Hebrew transcription(s)
 – Hebrew חֵיפָה
Arabic transcription(s)
 – Arabic حيفا
Haifa from Baha'i gardens

Emblem of Haifa
Haifa is located in Israel
Coordinates: 32°49′0″N 34°59′0″E / 32.816667°N 34.983333°E / 32.816667; 34.983333Coordinates: 32°49′0″N 34°59′0″E / 32.816667°N 34.983333°E / 32.816667; 34.983333
District Haifa
 – Type City
 – Mayor Yona Yahav
 – City 63,666 dunams (63.7 km2 / 24.6 sq mi)
Population (2010)[1]
 – City 268,200
 – Urban 600,000
 – Metro 1,048,900
Website haifa.muni.il (English)

Haifa (Hebrew: חֵיפָה‎‎, Hebrew pronunciation: [χeiˈfä], Ḥefa; Arabic: حيفاḤayfā[2]) is the largest city in northern Israel, and the third-largest city in the country, with a population of over 268,000. Another 300,000 people live in towns directly adjacent to the city including the cities of the Krayot, as well as, Tirat Carmel, Daliyat al-Karmel and Nesher. Together these areas form a contiguous urban area home to nearly 600,000 residents which makes up the inner core of the Haifa metropolitan area.[1][3] Haifa is mixed city: 90% are Jews, more than a quarter of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, while 10% are Arabs, predominantly of the Christian faith.[4] It is also home to the Bahá'í World Centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[5][6]

Built on the slopes of Mount Carmel, the history of settlement at the site spans more than 3,000 years. The earliest known settlement in the vicinity was Tell Abu Hawam, a small port city established in the Late Bronze Age (14th century BCE).[7] In the 3rd century CE, Haifa was known as a dye-making center. Over the centuries, the city has changed hands: It has been conquered and ruled by the Phoenicians, Hebrews, Persians, Hasmoneans, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, British, and the Israelis. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the city has been governed by the Haifa Municipality.

Today, the city is a major seaport located on Israel's Mediterranean coastline in the Bay of Haifa covering 63.7 square kilometres (24.6 sq mi). It is located about 90 kilometres (56 mi) north of Tel Aviv and is the major regional center of northern Israel. Two respected academic institutions, the University of Haifa and the Technion, are located in Haifa, and the city plays an important role in Israel's economy. It has several high-tech parks, among them the oldest and largest in the country,[8] an industrial port, and a petroleum refinery. Haifa was formerly the western terminus of an oil pipeline from Iraq via Jordan.[9]



Western Haifa from the air

The earliest named settlement within the site of the modern Haifa was a city known as Sycaminum.[10] The Arabic Tell el-Semak (or Tell es-Samak, meaning "mound of the fish") preserved and transformed this ancient name, with locals using it to refer to a coastal tell at the foot of the Carmel Mountains that contains its remains.[11][12] In Hebrew, it is known as Tel Shiqmona or Shikmonah.[12] Shiqmona is mentioned once in the Mishnah (composed c. 200 CE) for the wild fruits that grow around it.[12]

The name Efa first appears during Roman rule, some time after the end of the 1st century, when a Roman fortress and small Jewish settlement were established not far from Tell es-Samak .[10][12] Haifa is also mentioned more than 100 times in the Talmud, a book central to Judaism.[12]

Hefa or Hepha in Eusebius of Caesarea's 4th century work, Onomasticon (Onom. 108, 31), is said to be another name for Sycaminus.[13] This synonimizing of the names is explained by Moshe Sharon who writes that the twin ancient settlements, which he calls Haifa-Sycaminon, gradually expanded into one another, becoming a twin city known by the Greek names Sycaminon or Sycaminos Polis.[12] References to this city end with the Byzantine period.[7]

Around the 6th century, Porphyreon or Porphyrea is mentioned in the writings of William of Tyre, and while it lies within the area covered by modern Haifa, it was a settlement situated south of Haifa-Sycaminon.[7][12]

Following the Arab conquest in the 7th century, Haifa was used to refer to a site established on Tell es-Samak upon what were already the ruins of Sycaminon (Shiqmona).[12] Haifa (or Haifah) is mentioned by the mid-11th century Persian chronicler Nasir Khusraw, and the 12th and 13th century Arab chroniclers, Muhammad al-Idrisi and Yaqut al-Hamawi.[14]

The Crusaders, who captured Haifa briefly in the 12th century, call it Caiphas,[10] and believe its name related to Cephas, the Greek name of Simon Peter.[11] Eusebius is also said to have referred to Hefa as Caiaphas civitas,[15] and Benjamin of Tudela, the 12th century Jewish traveller and chronicler, is said to have attributed the city's founding to Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest at the time of Jesus.[11]

Other spellings in English have included Caipha, Kaipha, Caiffa, Kaiffa and Khaifa .[16]

