Haifa 11“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19: 11-13)
Haifa is Israel’s third largest city and a major industrial center, crested on the northwest coast of Israel, overlooking a bay on the Mediterranean Sea. Nestled on the northern slopes of Mount Carmel, Haifa stands amidst breathtaking scenery and a diverse culture.
A city of ancient history, Haifa has a population close to 300,000, including Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, and Baha’is. Shops and restaurants spread throughout the side of the mountain, and beautiful beaches line the crest that only a few tourists seem to know about, but natives of the city attend regularly; all connected by cable cars and Israel’s only subway system.
In addition to the beautiful landscape and scenery, there are numerous tours that can be taken throughout the city, including a tour of the “Golden Dome,” the Baha’i Gardens, and the Route of One Thousand Steps.
Haifa has been populated since ancient Biblical times. Known to Jews and Christians, alike, for the history of Elijah, who meditated in a cave seeking God’s guidance as the priests of Baal came looking for him, as well as hiding there when King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, sent their army after him. Upon returning from exile, Elijah later used the cave to begin a school.
Conquered in 1100 by the Crusades, who called the city Caiphas, Haifa was later destroyed when the Arabs took the area back. In 1799 the city was taken by Napoleon Bonaparte.
The city of Haifa remains under Israeli rule, after the Arabs of Haifa surrendered to Israel in April 22, 1948, marking the final stages of the civil war in Palestine. Though a majority of Arabs left the city after this time, the city is still very cosmopolitan and enjoyed by tourists. It includes many important religious sites, including the Stella Maris Church, which was founded by the Carmelite Order, who originally arrived there with the Crusaders.
Nestled in the crest of Mount Carmel, below the Stella Maris Church, the cave believed to be the one that Elijah lived and taught in has become a shrine to many religious traditions. This cave is also believed to have housed Joseph, Mary and Jesus, for a night, when returning from Egypt. The cave contains a domed chapel underneath the main altar along with a smaller altar which stands within the cave walls. Pilgrimages and religious ceremonies are held at the cave many times a year.
Sights to see also include paintings by the Italian Cardinal Brother Luigi Poggi, depicting Old Testament stories. Especially noted is one dramatic scene of of Elijah being taken up in a chariot of fire, depicting the story within the Scriptures. There is also a statue of the Virgin Mary that was carved from cedar of Lebanon on display.