Let me love you....Haifa
Introduction to Haifa
The unique structures of the Bahai temple, Dagon
granary, the cranes in the port, dad maneuvering
the meandering streets Haifa was a magical maze
Sunsets of Haifa
I once heard someone saying that the best sunsets
are seen in Haifa. Browsing through my photos
archive proved that to be true, and there's enough
of them for a whole slideshow...
Irene has joined us in Haifa in August 2006
From: Irene Lancaster
Sent: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 12:41 AM
I come from Manchester in the north-west of England. It is a very
friendly place with the largest and most vastly-growing Orthodox Jewish
population per head of population in Europe.
On the other hand, many Jews are also feeling very concerned here, both
by the growing Islamofascism and the forces of secularism which have
combined to cause an atmosphere of contempt for the Jewish community.
Last January, my husband, said that he did not want to die in
Manchester. He thought that we should look for somewhere to live in
Israel. We had spent a Sabbatical in Jerusalem, which he had enjoyed,
but I had found hard: the heat, breast-feeding my baby and helping the
other daughter with her schoolwork in Ivrit.
This Sabbatical, however, taught me Hebrew and how to cope and although
in the next 25 years or so, I taught Hebrew and Jewish Studies in
England and wrote a book about the great bible commentator, ibn Ezra,
who moved from Spain, through Italy and France to England in the Middle
Ages, where he was killed in one of the first European pogroms in 1164,
I really thought that Israel was 'home'.
For the past three or four years I have been taking on the British
establishment which, on the whole, is very unsympathetic to Israel, and
often also unsympathetic to Jews per se. I have tried to engage with the
BBC, the Church of England (the established church) the university
unions, who wish to boycott Israel, and others.
The 'ordinary' people in England are still great: but they don't seem to
have the will or the tools with which to withstand the impending debacle,
that I find inevitable.
In December, my husband and I visited Netanya and Haifa. I knew I
wanted to live on the sea, but don't like the heat: the more northern the
better, I thought. Netanya was wonderful and our great friends from
Manchester, who had themselves made Aliyah the year before, looked
after us. But then, complete strangers from the Anglo community in Ahuza,
on Mt Carmel in Haifa, offered to put us up. They organised an estate
agent and a lawyer and introduced us to members of the Anglo community.
In the end, another couple, living nearby, found us an even better
apartment than the one we thought we would buy, and this is on Rehov
Einstein, opposite a little park and the Reali School, one of the best
We are two-thirds of the way through paying for this apartment and have
also opened a bank account. My husband was recently appointed the
world's first Professor of Transpersonal Psychology and therefore we
are making 'split' Aliyah. I am coming first, and he will visit when he
can, as I don't think Transpersonal Psychology exists in Israel yet.
We are certainly not wealthy and I will have to be very careful with
outgoings when I arrive.
But I visited four or five professors at Haifa University in December
and they were all most welcoming, and some are the absolute experts in
their fields and internationally renowned. Plus, they had a copy of my
book on ibn Ezra in their university library, which was a sure sign.
Haifa is beautiful and magical. It is laid-back and has a good mix of
different nationalities and religions and, even more important, all the
different Jewish denominations seem to get on with each other.
Friends of mine who write for the London Times and work for the BBC
respectively suggested I start an aliyah blog. And then the Jewish
Agency shaliach in Manchester found out for me that Yoline works in the
Haifa Town Hall, helping olim from France and has also started a French
blog with Dory, which I have offered to translate, if they need it.
And both of them have been absolutely wonderful and I know they will
help me when I arrive, because the official organisations don't seem to
know much about Haifa at all. So I would say to all prospective olim or
those who just don't feel safe in France any more, try it out: come to
Haifa and look around. As the registrar to the Manchester Bet Din (one
of the strictest in the world) told me last week: Haifa is both the
most secular city in Israel, but it also has the greatest kedushah.
My blog is at
and don't hesitate to contact me. You could even put a posting on my
blog, if you wish.
I am making Aliyah on August 6th and my goods leave for Israel soon, on
Dr. Irene Lancaster FRSA
Trustee: Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East
Centre for Jewish Studies
University of Manchester UK
A Jordanian student includes an Israeli city in her dissertation and is
Everyone I contacted or met with in Haifa was genuinely welcoming and
extremely helpful. The graduate student who shares my research interests
received me - a complete stranger - in her home, helped me to settle down in
Acre, and supported me throughout my stay with contacts, interviews, and so
The professors at the Technion met with me, provided official and technical
support for my research, linked me with professors and students with similar
research interests all over the country, and invited me to present my work
in their department. The professors at Haifa University were no less
welcoming or generous with their time, advice, and offer of support.
It was simply overwhelming. From the gentleman at the train station that
first night, to Arab and Jewish cab and sherut - communal taxi - drivers, to
students at the Technion and Haifa Universities, everyone was simply nice.
