations were planned for Khan al-Umdan, the “Inn of the Columns,” the largest of several Ottoman inns still standing in Acre. The inns were built near the port at the end of the 18th century by Jazzar Pasha. Merchants who arrived at the port would unload their wares on the first floor and sleep in lodgings on the second floor. In 1906, a clock tower was added over the main entrance, marking the 25th anniversary of the reign of the Turkish sultan, Abdul Hamid II.

The City walls:

In 1750 the ruler of Acre Zahir al-Umar used the remnants of the Crusader walls as a foundation for his walls. Two gates were set in the wall, the “land gate” in the eastern wall and the “sea gate” in the southern wall. The walls were reinforced between 1775 and 1799 by Jazzar Pasha and survived Napoleon’s siege. In 1910, two additional gates were set in the walls, one in the northern wall and one in the north-western corner of the city. In 1912, the Acre lighthouse was built on the south-western corner of the wall.

Al-Jazzar Mosque:

Al-Jazzar Mosque was built in 1781. Jazzar Pasha and his successor, Sulayman Pasha al-Adil, are both buried in a small graveyard adjacent to the mosque. In a shrine on the second level of the mosque, a single hair from Muhammad’s beard is kept and shown on special ceremonial occasions.

Citadel of Acre:

The citadel of Acre is an Ottoman fortification, built on the foundation of the citadel of the Knights Hospitaller. The citadel was part of the city’s defensive formation reinforcing the northern wall. During the 20th century the citadel was used mainly as Acre Prison and as the site for gallows. During the British mandate period, it continued being used as a prison, some of whom were executed there.

Hamam al-Basha:

The Turkish Bath which was built in 1795 by Jazzar Pasha. It has a series of hot rooms and a hexagonal steam room with a marble fountain. The bathhouse kept functioning until 1950.

Hospitaller refectory fortress:

archaeological excavations revealed under the citadel and prison of Acre a complex of halls, which was built and used by the Knights Hospitaller. This complex was part of the Hospitallers’ citadel, which was included in the northern defenses of Acre. The complex includes six semi-joined halls, one recently excavated, revealing a large hall, a dungeon, a refectory (dining room) and remains of a Gothic church.

Other medieval sites:

the Church of Saint George and adjacent houses at the Genovese Square are medieval European remains. Also, there were residential quarters and marketplaces run by merchants from Pisa and Amalfi in Crusader and medieval Acre.

Bahai holy places:

There are many Bahá’í holy places in and around Acre. They originate from Bahá’u’lláh’s imprisonment in the Citadel during Ottoman Rule.The final years of Bahá’u’lláh’s life were spent in the Mansion of Bahjí, just outside Acre, even though he was still formally a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire. Bahá’u’lláh died on 29 May 1892 in Bahjí, and the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh is the most holy place for Bahá’ís — their Qiblih, or the location they face when saying their daily prayers. It contains the remains of Bahá’u’lláh and is near the spot where he died in the Mansion of Bahjí. Other Bahá’í sites in Acre are the House of `Abbúd (where Bahá’u’lláh and his family resided) and the House of `Abdu’lláh Páshá (where later ‘Abdu’l-Bahá resided with his family), and the Garden of Ridván where he spent the end of his life. In 2008, the Bahai holy places in Acre and Haifa were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Safed:

 Safed is the highest city in the Galilee, located at an elevation of 900 meters. Due to its high elevation, Safed has warm summers and cold, often snowy, winters. Safed has been known as Sepph, which was a fortified town in the Upper Galilee and which Josephus (the Roman -Jewish historian) wrote about it.  It is one of five elevated spots, where fires were lit to announce the New Moon and festivals during the Second Temple period, as was mentioned in The Telmud. In the 12th century, it was known by the Crusaders as Saphet and was a fortified city in the Crusaders’ Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Mamluk Sultan Baybars captured the city in 1266, and appointed a governor to be in charge of the fortress. It became the administrative center of Mamlakat Safad, a province in Mamluk Syria whose jurisdiction included the Galilee and the lands up to Jenin. under the Ottomans Safed was the capital of the Safad Sanjak, which encompassed much of the Galilee and extended to the Mediterranean coast.

 Safed has been considered one of Judaism’s Four Holy Cities, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias. Since the 16th century the rabbi Isaac Luria introduced the Kabalah to the city, making it the center of and Jewish mysticism and the Kabbalah (which is not a religious denomination in itself. It forms the foundations of mystical religious interpretation. It seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, and various other ontological questions. It also presents methods to aid understanding of the concepts and thereby attain spiritual realization).