Haifa al-'Atiqa (Arabic: "Ancient Haifa") is another name used by locals to refer to Tell es-Samak, as it was the site of Haifa when it is was a hamlet of 250 residents, before it was moved in 1764-5 to a new fortified site founded by Daher el-Omar one and half miles to the east.[17] The new village, the nucleus of modern Haifa, was originally named al-imara al-jadida (Arabic: "the new construction"), but locals called it Haifa al-Jadida (Arabic: "New Haifa") at first, and then simply Haifa.[2] In the early 20th century, Haifa al 'Atiqa was repopulated as a predominantly Arab Christian neighborhood of Haifa as it expanded outward from its new location.[18]

The ultimate origin of the name Haifa remains unclear. One theory holds it derives from the name of the high priest Caiaphas. Some Christians believe it was named for Saint Peter, whose Aramaic name was Keiphah.[19] Another theory holds it could be derived from the Hebrew verb root חפה (hafa), meaning to cover or shield, i.e. Mount Carmel covers Haifa;[19] others point to a possible origin in the Hebrew word חוֹף (hof), meaning shore, or חוֹף יָפֶה (hof yafe), meaning beautiful shore.[20]

Early history

Jars excavated at Tell Abu Hawam

A small port city known today as Tell Abu Hawam was established Late Bronze Age (14th century BCE).[7] During the 6th century BCE, Greek geographer Scylax told of a city "between the bay and the Promontory of Zeus" (i.e., the Carmel) which may be a reference to Haifa during the Persian period.[7] By Hellenistic times, the city had moved to a new site south of what is now Bat Galim because the port's harbour had become blocked with sand.[7] About the 3rd century CE, the city was first mentioned in Talmudic literature, as a Jewish fishing village and the home of Rabbi Avdimos and other Jewish scholars.[7][21] A Greek-speaking population living along the coast at this time was engaged in commerce.[22]

Haifa was located near the town of Shikmona, a center for making the traditional Tekhelet dye used in the garments of the high priests in the Temple. The archaeological site of Shikmona is southwest of Bat Galim.[23] Mount Carmel and the Kishon River are also mentioned in the Bible.[24][25] A grotto on the top of Mount Carmel is known as the "Cave of Elijah", traditionally linked to the Prophet Elijah and his apprentice, Elisha.[24] In Arabic, the highest peak of the Carmel range is called the Muhraka, or "place of burning," harking back to the burnt offerings and sacrifices there in Canaanite and early Israelite times[26]

Early Haifa is believed to have occupied the area which extends from the present-day Rambam Hospital to the Jewish Cemetery on Yafo Street.[27] The inhabitants engaged in fishing and agriculture.[27]

Byzantine, Arab and Crusader rule

Mount Carmel before 1899

Under Byzantine rule, Haifa continued to grow but did not assume major importance.[28] Following the Arab conquest of Palestine in the 630s-40s, Haifa was largely overlooked in favor of the port city of 'Akka.[2] Under the Rashidun Caliphate, Haifa began to develop. In the 9th century under the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, Haifa established trading relations with Egyptian ports and the city featured several shipyards. The inhabitants, Arabs and Jews, engaged in trade and maritime commerce. Glass production and dye-making from marine snails were the city's most lucrative industries.[29]

Prosperity ended in 1100, when Haifa was besieged and blockaded by the Crusaders and then conquered after a fierce battle with its Jewish and Muslim inhabitants.[19][29] Under the Crusaders, Haifa was reduced to a small fishing and agricultural village.[29] It was a part of the Principality of Galilee within the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Following their victory at the Battle of Hattin, Saladin's Ayyubid army captured Haifa in mid-July 1187.[30] The Crusaders under Richard the Lionheart retook Haifa in 1191.[31] The Carmelites established a church on Mount Carmel in the 12th century.[32] Under Muslim rule, the building was turned into a mosque, later becoming a hospital. In the 19th century, it was restored as a Carmelite monastery over a cave associated with Elijah, the prophet.[33]

Mamluk, Ayyubid and Ottoman rule

Monument to Napoleon's soldiers at Stella Maris Monastery

The city's Crusader fortress was destroyed in 1187 by Saladin.[7] In 1265, the army of Baibars the Mamluk captured Haifa, destroying its fortifications, which had been rebuilt by King Louis IX of France, as well as the majority of the city's homes to prevent the European Crusaders from returning.[34] For much of their rule, the city was desolate in the Mamluk period between the 13th and 16th centuries.[citation needed] Information from this period is scarce.[citation needed] During Mamluk rule in the 14th century, al-Idrisi wrote that Haifa served as the port for Tiberias and featured a "fine harbor for the anchorage of galleys and other vessels.[14]

In 1596, Haifa appeared in Ottoman tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Sahil Atlit of the Liwa of Lajjun. It had a population of 32 Muslim households and paid taxes on wheat, barley, summercrops, olives, and goats or beehives.[35]

Haifa was a hamlet of 250 inhabitants in 1764-5 that was located at Tell el-Semak, the site of ancient Sycaminum.[17][36] Daher el-Omar, the Arab ruler of Acre and Galilee, moved the population to a new fortified site one and half miles to the east and laid waste to the old site.[17][37] This event is marked as the beginning of the town's life at its modern location.[17] After al-Omar's death in 1775, the town remained under Ottoman rule until 1918, with the exception of two brief periods.