I PARTICULARLY enjoyed a trip from Haifa University down to the city, where
the gregarious voice and contagious laughter of the Arab sherut driver,
combined with the mix of Arab, Druse and Jewish students (probably more, but
that was all my inexperienced eye could detect) bewildered me. All smiled
and helped, offered advice on the best transportation back to Acre. Some
even went out of their way - despite my objections - to take me literally by
hand to the train station.
Similarly, and after a trip to the Technion, a student, also unaffected by
my answer to his question about where I was from, went off the bus with me
and walked me to my next stop. While waiting for one of my meetings at a
small local caf in downtown Haifa, I observed how Arab owners interacted
with their wide mix of clients. Everyone smiled, acted cordially and
respectfully to each other; something - unfortunately - I thought other
Looking back, I realize that Haifa was the only place where people sincerely
smiled, where the air was not thick with tension, and where there existed a
wonderful mix of all backgrounds, religious and ethnic. Not only was there
diversity - Israel is generally diverse - it was how people enjoyed the mix
that distinguished Haifa.
One might speculate more about what makes Haifa so special, and propose
theories that range from geographical compositions to demographic ones. What
is important is that, like many other visitors, I will always cherish my
The writer, a Jordanian architect-planner, is doing her doctoral work at the
Department of Urban and Regional Planning the University of Michigan.
Lettre publiee dans le Jerusalem Post 27 Juin 2006
With some hesitations I post this appreciation of Haifa!!!
Anonymous, not Madame X, but X, Madame.
The best little whorehouse in Haifa
Yocheved Miriam Russo, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 7, 2007
Fifteen people were indicted as a result of Sharon's undercover work as a 'Madam' in a
whorehouse, but even so, her family was outraged.
Today, three years after her unpaid eight-month stint as a brothel proprietor, she still recalls not
only the social stigma and neighborhood harassment but her family's horror as well. "You can
take my picture, but please blur my personal details a little," she says. "I was a pariah in the
neighborhood where I lived. Even though the whorehouse itself wasn't nearby, when the news got
out, my neighbors were angry. They thought I'd be bringing men home, into my own apartment.
That was completely ridiculous, but I don't want to live through all that again."
Her family was disgusted. "My sister is a social worker, so I told her what I was doing," she
recounts. "I thought she'd be supportive of my desire to help these women, but when I told her,
her face went white. She refused to listen to another word. Even after all the indictments came
down, it remains a sore subject."
Sharon - not her real name - is 66 years old and looks more like someone's grandma than a
Madam. A graduate of one of the US's most prestigious Ivy League law schools, she served in the
US Department of Justice, US Attorney's office, under Robert M. Morgenthau. She also holds a
Masters Degree in Tax Law. She made aliya in the late 1970s and is now studying for another
degree, this one in an offshoot of veterinary medicine.
All jokes about lawyers and whores aside, Sharon apparently excelled in running a house of ill
repute in Hadar, the old commercial center of Haifa. "I loved the job," she admits. "I loved
taking care of the girls, and enjoyed the business. I'm happy to tell the story because so much
misinformation about prostitution exists, especially about the women themselves. I'd like to see
some serious reform, and maybe this will help."
So how does a nice, smart, honorable woman - once married, no children - get involved in
running a whorehouse? "The roots go back to the US," she says. "I'd been reading about foreign
immigrants - or maybe emigrants - to Israel, and became interested in some of the legal issues
involved. I packed up and made aliya but once here in Israel, I floundered. First, I was swept off
my feet by a handsome Israeli guy, but the marriage was a disaster. Then I was having trouble
with Hebrew, so I finally took a job as an English secretary. To practice law, you need both verbal
and the non-verbal language, and I was struggling."
She studied hard and finally qualified for legal practice in Israel. "I was practicing law and
teaching at one of the universities. There was a prison nearby - it's now closed - where someone I
knew was incarcerated. He'd gotten involved in a real mess and because I had a legal license, I
was able to visit him more often than other friends. I'd go visit, and while I was there, I met a lot
of other people who were in prison. It occurred to me that working with some of them might be a
whole lot more interesting than what I was doing."
On one visit, Sharon saw something she'd assumed didn't exist anymore. "There were a number
of people walking around rather freely. They didn't look like either prisoners or criminals, but
they certainly weren't guards. Then I found out. Do you know Israel still has debtor's prisons?
People who can't pay their debts are jailed. And because the courts tend to set the size of
repayments according to the size of the debt - not the size of the income - they end up in jail
repeatedly, and obviously lose any job they'd had. It also dragged in good-hearted people who'd
co-signed loans for others. Needless to say, most of these prisoners were way beyond broke, and
basically none of them had lawyers to protect their interests. I decided that even though I wasn't
really proficient in Hebrew, whatever I could do was better than nothing, so I began volunteering
to represent debtors. Then came other clients, all sorts of crimes, including prostitutes. That was
Practicing criminal law carries a stigma all its own. "It makes me laugh," she says with a giggle.
