On Monday I went to Haifa again. The reason I have been frequenting Haifa is for this nifty little gig I got writing for Tourist Israel, and Haifa is being covered by myself. I still have future trips planned for that large coastal city so be prepared to know a lot about Haifa. Once I had alighted from the train at the Mercaz HaShmona station next to the Port of Haifa I walked several blocks until I reached the German Colony of Haifa. The German Colony is a small area nestled between the Baha’i Gardens and the Port of Haifa. It was built up in the late 1860s by German Templars – not the Templar Knights who ruled Castles Monfort and Yehiam back in the times of the Crusaders. One of the old buildings, this one the historic Templar Community House built back in 1869, now houses the City Museum of Haifa.
Within the walls of the recently restored building I found interesting content – not what I had initially expected for a City Museum. This museum was filled with everything of Haifa’s cinematic past, from old film reels to ticket stubs to blueprints of Haifa’s early movie-houses. I am a bit of a cinemaphile so I found it fascinating to see what played at the Armon Theatre’s opening night (The Merry Widow, an Oscar-winning musical comedy from 1934). I enjoyed examining the old tickets, seeing how the currencies changed over the years to what we know now as the New Israeli Shekel. Sitting in the small mock-up theatre watching old Israeli movie commercials and trailers from old classics brought me back in time to the Golden Age of the Silver Screen. After I had thoroughly browsed all the old letters, showtimes, invitations and pictures I bid farewell to the museum’s receptionist, gathered up my papers and headed outside.
Next stop walking up the German Colony was meant to be the Baha’i Gardens but when I asked a pair of American pilgrims they showed me that public visiting hours were only until noon and I had spent too long in the City Museum. So, I stopped into the Haifa Tourist Board office and asked for bus directions to the Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum, found directly below Elijah’s Cave (as previously mentioned in my first “Haifa” post). I got directions, hopped on a bus and made my way to the museum. Now, I have already been to the Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum but it was still a treat going again. Easily my favourite Israeli museum as of yet, the Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum has fascinating exhibits both hands-on and the traditional artifacts-in-a-glass-case kind.
When I got to the museum the tinted glass door was locked. I was dismayed as it was clearly opening hours and I could think of no reason why they should be closed. As I was about to turn away in frustration I heard a key in the door and two guards emerged. One asked me for ID and I handed over my Teudat Zehut (Israeli ID card). He examined it and looked under the card suspiciously so I asked him why the heightened security. He answered that it was coming from the Ministry of Defence and yes, his uniform said “Ministry of Defence” on it. I thought it was strange as the Navy runs the museum, can’t they find some able-bodied seamen to guard the museum door? The guards let me in and I paid my admission fee. I stowed my coat and extra stuff in the designated spot and found the used book stack, books mostly revolving around military offered for sale to visitors. The first book I picked up surprisingly was exactly the type of book I like; Israeli forces in their constant struggle for peace in this wartorn region of the Middle East. Not only was this book, Israel vs. Jibril, the ideal book for me, it was also signed by the author, Samuel M. Katz, as a personalised gift to retired Major-General Ami Ayalon (previous head of the Shin Bet and the Israeli Navy). I quickly gave the book to the soldier behind the desk, even though nobody was likely to buy it in my absence, and continued into the museum.
After reading about all the fascinating war heroes of the Israeli Navy, including the Squadron 788 and their patrols of the Kinneret under Syrian MiG fighter jet and artillery fire was almost too much to bear at once. I reckon I could spend several days in the “History of the Navy” exhibit. Outside, there are dozens of naval guns, missiles, torpedoes, old ship parts and several intact boats, ships and submarines. Available for internal exploration are the INS Mivtach missile boat, the INS Gal submarine and the “Af Al Pi Chen” immigration ship. The Navy did an outstanding job on the recreation of maritime feel with commands and authentic noises found on such vessels.
I must say, if one lives in Israel (or is coming to visit), and one has not yet been to the Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum, it is well worth it. I am reluctant to reveal all of the many unique features of this museum as I truly believe everybody should visit it at least once, to better understand the miracles we experienced as a people in the last 60-something years here in the Land of Israel. After the museum, some 2 hours after I was admitted, I walked to a bus stop and boarded a bus in the direction of Hof HaCarmel, the beaches of Haifa. Monday was a very windy day but there were no waves, oddly enough. When I had navigated the maze of underground tunnels and passages, I made my way to the beach and nimbly jumped my way to the far end of the rocky pier outcropping jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea.
Also on the pier was an overly-friendly cat that was very eager to befriend me, trying to cull some food out of me as his end-game.
Of course, no post is completely satisfactory without a panoramic picture:
As a final word – a joke, as quoted from an old British napkin now held in a glass case in the Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum; “Old sailors never die… they just get a little dinghy.”
(Thank you to Boruch Len for photo editing – Mr. Len is a fabulous photographer whose pictures can be seen here. Also, for those inclined to learn more about what there is to do in Israel, please visit Tourist Israel’s website here – you may even stumble upon a page that I wrote up!)