In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Haifa during his unsuccessful campaign to conquer Palestine and Syria, but soon had to withdraw; in the campaign's final proclamation, Napoleon took credit for having razed the fortifications of "Kaïffa" (as the name was spelled at the time) along with those of Gaza, Jaffa and Acre. Between 1831 and 1840, the Egyptian viceroy Muhammad Ali governed Haifa, after his son Ibrahim Pasha had wrested its control from the Ottomans.[38][39]

German Colony in the 19th century
Haifa in 1915

When the Egyptian occupation ended and Acre declined, the importance of Haifa rose. In 1854, the city had a population of 2,070 Arabs (1,200 Muslims, 870 Christians) and 32 Jews.[40] The arrival of the German Templers in 1868, who settled in what is now known as the German Colony of Haifa, was a turning point in Haifa's development.[39] The Templers built and operated a steam-based power station, opened factories and inaugurated carriage service to Acre, Nazareth and Tiberias, playing a key role in modernizing the city.[41]

The first European Jews arrived at the end of the 19th century from Romania. The Central Jewish Colonisation Society in Romania purchased over 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) near Haifa. As the Jewish settlers had been city dwellers, they hired the former fellahin tenants to instruct them in agriculture.[42] In 1909 Haifa became central to the Bahá'í Faith, when the remains of their prophet, the Báb, were moved to Acre and a shrine built on Mount Carmel by `Abdu'l-Bahá.

British Mandate

Buchenwald survivors arrive in Haifa to be arrested by the British, 15 July 1945
Haifa Oil Refinery

Haifa was captured from the Ottomans in September 1918 by Indian horsemen serving in the British Army after overrunning Turkish positions armed with spears and swords.[43] On 22 September, British troops were heading to Nazareth when a reconnaissance report was received indicating that the Turks were leaving Haifa. The British made preparations to enter the city and came under fire in the Balad al-Sheikh district (today Nesher). After the British regrouped, an elite unit of Indian horsemen were sent to attack the Turkish positions on the flanks and overrun their artillery guns on Mount Carmel.[43]

Under the British Mandate, Haifa became an industrial port city.[44] The Hejaz railway and the Technion were built at this time.[39] Haifa District was then home to approximately 20,000 inhabitants, 96 percent of them Arabs (82 percent Muslim and 14 percent Christian), and four percent Jews. Over the next few decades the number of Jews increased steadily, due to immigration, especially from Europe. The Arab immigration on the other hand swelled by influx of Arabs, coming mainly from surrounding villages as well as Syrian Hauran.[45] The Arab immigration mainly came as a result of prices and salary drop.[45] The Arab population of Haifa almost doubled between 1922 and 1931, increasing from 18,404 to 34,560.[45]

By 1945 the population had shifted to 53 percent Arab (33 percent Muslim, 20 percent Christian) and 47 percent Jewish.[46] In 1947, about 70,910 Arabs (41,000 Muslims, 29,910 Christians) and 74,230 Jews were living there.[47] The Christian community were mostly Greek-Melkite Catholics.

The 1947 UN Partition Plan designated Haifa as part of the proposed Jewish state. On 30 December 1947, members of the Irgun, a Jewish underground militia, threw bombs into a crowd of Arabs outside the gates of the Consolidated Refineries in Haifa, killing six and injuring 42. In response Arab employees of the company killed 39 Jewish employees in what became known as the Haifa Oil Refinery massacre.[48] The Jewish Haganah militia retaliated with a raid on the Arab village of Balad al-Shaykh, where many of the Arab refinery workers lived, in what became known as the Balad al-Shaykh massacre.[49] Control of Haifa was critical in the ensuing Arab-Israeli war, since it was the major industrial and oil refinery port in British Palestine.[48]

British forces in Haifa redeployed on 21 April 1948, withdrawing from most of the city while still maintaining control over the port facilities. Two days later the downtown, controlled by a combination of local and foreign (ALA) Arab irregulars was assaulted by Jewish forces in Operation Bi'ur Hametz, by the Carmeli Brigade of the Haganah, commanded by Moshe Carmel.[48] The operation led to a massive displacement of Haifa's Arab population. According to The Economist at the time, only 5,000-6,000 of the city's 62,000 Arabs remained there by 2 October 1948.[50]

Contemporaneous sources emphasized the Jewish leadership's attempt to stop the Arab exodus from the city and the Arab leadership as a motivating factor in the refugees' flight. According to the British district superintendent of police, "Every effort is being made by the Jews to persuade the Arab populace to stay and carry on with their normal lives, to get their shops and business open and to be assured that their lives and interests will be safe."[51] Time Magazine wrote on 3 May 1948:

The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by orders of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city ... By withdrawing Arab workers their leaders hoped to paralyze Haifa.