"In my law school, no one would have admitted to even thinking of practicing criminal law -
that's worse than ambulance chasing. But there I was, enjoying it."
Then the opportunity to be a Madam arose. "One of the people I met was a police informant, a
really bright guy," she says. "He was trusted by both the criminals and the police. So one day he
came to me and said he needed to open and run a whorehouse in an attempt to catch some of the
people involved in the infamous 'trafficking in women' trade. Would I consider being the Madam
for the sting operation?
"I jumped at the chance. I'd represented a number of prostitutes, and liked the idea of being able
to help the women. I agreed."
Sharon declined to comment on any of the legal issues that evolved from the sting operation,
except that the suspects were indeed indicted with 'trafficking in women.' In any event, she added,
she wasn't involved. Her 'partner' was the one involved with the legal issues, and her involvement
was limited to running the brothel.
The whorehouse was located in a low-rent district, in a four-bedroom apartment that had
previously served as a house of ill repute. "My partner set the whole thing up. He knew
prostitutes, and put the word out. He had no trouble finding the women to work - they were all
prostitutes already. We didn't corrupt anyone."
Most of the women were here illegally from Eastern Europe. "They came from Romania,
Kazakhstan and Russia, smuggled in over the Egyptian border, although a few may have had
tourist visas. The main point to understand is, these women knew very well why they were coming
to Israel. If they didn't exactly relish the work, for them it was a chance to earn pretty good
money. On the whole, they'd do a lot better as prostitutes in Israel than they'd do at any job they
could get in their home countries. One woman called both her mother and sister in Romania
frequently, every time encouraging them both to come to work in prostitution. Compared to life
there, they did well in Israel."
There was no compulsion, she notes. "They could leave, get out of the business, anytime they
wanted. That wasn't a problem. One woman I really liked had worked in Holland as a prostitute,
was imprisoned in Turkey for prostitution, and now was here. Every week, either my partner or I
would go with her to the bank where she bought money orders to send to her family in Romania.
Both her parents were disabled, and she was their sole support. Another woman had been a
literature professor at a university in Russia - she couldn't get a job. Another was very elegant,
extremely well dressed. She came because she could make a better living as a prostitute here than
Most didn't resemble either Miss Kitty or Pretty Woman's Julia Roberts. "There's a legion of
myths about prostitutes. Ours had Russian names - Tanya, Alisa, Nadya. Most were in their 20s
and moderately attractive. Many were overweight, a few even obese. When I was a kid, my
mother used to tell me that all prostitutes were lesbians and drug addicts, but that's not true.
Many had boyfriends or husbands, and several had children. Only one was a drug addict - many
used ecstasy, but only one was addicted and I tried to get her into treatment. A few had problems
with alcohol. They were all heavy smokers. Most of the men smoked too, and sometimes the air
was blue with smoke."
It wasn't Matt Dillon or Richard Gere who came calling, either. "We were in a low-rent district -
no high-fliers. Our clients were people from the neighborhood - cab drivers, truck drivers, men
who worked in the shuk. Lots of Arabs. In the mornings, we'd get men who worked at night."
Sharon ran the whorehouse like a sorority. "The girls could live there if they wanted. Or they
could just come in when they wanted to work. There was a kitchen, and we supplied food,
medical care and abortions if needed. I arranged for anonymous HIV testing for them, but only
one woman went - I think many of them lived in denial - the 'I always use a condom except with
my boyfriend' kind of thing. The girls were supposed to do the cleaning but they didn't, so we had
a woman come in occasionally. I answered the phone. We advertised in the newspaper as an
'escort service,' but we'd never have let the girls go out because then we couldn't protect them."
A typical day began in late morning. "I'd come in at about 11:00 a.m. The girls would come in
when they wished. Some men would call first and I'd kind of flirt on the phone - which was fun.
If they wanted something special - a woman who didn't shave, or two women, or wanted some
unusual act - then I'd ask the girls who were there if anyone was interested in accommodating the
man. They didn't have to. They could work as much as they wanted, perform whatever acts they
wanted, refuse anyone they wished. It's hard to say how many clients each would see in a day, but
maybe 10 is average. We insisted they use condoms, but didn't check to see if they did. In terms of
cost, Haifa is more expensive than Eilat or Tel Aviv - which might indicate that there are fewer
prostitutes in Haifa. We charged NIS 100 for the first 10 minutes, then more for 15 minutes or 20.
The price went down with more time -an hour wasn't NIS 200, for example."