Cave of Shem and Ever:

Jewish tradition relates that this cave was the Beit Midrash of the Forefather Jacob, as well as the spot where Noah’s son and grandson studied. Jews came to recognize this site as a gathering place of Talmudic scholars in 900 A.D. In the Byzantine (4th-5th century) period it was used as a burial site of a well-established Jewish family and one can see there the original plaster from the Byzantine period. The original entrance, today hidden, was towards the west. Throughout the years, the Christians and Moslems also recognized it as their holy place. The Crusaders noted the Cave as a location of events from the New Testament. The cave served as a nunnery for the “Daughters of Jacob”.  After Salah-al-Din captured Safad, the Moslems turned the Cave into a mosque.  Moslems, like the Jews, believe that the Cave is the place where Jacob grieved when he heard that his son Joseph had died. The Moslems also believe that the Cave is the burial site of Jacob. In 1810, the Mamluk ruler broke open a new entranceway, of which the Jews called the Cave of the “Daughters of Jacob.

the Saraya:

Was the center of the local Turkish government.  The clock tower was built in 1900 in honor of the Sultan Abd Al Hamid II.  When the British arrived in Safad following WWI the Saraya became the seat of British government.

 

The Scottish Church:

From the end of the 19th century until the 1948, the church was the center of Scottish missionary activity in Safed. The building, that was built in the British-colonial manner, was never completed and in the 1920s an American Jew, by the name of Ya’akov Meyer Richman who came to live in Safed after WWI, bought the building and renamed it “Beit Richman” (the house of Richman).  After the end of the 1948 war, the building was converted into a rehabilitation hospital. In the 1970s it became a school teaching Talmud Torah.

The red mosque:

The Red Mosque is one of the oldest Mamluk buildings still standing today.

Decorated with inscriptions glorifying the Mamluk Sultan Beybars (1223–77), the Red Mosque (interior closed to the public) was built at the very end of his reign. The Mamluk ruler Beybars ruled the region from 1260-1278, capturing Safed in 1266 and calling it the “capitol of the Beybars Northern Empire – the Safad Empire. The Red Mosque was built in the Egyptian architectural style of the Mamluks. The builders built a half-arch in the grand entrance, covered with typical Mamluk engravings and a Rosta at its center.  The prayer hall is in the southern section of the mosque, with pillars that point to the direction of Mecca. The mosque was also used as a hostel for travelers by the Muslim Wafk (religious authority).  The mosque was partially destroyed by the earthquakes which decimated Safed throughout the years.  Today, the building is used as a center for art and culture.

 

 

The Mamluk Mausoleum:

The mausoleum was constructed in 1372 as the final resting place of a local governor. It continued to serve as a mausoleum for burials until the early 20th century, In the southern wall near the main entrance visitors can see 3 Mameluke inscriptions. Today the building is used by Freemasons.

 

Souq Mosque – General Exhibition:

This building was erected in 1901 but it’s foundations predate 1901. In the beginning of the 21st century extensive restorations were undertaken on the building and an addition was added. The General Exhibition is the center of the Artist Quarter, which was founded in the early 1950s by artists who felt that the atmosphere of Safed gave expression to their art.

The Police Station:  

The station was built at the of 1930s as the main security point to guard the no-mans-land, which separated the Jewish and Arab quarters. The building housed the British police station during the British Mandate. Its yard was surrounded by a concrete wall (destroyed after the War of 1948) guarded by a “pillbox” guardhouse.

Megiddo:

Was one of the most famous and strategically set fortress in the cities of the Bronze -Age because it was built on high grounds near the northern entrance to the wadi Ara Pass, which connects the Jezreel Valley with the coastal plain and was the main road between Egypt and Mesopotamia, which explains why so many battles were fought in Megiddo. 

In the fifteenth century B.C. there was the earliest recorded battle, which was fought between the Egyptian Pharaoh (Thutmose III) and the Syro-Palestinian kings Coalition. Also, there is where Josiah, who was considered a good and faithful king, met his untimely death in a fight with the Egyptian Pharaoh (Neco II).

Early as the fourth millennium B.C. people lived at the site of Ancient Megiddo until about the fourth century B.C., which was long before the Egyptian Pyramids were built, until about the time of Alexander the Great reign. The Arabic name for Megiddo was Tell al- Mutesellim, while the Jews called it Tell Megiddo (Tell in Arabic means a low hill with relatively flat top).                    As early as the 1903 numerous excavations were carried out until the 1993 and are still underway. The site is preserved as a national park, with a museum preserving the Iron Age Megiddo, and a trail up to the Acropolis of the Tell. Excavations in Megiddo shows ruins from the Iron Age, Bronze Age and from the period of the Assyrian conquest.

 

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