Benny Morris said Haifa's Arabs left due to of a combination of Zionist threats and encouragement to do so by Arab leaders. Ilan Pappé writes that the shelling culminated in an attack on a Palestinian crowd in the old marketplace using three-inch (76 mm) mortars on 22 April 1948.[52][53][54] Shabtai Levy, the Mayor of the city, and some other Jewish leaders urged Arabs not to leave. According to Ilan Pappé, Jewish loudspeakers could be heard in the city ordering Arab residents to leave "before it's too late."[55] Morris quotes British sources as stating that during the battles between 22 and 23 April 100 Arabs were killed and 100 wounded, but he adds that the total may have been higher.[56]

Within the State of Israel

After the state of Israel declared its independence on 14 May 1948, Haifa became the gateway for Jewish immigration into Israel. During the Israeli War of Independence, the neighborhoods of Haifa were sometimes contested. After the war, Jewish immigrants were resettled in vacated Arab houses. New neighborhoods, among them Kiryat Hayim, Ramot Remez, Ramat Shaul, Kiryat Sprinzak, and Kiryat Eliezer, were built to accommodate them. Bnei Zion Hospital (formerly Rothschild Hospital) and the Central Synagogue in Hadar Hacarmel date from this period. In 1953, a master plan was created for transportation and the future architectural layout.[57]

In 1959, a group of Mizrahi Jews, mostly Moroccan Jews, rioted in Wadi Salib, claiming the state was discriminating against them.[58] Their demand for “bread and work” was directed at the state institutions and what they viewed as an Ashkenazi elite in the Labor Party and the Histadrut.[59]

Tel Aviv gained in status, while Haifa suffered a decline in the role as regional capital. The opening of Ashdod as a port exacerbated this. Tourism shrank when the Israeli Ministry of Tourism placed emphasis on developing Tiberias as a tourist centre.[60]

Nevertheless, Haifa's population had reached 200,000 by the early 1970s, and mass immigration from the former Soviet Union boosted the population by a further 35,000.[39]

Many of Wadi Salib's historic Ottoman buildings have now been demolished, and in the 1990s a major section of the Old City was razed to make way for the municipal center.[39][59]

From 1999 to 2003, several suicide attacks took place in Haifa (Maxim and Matza restaurants, bus 37, etc.), resulting in 68 killings.

In 2006, Haifa was hit by 93 Hezbollah rockets during the conflict with Lebanon, killing eleven civilians and leading to half of the city's population fleeing at the end of the first week of the war.[61] The oil refinery complex was also struck by a rocket.[62]


Ha'Atzmaut street, Downtown
Beit Hecht, a restored Templer building

Haifa is Israel's third-largest city, consisting of 103,000 households,[3] or a population of 266,300. Immigrants from the former Soviet Union constitute 25% of Haifa's population.[63] According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, Arab citizens of Israel constitute 10% of Haifa's population, the majority living in Wadi Nisnas, Abbas and Halissa neighborhoods.[63]

Haifa is commonly portrayed as a model of co-existence between Arabs and Jews in Israel, although tensions and hostility do still exist.[64] Several Palestinian organizations have been established to fight perceived discrimination in the allocation of resources, to protest the displacement of the Haifa Arabs whose homes were occupied by Jews, and to halt the destruction of Arab cultural property in the Haifa region.[65]

City of Haifa
Population by year[66][67]
1800 1,000
1840 2,000
1880 6,000
1914 20,000
1922 24,600
1947 145,140
1961 183,021
1972 219,559
1983 225,775
1995 255,914
2005 267,800
2009 265,000

The city has an aging population compared to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as young people have moved to the center of the country for schooling and jobs, while young families have migrated to bedroom communities in the suburbs.[68]

Religious and ethnic communities

The population of Haifa today is about 70% Jewish, 4% Muslim, 6% Christian Arab and some 20% either Christian or unclassified Post-Soviet immigrants, many of whom from the Ukraine. Haifa also includes Druze and Bahai communities. As the young Jewish residents leave the city, the proportion of non-Jews is growing.[68] In 2006, 27% of the Arab population was aged 14 and under, compared to 17% of the Jewish and other population groups. The trend continues in the age 15-29 group, in which 27% of the Arab population is found, and the age 30-44 group (23%). The population of Jews and others in these age groups are 22% and 18% respectively. Nineteen percent of the city's Jewish and other population is between 45 and 59, compared to 14% of the Arab population. This continues with 14% of Jews and others aged 60–74 and 10% over age 75, in comparison to 7% and just 2% respectively in the Arab population.[66]

By national standards, Haifa's Jewish population is relatively secular. In 2006, 2.9% of the Jews in the city were Haredi, compared to 7.5% on a national scale.[66] 66.6% were secular, compared to a national average of 43.7%.[66] A significant portion of the immigrants from the former Soviet Union either lack official religious-ethnic classification or are Non-Jews as they are from mixed-marriage families of some Jewish origin.[63]