"Basically it was very low key. The girls would hear the knock on the door, and the man would
come into the living room. If a girl felt like it, she'd come out. Many of the men were regulars, so
they knew the women. They sit and talk awhile, relax. It was a very friendly place. Then, at some
point, the mood would arise, and they'd go off with one of the women. She'd take him into her
bedroom, they'd agree on how much time, and what services. The man would pay the girl, and
she'd bring the money out to me, and tell me how much time. It was safer for me to hold the
money - all cash, no credit cards. Then she'd go back to the room. If they hadn't come out when
time was up, I'd knock on the door. Then the man would come out, he could shower if he wished,
and the woman could shower. Then she could decide if she wanted to appear for the next client.
At the end of the day, we'd settle up with the girls, who got half - so if it was NIS 100, she'd get
50, and I'd pay the VAT and all other expenses out of my NIS 50. I doubt all whorehouses operate
like that. We lost money during my term. But we paid taxes - if we hadn't, we might have been
The women were free to negotiate side deals as well. "If a girl could get more than NIS 100 for
her work, either for extra services or a tip, that was perfectly okay. If the agreement was for 10
minutes, then all I wanted was my NIS 50. If they could earn a good tip, good for them."
Attire was up to the women, too. "They didn't wear anything very much different than what you
see on the streets, nowadays. Sometimes a dress or skirt that was too low or too short, or too-tight
pants. They were advertising the merchandise, after all. Sometimes in the living room they'd sit
on a guy's lap, encourage him a little."
Was there security? A guard at the door? "No - which probably contributed to the fact that we
didn't need it. There's a lot of testosterone in this business. If we'd had a big guard standing at the
door, we might have had more problems than we did. The truth is, most men are reluctant to beat
up a woman - and besides, they tend to value what they're paying for. I was the only guard there,
but it worked - I have a big mouth. I honestly think I could be tougher than a man could, and get
away with it. We never had fights, never a stabbing. Before I came, there was a death in that
whorehouse - a man who'd taken viagra had a heart attack."
Frightening moments did occur. "One time a really enormous guy came. He insisted that because
he knew someone, he should be able to see one of the women for free. I said no, I wasn't willing
to waive my share, and I wasn't going to ask a woman to waive hers. He started to threaten me,
became really unpleasant, but I just stood up to him, defied him, dared him to do something, and
he backed down. He didn't touch me."
A couple of times the police came. "One time the police were called in by someone - I'm not sure
who - but they said illegal women were working as prostitutes, which was true, of course. So the
police arrived and one man decided to stand guard at the door, to prevent the women from
escaping. That was bad - the police took all the women downtown for questioning. My partner
finally got it all worked out, and everyone was released. At the time, the women didn't know we
were running an undercover operation - all they knew was that we had a really excellent
relationship with the police. Later on, they knew because some of them testified in the court
There were some awkward incidents, too. "A couple of times, I'd open the door and find a man I
knew standing there - maybe a former client. That was awkward. One time, on a totally unrelated
case, I went into a different division of the police department to copy a file, and the woman who
worked there, with whom I'd had a very nice relationship before, was very hostile to me. I asked
her what the problem was. She said, 'I didn't know you were running a whorehouse!' I couldn't
tell her - we had to keep it absolutely undercover. Another time at my home, I needed to hire a
handyman. One guy came over, but when he saw me, he refused to do the work. 'I know you -
you run a whorehouse! I'm not going to take blood money from you!'"
In the neighborhood itself, people were generally friendly. "Some of the local business owners
knew what we were doing, and had no problem with it at all. One day we ran out of condoms. My
partner usually bought supplies, but that day, I had to go. I went to the shuk and walked around
asking, 'Do you sell condoms?' and finally found a guy who did. I told him I wanted a whole box
- like 50 condoms. He gave them to me, then said,'Do you mind if I ask?' and made some remark
about my age. So I said, "They're not for me. I'm running a whorehouse.' He was just staggered.
Then he gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up. He wrote down our phone number and said he'd
spread the word."
The operation ended when the apartment building, which had been in foreclosure, was vacated.
"Most likely the women went on to work elsewhere," Sharon says. "Some may have been sent
home, others may have gone back voluntarily, if they'd earned what they set out to earn. Others, I
don't know. It's not a business without risks."
In retrospect, how bad is the life of a prostitute? "On the whole, it's probably more pleasant than
doing drudge work in a factory, standing on your feet all day. For many, it's better than working
in one of the chemical plants. Look at some of the places where people work in Haifa - terrible
conditions, fumes, caustic substances, hard work, long hours, low pay. Many women would
rather be prostitutes. One thing is for sure: I won't sit in judgment on women who made this
choice - their biggest mistake was not being smart enough to choose parents like mine, who saw
to it that I had every advantage."
Would you do it again? "You bet," Sharon says with a grin. "In a heartbeat. It was fascinating."
Israel sets an example of freedom, tolerance
By REDA MANSOUR
Published on: 02/05/07
My grandfather, who lived to be more than 100 years old, used to say, "I've seen them all and there
are none like the Jews."
Our small Druze town had remained virtually the same for hundreds of years under Ottoman and
later British rule. When Israel was established in 1948, rapid development ensued, and for the first
time, our homes had electricity and running water and every child received a quality, free education.
Even amongst all that modernity and relative luxury, my grandfather's greatest praise for Israel
came as a result of how the young state treated its less fortunate citizens. For the first time in his
life, my grandfather, a retired factory worker, received a pension and had access to quality health
care. He said that a society could be judged by the way it treats the elderly, sick and unemployed and
that Israel had proved itself both strong and compassionate. Certainly, he would say, such a nation
That is the untold story of Israel, a nation that measures its strength not by its wealth or military
prowess but by the vibrance of its civil society and the diversity of its democratic system. In a country
where the symphonic orchestra, the theater and the university were all built before the state's
political institutions, there are now more than 40,000 independent civic associations. They
strengthen our system of education, protect our environment and work to bring peace and justice to
Israel is an immigrant society with a diverse population: 1.3 million of its citizens are Arabs
belonging to various religious and ethnic groups. Indeed, some still suffer from poverty and lack
equal investment in their communities from the government, but Arab-Israelis still have a standard
of living higher than any of their brethren living in the region. They are full citizens who can vote
and be elected to public office. They have the right to worship, assemble and speak freely without
fear of intimidation or oppression. Since the establishment of our young nation, the freest Arabs in
the Middle East reside in the Jewish state of Israel.
With all the challenges it faces, Israel remains the only democracy in the Middle East. This alone
does not make Israel's political system perfect, but it is the endless pursuit of greater equality that
sets Israel apart from its neighbors. In my hometown, I have seen the fulfillment of the Israeli
Dream: young professionals of all faiths who have established successful careers in law, medicine,
business and diplomacy. We all come from middle-class families that used the public school system
and government universities to create a better future for our children. None of us would have had
that opportunity were it not for the free and open society in which we live.
Today, our freedom is threatened by the vile ideology of hate spewed by Hamas, Hezbollah and other
similar organizations. With the support of their backers in Tehran and Damascus, these extremists
rain rockets down upon Israeli villages and send suicide bombers into our buses and markets. Their
supporters espouse a false narrative of eternal victimhood, attempting to justify every act of brutality
and blaming Israel for every hardship. This empty rhetoric does not change the fact that the
shrapnel of their weapons knows neither age nor ethnicity. And the resulting violence affects every
Israeli regardless of race or religion.
The defense against this onslaught requires military action, but the solution to the complex issues
that have brought us to this point is found in the strong bond that has developed between Arabs and
Jews in Israel. If we peacefully co-exist in Haifa and Asifiya, why not in Gaza, Beirut or the rest of
Recently, I attended a ceremony at Georgia's state Capitol commemorating the life and work of Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. Like Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin, he gave his life in defense of the
dream of co-existence. Because of what my grandfather saw, my children and I are able to live this
dream as citizens of Israel. Today, we look to our borders wondering when our neighbors will
embrace the dream of peace rather than the nightmare of war.
Find this article at:
12 hours at the Haifa port
By Ronit Vered
Published on 17/04/07 in Haaretz
Once upon a time, traveling from one point to another on the globe entailed an arduous journey.
The word "journey" itself contained a promise of exciting adventures - adventures to which the
casual chit-chat in the line for the airplane lavatory on a trans-Atlantic flight these days can hardly
compare. What fired the imagination even more than the idea of crossing oceans in the belly of a
ship was the thought of the port cities. Oh, the port cities! A wild jumble of seafarers, traders and
colorful characters from the four corners of the world; a hodgepodge of foreign languages; spices,
perfumes and exotic merchandise being unloaded on the docks; and taverns and pubs in which
vagabonds, sailors and prostitutes gather. In the early 20th century, before the construction of the
modern Haifa port, the area was still flooded with seawater. In the 1960s and '70s, people would
make a special pilgrimage to the streets near the port to purchase tobacco, alcohol and other
duty-free goodies that seamen had smuggled in from the world's ports. And today?
Incredibly, it appears that we - and an enormous flock of happy birds - are about the only visitors to
the Dagon Grain Museum on a given day. Every year, 2.5 million tons of grain are unloaded on the
docks (almost 90 percent of the country's needs) and stored in the giant silos of the Dagon granary.
Seventy meters high, they are divided into dozens of huge compartments for different types of grain.
This stirring data and the promise of an archaeological museum devoted to agriculture and the
storage of grain - the basic food of the Mediterranean - moved us to take the guided tour of the
facility's ground floor, which is offered every morning. Our guide, who did not quite need a
megaphone for our meager, two-person group, had us sit and watch a film in which the narrator
waxed poetic about "the land that opened its mouth and gave rise to the soaring silos." Then he
operated a f ew creaky machines that demonstrate the sophisticated system whereby the grains are
pumped out of the ships, after which he let us wander on our own among the exhibits: ancient
agricultural implements, fertility figurines and ostraca - inscribed potsherds that were the receipts of
the ancient world. It takes quite an imagination to extract the sexy and fascinating history of grain
storage and bread production from this staid and starchy exhibition.