Green trail in Wadi Lotem

Haifa is situated on the Israeli Mediterranean Coastal Plain, the historic land bridge between Europe, Africa, and Asia.[69] Located on the northern slopes of Mount Carmel and around Haifa Bay, the city is split over three tiers.[70] The lowest is the center of commerce and industry including the Port of Haifa.[70] The middle level is on the slopes of Mount Carmel and consists of older residential neighborhoods, while the upper level consists of modern neighborhoods looking over the lower tiers.[70] From here views can be had across the Western Galilee region of Israel towards Rosh HaNikra and the Lebanese border.[70] Haifa is about 90 kilometers (55.9 mi) north of the city of Tel Aviv, and has a large number of beaches on the Mediterranean.[71]

Flora and fauna

The Carmel Mountain has three main wadis: Lotem, Amik and Si’ach. For the most part these valleys are undeveloped natural corridors that run up through the city from the coast to the top of the mountain. Marked hiking paths traverse these areas and they provide habitat for wildlife such as wild boar, golden jackals, Egyptian mongoose and chameleons.


Haifa has a mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and cool, rainy winters (Köppen climate classification Csa).[72] Spring arrives in March when temperatures begin to increase. By late May, the temperature has warmed up considerably to herald warm summer days. The average temperature in summer is 26 °C (79 °F) and in winter, 12 °C (54 °F). Snow is rare in Haifa, but temperatures around 3 °C (37 °F) can sometimes occur, usually in the early morning. Humidity tends to be high all year round, and rain usually occurs between September and May. Annual precipitation is approximately 629 millimeters (25 in).

Climate data for Haifa
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 17.0
Average low °C (°F) 8.9
Precipitation mm (inches) 124.9
Avg. precipitation days 13.9 11.7 8.6 3.6 1.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 3.9 8.0 11.8 63.7
Source: Israel Meteorological Service[73]


Bat Galim neighborhood
View from Rambam Hospital

Haifa has developed in tiers, from the lower to the upper city on the Carmel. The oldest neighborhood in the modern Haifa is Wadi Salib, the Old City center near the port, which has been bisected by a major road and razed in part to make way for government buildings. Wadi Salib stretches across to Wadi Nisnas, the center of Arab life in Haifa today. In the 19th century, under Ottoman rule, the German Colony was built, providing the first model of urban planning in Haifa. Some of the buildings have been restored and the colony has turned into a center of Haifa nightlife.[70]

The first buildings in Hadar were constructed at the start of the 20th century. Hadar was Haifa's cultural center and marketplace throughout the 1920s and into the 1980s, nestled above and around the Haifa's Arab neighborhoods. Today Hadar stretches from the port area near the bay, approximately halfway up Mount Carmel, around the German Colony, Wadi Nisnas and Wadi Salib.[74] Hadar houses two commercial centers (one in the port area, and one midway up the mountain) surrounded by some of the city's older neighborhoods.

Neve Sha'anan, a neighborhood located on the second tier of Mount Carmel, was founded in the 1920s. West of the port are the neighborhoods of Bat Galim, Shikmona Beach, and Kiryat Eliezer. To the west and east of Hadar are the Arab neighborhoods of Abbas and Khalisa, built in the 1960s and 70s.[75] To the south of Mount Carmel's headland, along the road to Tel Aviv, are the neighborhoods of Ein HaYam, Shaar HaAliya, Kiryat Sprinzak and Neve David.

Above Hadar are affluent neighborhoods such as the Carmel Tzarfati (French Carmel), Merkaz Ha'Carmel, Romema, Ahuzat Ha'Carmel (Ahuza), Carmeliya, Vardiya, Ramat Golda, Ramat Alon and Denya. While there are general divisions between Arab and Jewish neighborhoods, there is an increasing trend for wealthy Arabs to move into affluent Jewish neighborhoods.[68] Another of the Carmel neighborhoods is Kababir, home to the National Headquarters of Israel's Ahmadiyya Muslim Community;[75] located near Merkaz HaCarmel and overlooking the coast.

Urban development

Recently, residential construction has been concentrated around Kiryat Haim and Kiryat Shmuel, with 75,000 m2 (807,293 sq ft) of new residential construction between 2002–2004, the Carmel, with 70,000 m2 (753,474 sq ft), and Ramot Neve Sha'anan with approximately 70,000 m2 (753,474 sq ft)[76] Non-residential construction was highest in the Lower Town, (90,000 sq m), Haifa Bay (72,000 sq m) and Ramot Neve Sha'anan (54,000 sq m).[76] In 2004, 80% of construction in the city was private.[76]

The Palace of the Pasha, a Turkish bathhouse, and a Middle Eastern music and dance club in Wadi Salib have been converted into theaters, and offices.[59] The Haifa Economic Corporation Ltd is developing two 1,000 square metre lots for office and commercial use.[77]


Matam hi-tech park

The common Israeli saying, "Haifa works, Jerusalem prays, and Tel Aviv plays" attests to Haifa's reputation as a city of workers and industry.[78] The industrial region of Haifa is in the eastern part of the city, around the Kishon River. It is home to the Haifa oil refinery, one of the two oil refineries in Israel (the other refinery being located in Ashdod). The Haifa refinery processes 9 million tons (66 million barrels) of crude oil a year.[79][80] Its nowadays unused twin 80-meter high cooling towers, built in the 1930s, were the tallest buildings built in the British Mandate period.[81]