Dagon Grain Museum, Plumer Square, 04-8664221
Anyone wishing to meet the clever folk of downtown Haifa would do well to do so at this pastry
shop, a good, old-fashioned bakery that has changed little since it was established 60 years ago.
Every morning dozens of trays make their way among the tables in this small, crowded place. They
are piled with warm, sugar-glazed yeast-dough cookies, moist and fresh rugelach made with
generous amounts of chocolate and powdered sugar, flaky poppy seed cookies, savory pastries filled
with spinach and salty cheese and many other baked goods that infuse the air with their delectable
Konditorei Shani, 53 Derech Ha'atzmaut, 04-8641056
Officially, this place is a stationery shop, and the neglected display window doesn't hint at anything
more. But once inside, especially when Gabi suddenly switches on all the lights to reveal hundreds
of shelves, glass cabinets and stuffed drawers, the desire to embark on a treasure hunt begins. It is
difficult to give an idea of the contents of this shop, which accumulated over many years of
collecting and roaming the world's ports and which Gabi inherited from his father. There are
stuffed cobras and blowfish, dolls made of thousands of tiny shells, crystals and semiprecious
stones, giant pieces of coral, carved ivory sculptures, whaling harpoons, swords and daggers,
fossilized insects in large lumps of amber, glittering jewelry and much, much more.
Haim Grinzweig Stationary Shop,51 Derech Ha'atzmaut, 04-8661263
Tuscany at the port
I've never really had a decent meal in this workingman's city, not counting those eaten at
Romanian restaurants, falafel stands in Wadi Nisnas or hummus and shwarma joints. A dejected
Haifa restaurateur explained it: When no one is willing to pay more than NIS 50 for a business
lunch or NIS 100 for dinner, it keeps the restaurant scene from developing beyond these cheap and
On the other hand, nearly all the press has been favorable for Ran Rosh, the chef of the new
restaurant at the port - called, surprisingly, Hanamal 24 ("the port").
In the restaurant's maze of spaces and elegant private rooms we found artificial sausages, plastic
plants and other decorative accouterments of a Tuscan village. Oh well, we consoled ourselves, who
cares about phony rustic atmosphere as long as the food is good?
But then the antipasti course arrived: seared mushrooms and cherry tomatoes drowning in a sea of
balsamic vinegar, a tired-looking grilled eggplant on a bed of yogurt and rice, cold lentil and tomato
soup and a green salad lacking in charm and crispness and, again, suffering from a surfeit of
balsamic vinegar. The main courses also featured a well-intentioned abundance of oddly combined
ingredients: The musar (drumfish) fillet was accompanied by eggplant, peppers, garlic cloves and
strips of calamari in tomatoes, plus - surprise, surprise - a splash of balsamic vinegar. The dish
described on the menu as "grilled calamari with mascarpone cheese and saffron ravioli over a
pepper and tomato jam" tasted mostly of cream.
Hanamal 24, 24 Hanamal St., 04-862-8899
A sailor's life
This museum, which features an impressive exhibit on pirate life, barely mentions this fascinating
chapter in Haifa's history - the period in the 17th and 18th centuries when the city was a popular
base for Maltese sea-going brigands. And besides, what crazy curator with a peculiar grasp of
reality wrote: "In reality, the life of the pirates, which so ignited the imagination, was far from
glamorous, and for the most part they squandered their spoils on gambling, women and drink..."?
This attractive museum also offers an encounter with the fascinating history of shipping in the
Mediterranean Basin through models of ancient ships, astrolabes, compasses, maps and old atlases.
And if you'd like to read about the Hebrew parallel to the hair-raising tales of Jack London, Joseph
Conrad and Ernest Hemingway, search the second-hand bookstores for a copy of the enjoyable
anthology once published by the museum, which includes tales by Haim Nahman Bialik, Shalom
Asch, Itamar Ben-Avi and other writers describing the glories of the sea and its wayfarers.
The National Naval Museum, 198 Derech Allenby, 04-8536622, www.hms.org.il "Yisrael Vehayam
- Asufa," Mordechai Newman Publishers
Yirmiyahu Halperin, one of the first Israeli seamen, describes in his memoirs a place called Dirty
Dick's, a London bar-restaurant where "there isn't a single self-respecting old sailor who hasn't
scratched his name into the walls or the heavy wooden tables."