Matam (short for Merkaz Ta'asiyot Mada - Scientific Industries Center), the largest and oldest business park in Israel, is at the southern entrance to the city, hosting manufacturing and R&D facilities for a large number of Israeli and international hi-tech companies, such as Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Motorola, Google, Yahoo!, Elbit, Zoran, Philips, and Amdocs.[82] The campus of the University of Haifa is also home to IBM Haifa Labs.[83]

The Port of Haifa is the leader in passenger traffic among Israeli ports, and is also a major cargo harbor, although deregulation has seen its dominance challenged by the port of Ashdod.[84]

Haifa malls and shopping centers include Hutsot Hamifratz, Horev Center Mall, Panorama Center, Castra Center, Colony Center (Lev HaMoshava), Hanevi'im Tower Mall, Kanyon Haifa, Lev Hamifratz Mall and Grand Kanyon.[85]


Shrine of the Bab and terraces on Mount Carmel

In 2005, Haifa had 13 hotels with a total of 1,462 rooms.[86] The city has 17 kilometres (11 mi) of beaches, 5 kilometres (3 mi).[87] Haifa's main tourist attraction is the Bahá'í World Centre, with the golden-domed Shrine of the Báb and the surrounding gardens. Between 2005 and 2006, 86,037 visited the shrine.[86] In 2008, the Bahai gardens were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[5][88][89] The restored German Colony, founded by the Templers, Stella Maris and Elijah's Cave also draw many tourists.[90]

Located in the Haifa district are the Ein Hod artists' colony, where over 90 artists and craftsmen have studios and exhibitions,[91] and the Mount Carmel national park, with caves where Neanderthal and early Homo Sapiens remains were found.[92]

A 2007 report commissioned by the Haifa Municipality calls for the construction of more hotels, a ferry line between Haifa, Acre and Caesarea, development of the western anchorage of the port as a recreation and entertainment area, and an expansion of the local airport and port to accommodate international travel and cruise ships.[93]

Arts and culture

Despite its image as a port and industrial city, Haifa is the cultural hub of northern Israel. During the 1950s, mayor Abba Hushi made a special effort to encourage authors and poets to move to the city, and founded the Haifa Theatre, a repertory theater, the first municipal theater founded in the country.[94] The principal Arabic theater servicing the northern Arab population is the al-Midan Theater. Other theaters in the city include the Krieger Centre for the Performing Arts and the Rappaport Art and Culture Center.[94] The Congress Center hosts exhibitions, concerts and special events.[95]

The New Haifa Symphony Orchestra, established in 1950, has more than 5,000 subscribers. In 2004, 49,000 people attended its concerts.[87][96] The Haifa Cinematheque, founded in 1975, hosts the annual Haifa International Film Festival during the intermediate days of the Sukkot holiday. Haifa has 29 movie theaters.[87] The city publishes a local newspaper, Yediot Haifa,[97] and has its own radio station, Radio Haifa.[98]

During the 90's, Haifa hosted the Haifa Rock & Blues Festival which featured many distinguished musicians such as Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Blur and PJ Harvey. The last festival was held in 1995 with Sheryl Crow, Suede and Faith No More as headliners of the festival.


Haifa has over a dozen museums.[87][99] The most popular museum is the Israel National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space, which recorded almost 150,000 visitors in 2004. The museum is located in the historic Technion building in the Hadar neighborhood.[100] The Haifa Museum of Art houses a collection of modern and classical art, as well as displays on the history of Haifa.[101] The Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art is the only museum in the Middle East dedicated solely to Japanese art.[102] Other museums in Haifa include the Museum of Prehistory, the National Maritime Museum and Haifa City Museum, the Hecht Museum, the Dagon Archeological Museum, the Railway Museum, the Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum, the Israeli Oil Industry Museum, and Chagall Artists' House.[87] As part of his campaign to bring culture to Haifa, Mayor Abba Hushi provided the artist Mane-Katz with a building on Mount Carmel to house his collection of Judaica, which is now a museum.[103]


As an industrial port city, Haifa has traditionally been a Labor party stronghold. The strong presence of dock workers and trade unions earned it the nickname 'Red Haifa.' In addition, many prominent Arabs in the Israeli Communist Party, among them Tawfik Toubi, Emile Habibi, Zahi Karkabi, Bulus Farah and Emile Toma, were from Haifa.

Haifa court building

In recent years, there has been a drift toward the center.[104][105][106] This was best signified by, in the 2006 legislative elections, the Kadima party receiving about 28.9% of the votes in Haifa, and Labor lagging behind with 16.9%.[107]

Before 1948, Haifa's Municipality was fairly unique as it developed cooperation between the mixed Arab and Jewish community in the city, with representatives of both groups involved in the city's management. Under mayor al-Haj, between 1920 and 1927, the city council had six Arab and two Jewish representatives, with the city run as a mixed municipality with overall Arab control. Greater cooperation was introduced under Hasan Bey Shukri, who adopted a positive and conciliatory attitude toward the city's Jews and gave them senior posts in the municipality.[108] In 1940, the first Jewish mayor, Shabtai Levy, was elected. Levy's two deputies were Arab (one Muslim, the other Christian), with the remainder of the council made up of four Jews and six Arabs.[109]

Today, Haifa is governed by its 12th city council, headed by the mayor Yona Yahav. The results of municipal elections decide on the makeup of the council, similarly to the Knesset elections. The city council is the legislative council in the city, and has the authority to pass auxiliary laws.[110] The 12th council, which was elected in 2003, has 31 members, with the liberal Shinui-Greens ticket holding the most seats (6), and Likud coming second with 5.[111] Many of the decisions passed by the city council are results of recommendation made by the various municipal committees, which are committees where non-municipal organs meet with representatives from the city council. Some committees are spontaneous, but some are mandatory, such as the security committee, tender committee and financial committee.[112]

Mayors of Haifa

City hall

Medical facilities

Rambam Medical Center
Technion, called "Israel's MIT"
Rabin Building, University of Haifa
A Cable Car descending from Mount Carmel to Bat Galim

Haifa medical facilities have a total of 4,000 hospital beds. The largest hospital is the government-operated Rambam Hospital[113] with 900 beds and 78,000 admissions in 2004. Bnai Zion Hospital and Carmel Hospital each have 400 beds. Other hospitals in the city include the Italian Hospital, Elisha Hospital (100 beds), Horev Medical Center (36 beds) and Ramat Marpe (18 beds).[114] Haifa has 20 family health centers.[114] In 2004, there were a total of 177,478 hospital admissions.[114]

Rambam Medical Center was in the direct line of fire during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and was forced to take special precautions to protect its patients.[115] Whole wings of the hospital were moved to large underground shelters.[116]


Haifa is home to two internationally acclaimed universities and several colleges. The University of Haifa, founded in 1963, is at the top of Mt. Carmel. The campus was designed by the architect of Brasília and United Nations Headquarters in New York, Oscar Niemeyer. The top floor of the 30-story Eshkol Tower provides a panoramic view of northern Israel. The Hecht Museum, with important archeology and art collections, is on the campus of Haifa University.

Rappaport Faculty of Medicine

The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, described as Israel's MIT, was founded in 1924. It has 18 faculties and 42 research institutes. The original building now houses Haifa's science museum. The first technological high school in Israel, Basmat, was established in Haifa in 1933.[117]

Other academic institutions in Haifa are the Gordon College of Education and Sha'anan Religious Teachers' College, the WIZO Haifa Academy of Design and Education,[118] and Tiltan College of Design. The Michlala Leminhal College of Management and the Open University of Israel have branches in Haifa. The city also has a nursing college and the P.E.T Practical Engineering School.[119]

As of 2006–07, Haifa had 70 elementary schools, 23 middle schools, 28 academic high schools and 8 vocational high schools. There were 5,133 pupils in municipal kindergartens, 20,081 in elementary schools, 7,911 in middle schools, 8,072 in academic high schools, 2,646 in vocational high schools, and 2,068 in comprehensive district high schools. 86% of the students attended Hebrew-speaking schools and 14% attended Arab schools. 5% were in special education.[119] In 2004, Haifa had 16 municipal libraries stocking 367,323 books.[87]

Two prestigious Arab schools in Haifa are the Orthodox School, run by the Greek Orthodox church, and the Nazareth Nuns' School, a Catholic institution.[120]


Haifa is served by six railway stations and the Carmelit, currently Israel's only subway system (another is under construction in Tel Aviv). The NahariyaTel Aviv Coastal Railway main line of Israel Railways runs along the coast of the Gulf of Haifa and has six stations within the city. From south-west to north-east, these stations are: Haifa Hof HaCarmel, Haifa Bat Galim, Haifa Merkaz HaShmona, Lev HaMifratz, Hutzot HaMifratz and Kiryat Haim. Together with the Kiryat Motzkin Railway Station in the northern suburb Kiryat Motzkin, they form the Haifa - Krayot suburban line ("Parvarit").[121] There are direct trains from Haifa to Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion International Airport, Nahariya, Akko, Kiryat Motzkin, Binyamina, Lod, Kiryat Gat, Beer Sheva and other locations.

Haifa's intercity bus connections are operated almost exclusively by the Egged bus company, which operates two terminals:

Lines to the North of the country use HaMifratz Central Bus Station and their coverage includes most towns in the North of Israel. Lines heading south use Haifa Hof HaCarmel Central Bus Station.

The Carmelit, currently Israel's only subway

Destinations directly reachable from Hof HaCarmel CBS include Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat, Raanana, Netanya, Hadera, Zikhron Ya'akov, Atlit, Tirat Carmel, Ben Gurion International Airport and intermediate communities. There are also three Egged lines that have their terminus in the Ramat Vizhnitz neighborhood and run to Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and Ashdod. These are mehadrin lines.