A couple of hundred years ago, so the legend goes, the wealthy tavern owner, Dick, fell in love with
the most beautiful girl in London. Many, many ships passed down the Thames before the girl's
father gave his permission for the marriage; and the moment the bride crossed the threshold into
her new home she collapsed and died. The desperately grieving Dick shut himself up in the house,
locked the room where the wedding feast was to be held and commanded that it never be cleaned
again, that it be left just as is, which is why centuries-old spider webs and moldy stuffed cats now
adorn the bar's walls.
We don't have any bars here to rival that long history, but after the closing of Fink's, the legendary
Jerusalem bar, The Anchor is a serious contender for the crown of oldest pub in Israel.
Zelig Pincus was the proprietor of a dimly lit tavern back in Poland. His son Josef Pincus, who
worked as a chef on a passenger liner, bought this little bar, which first opened in 1942, in the
1960s. He still comes in at six in the morning every day to make the daily special - a hearty
vegetable soup with meat, a dish of smoked goose or cholent on Fridays.
Gali, his wife, expertly pours the Guinness. You could sit here for hours growing addicted to the
sight of the waves of brown foam churning at the start of the pouring process, to the perfect
combination of the dark color imparted by the roasted malt and the white of the rich foam top, of
the bitter taste of the hops with the touch of caramely sweetness, and especially to the pleasant pace
at which this beer that slides smoothly down the throat, enabling one to effortlessly drink gallons of
Ha'ogen 1942, 3 Sha'ar Plumer, 04-8665295, www.theanchorpub.com
Stay a while
This small inn, located in an impressive stone building that dates from the early 20th century, offers
15 simple and comfortable rooms. On the wall in the dining room is a map of the world stuck with
bright pins marking all the countries from which visitors to this charming guest house have come.
And citizens of the entire world dine together in the colorful lounge or in the lovely garden in the
Port Inn, 34 Derech Yafo, 04-8524401, NIS 280 per night, www.portinn.co.il
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
The statistics on alcohol consumption in ancient times are a reliable source of amazement, even
taking into account that the liquor of those days was apparently mixed with water. In the Dagon
Museum, you learn that the food allotment to the temple workers in Mesopotamia included portions
of liquor made from grain, especially barley - one liter per day for a simple laborer, two for a
functionary and as much as five liters a day for those in the highest positions.
Trivia aficionados will be glad to know that the provisions for an 18th-century British sailor
included eight pints of beer a day. Generally speaking, seafarers have always been associated with
copious alcohol intake. One could blame it on the boredom that comes with a protracted journey at
sea, or ascribe it to the methods of food preservation in olden times. The absence of refrigeration
imposed on sailors a problematic and extremely monotonous diet. First to be eaten was the fresh
food that was loaded on the ships prior to setting sail for the long voyage. Later, the menu was
reduced to dried and tinned foods, such as wormy biscuits and salt beef - a diet guaranteed to
provoke a mutiny. Drinking water would go bad after a short time, and so the practice was to load
the ships with a beer whose high alcohol content ensured it would last longer. With the advent of
sugar plantations in the 17th century, rum became the sailors' official drink, especially of the
pirates and buccaneers who sailed the Caribbean.
Irene Lancaster's blog has been nominated for two awards in the
Blogger Choice Awards, one in the Best Religious Blog category and
one in the Best Political Blog category.
On the streets of Haifa, a glimpse into Israel as it once was
by Daniel Tchetchik From Haaretz 16/11/14
works by Yom Omer
Israeli photographer Yom Omer moved to Haifa from the central city of Herzliya
two years ago, to live a simpler life, in a neighborhood that reminded him of
Israel as it once was. In Haifa's Hadar neighborhood, he found fairer rent and a
greater inspiration for his street photography.
Think about it, a nostalgic visit to Haifa
by Susan Hattis Rolef From the Jerusalem Post 10/13/2014
I was born in Haifa, but since I moved my elderly mother to Jerusalem in 1997, I have rarely visited
there and when I have, it has usually been to Haifa University on Mount Carmel.
On the eve of Succot I drove to Haifa to visit a friend, who recently moved back there from
Jerusalem, after convincing the government ministry that employs her to let her do her work from
its downtown office in the city.
I was born in Haifa, but since I moved my elderly mother to Jerusalem in 1997, I have rarely visited
there and when I have, it has usually been to Haifa University on Mount Carmel.
My friend suggested that we take a walk in the “lower city,” which the Haifa municipality is slowly
transforming from a run-down port area, into a lively student campus and hangout.
We strolled along to the German Colony, passing by Jaffa Street, where my father ran a prestigious
CPA office in the years 1938-1988, and what is today a nursing home – which used to be a quaint
hotel way back when, where my friend’s mother used to play tennis in the 1950s. Nothing wrong
with a bit of nostalgia.
We stopped by the new City Museum, situated in what used to be the cultural center of the German
Templar community back in the 19th, and beginning of the 20th Century, where an exhibition of
photographs from the Yishuv in the 1930s is showing, including many photographs of the modern
port of Haifa, constructed by the British Mandatory Government, and officially opened in 1933.