All urban lines are run by Egged. There are also service taxis that run along some bus routes but do not have an official schedule. In 2006, Haifa implemented a trial network of neighborhood mini-buses – named "Shkhunatit" and run by Egged.[122] In the future, Haifa and the Krayot suburbs will be linked by the Metronit, a Phileas concept bus rapid transit system currently under construction.[123] Meanwhile, some sections of the Metronit have already been opened and are served by regular Egged buses.

Haifa is one of the few cities in Israel where buses operate on Shabbat.[124] Bus lines operate throughout the city on a reduced schedule from late Saturday morning onwards, and also connect Haifa with Nesher, Tirat Karmel, Yokneam, Nazareth, Nazareth Illit and intermediate communities. Since the summer of 2008, night buses are operated by Egged in Haifa (line 200) and the Krayot suburbs (line 210).[125] During the summer of 2008 these lines operated 7 nights a week. During the winter their schedule is limited to Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, making them the only buses in Israel to operate on Friday night. Haifa is also the only city in Israel to operate a Saturday bus service to the beaches during summer time. Egged lines run during Saturday mornings from many neighborhoods to the Dado and Bat Galim beaches, and back in the afternoon.[126]

Headquarters of Egged Bus Company

The Haifa underground railway system is called Carmelit. It is a subterranean funicular on rails, running from downtown Paris Square to Gan HaEm (Mother's Park) on Mount Carmel.[127] With a single track, six stations and two trains, it is listed in the Guinness World Records as the world's shortest metro line. Haifa also has a touristic cable car. The Stella Maris gondola lift cable car consists of six cabins and connects Bat Galim on the coast to the Stella Maris observation deck and monastery atop Mount Carmel; although mainly for tourism purposes.[128]

The Haifa Cable Car serves mainly tourists, running from Bat Galim to the top of Mount Carmel however there are currently plans to expand this, to become an integrated part of Haifa's public transport system running from Check point junction at the foot of Mount Carmel to the Technion, and then onto the University of Haifa.

Air and sea transport

Haifa Airport serves domestic flights to Tel Aviv and Eilat as well as international charters to Cyprus, and Jordan. There are currently plans to expand services from Haifa. Cruise ships previously operated from Haifa port to Greece and Cyprus.[124]


Travel between Haifa and the center of the country is possible by road with Highway 2, the main highway along the coastal plain, beginning at Tel Aviv and ending at Haifa.[124] Furthermore, Highway 4 runs along the coast to the north of Haifa, as well as south, inland from Highway 2.[124] In the past, traffic travelling along Highway 2 to the north of Haifa would have to pass through the downtown area of the city, however, the Carmel Tunnels, opened for traffic 1 December 2010, now re-route this traffic through tunnels under Mount Carmel, cutting down on congestion in the down-town area of the city.[129]



The city's two main football clubs are Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Haifa who both currently play in the Israeli Premier League and share the Kiryat Eliezer Stadium as their home pitch. Maccabi has won twelve Israeli titles, whilst Hapoel has won one.

The city has several clubs in the regional leagues, including Beitar Haifa and Hapoel Ahva Haifa in Liga Bet (the fourth tier) and Hapoel Spartak Haifa and Maccabi Neve Sha'anan Eldad in Liga Gimel (the fifth tier).

In 1996, the city hosted the World Windsurfing Championship.[79] The Haifa Tennis Club, near the southwest entrance to the city, is one of the largest in Israel.[130]


Haifa has a professional basketball club, Maccabi Haifa. Maccabi Haifa was recently promoted to Israeli Basketball Super League, the top division. The team plays at Romema Basketball Arena, which seats 3,000.

The main stadiums in Haifa are the 14,000-seat Kiryat Eliezer Stadium and Thomas D'Alesandro Stadium. Neve Sha'anan Athletic Stadium seats 1,000. A UEFA-approved stadium to seat 30,000 is planned for south-west Haifa, due to be completed in 2012.[131]

Ice hockey

The Haifa Hawks are an ice hockey team based out of the city of Haifa. They participate in the Israeli League, the top level of Israeli ice hockey.

Twin towns - sister cities

Plaque of twin cities outside Haifa city hall

Haifa is twinned with the following cities:[132]

See also


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  2. ^ a b c Clifford Edmund Bosworth (2007). Historic cities of the Islamic world (Illustrated ed.). BRILL. pp. 149–151. ISBN 9004153888, 9789004153882. http://books.google.ca/books?id=UB4uSVt3ulUC&pg=PA149&dq=eusebius+sykaminos&hl=en&ei=CkLZTfL8IdC7hAeq9cDJBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=eusebius%20sykaminos&f=false. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
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  4. ^ Haifa, The Jewish Agency for Israel. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
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  • (Hebrew) Carmel, Alex (2002). The History of Haifa Under Turkish Rule (4th ed.). Haifa: Pardes. ISBN 965-7171-05-9. 
  • (Hebrew) Shiller, Eli & Ben-Artzi, Yossi (1985). Haifa and its sites. Jerusalem: Ariel. 
Panorama of Haifa. View from Mt. Carmel

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