Another exhibit at the museum is made up of recorded interviews with the leaders and some of the
surviving participants in the famous (some would say infamous) seamen’s strike of 1951, which was
directed against the Israeli shipping company ZIM, which was about to enter an era of glory (part of
the restitution payments from Germany after 1952 came in the form of 36 passenger and cargo
At that time Haifa was a Mapai-Histadrut stronghold, but the seamen’s strike was headed by the
most radical section of the Israeli workers’ movement, whose leaders were members of the then
Marxist Mapam. Those were the days. I wonder whether today there are any Israeli seamen left.
Certainly ZIM is no longer what it used to be in patriotic terms.
My own childhood memories include the contempt of Abba Hushi, Haifa mayor in the years 1951-
1969, for the “bourgeoisie” of Mount Carmel. I especially remember sitting in our family car (a
small Peugeot), which my mother was driving, at a stoplight at the intersection of Herzl and Balfour
Streets, when the mayor’s chauffeur driven Cadillac stopped next to us. Hushi lowered his side
window and said to my mother in a condescending tone: “Can’t Hadassah get you a better car?” My
mother was the voluntary chairwoman of the Haifa chapter of Hadassah at the time, and the Mapai
mayor simply couldn’t imagine that anyone would work voluntarily and use their private car to move
about – especially not someone who lived on Mt. Carmel.
“Red Haifa” is no longer as red as it was when I was a child, and its current mayor – Yona Yahav –
is the first non-Labor mayor to be elected since the establishment of the State, even though he was a
Knesset Member on behalf of the Labor party in the 14th Knesset (he was preceded as mayor by
Amram Mitzna). Yet Haifa remains “different” among Israel’s cities.
Its population is still predominantly center-left secular, public transportation runs on Saturday and
holidays, but it is not as hedonistic as Tel Aviv, and is certainly much more modest and provincial
than it. Coexistence between its Jewish and Arab inhabitants is much more harmonious and
authentic than in any other city with a mixed population in Israel, its religious population (both
national religious and haredi) are much more prone to live in harmony with their non-religious
neighbors (the relatively small size of the religious community certainly has a lot to do with this),
and radical settlers are nowhere in sight. (I wonder whether settlers actually consider Haifa, with its
population of close to 300,000, to be part of the Land of Israel, even though the general area was
part of the territories of the tribes of Asher and Menashe in biblical times). One is also unlikely to
find the likes of former MK Michael Ben-Ari, and attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir rabble rousing in Haifa,
though back in 1959 the first major mizrahi demonstration against Ashkenazi dominance took place
in Haifa’s Wadi Salib.
While sitting in a fish restaurant on Ben-Gurion Avenue in the German Colony, where Jewish and
Arab families were dining side by side as if there was nothing more natural than doing so (which is
unfortunately not the case in Israel’s other mixed cities), I was wondering whether life in Israel
wouldn’t be more pleasant and tolerable if the Haifa model were the predominant one. Though the
population make-up of Haifa is probably still tilted in the secular-old timer-Ashkenazi direction, it is
undoubtedly much more balanced than that of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, as far as the make-up of the
general Israeli population is concerned.
Of course, the “Milky” in Haifa is double the price of that in Berlin, as it is in the rest of Israel, and
presumably there are as many young ex-Haifaites living in Berlin today as there are young people
from other parts of Israel (perhaps more, because there was always a large “Yekke” population in
Haifa – where I learnt my rudimentary German). It is also said that on balance Haifa has a negative
population balance, due mainly to employment problems. However, I couldn’t help thinking that it
might not be such a bad idea to move back to the city where I was born.
Housing in Haifa is cheaper than in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the Haifa municipality seems to go
out of its way to greet those who decide to settle in it (my friend has received a whole parcel of
benefits). The scenery from Panorama Street on Mt. Carmel is as breathtaking as it was 60 years
ago, and the beaches along the coastline from Bat Galim southwards are constantly being improved
to the benefit of bathers, and those just wanting to take a seaside walk. The fact that one of my
daughters and her family recently moved to Kiryat Tivon – a garden town south-east of Haifa, which
seems to be drawing many secular, educated, liberal young couples, seeking alternative schools
options and “quality of life” – is another good reason to consider a move, though I am still hooked
on my former place of employment. There remains a strong attraction; from the Knesset to the
capital’s Botanical Garden, where I am helping construct a botanical data-base, to the low humidity
in summer and occasional snow in winter, and to the magical insanity of the Holy City. I guess that
being a member of a small social minority, as the likes of me are in Jerusalem today, also
constitutes an intellectual attraction of sorts.
Succot next year will undoubtedly still find me in Jerusalem.
The writer is a retired Knesset employee.