Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Haifa, part 2

Wow, I have so much catching up to do. Uncooperative wifi has really confounded me in the last week.

I'm now in Tiberias. However I have a lot more of Haifa to talk about, so I'll do this first. Here is a shot of the landmark by which I could always orient myself:

I still don't know what it is, hotel or offices. Here are some more of Hadar, the area where the Port Inn is located. Similarly to Tel Aviv, there's real decay here coupled with beatiful new developments. The incongruity is quite poignant.

I can't remember how many days I spent in Haifa - something like four nights at the hostel. One of the days I took a walk around the shopping area in Hadar, visiting the Museum of Modern Art. They had an exhibition on the theme of the Grotesque, which I found very worthwhile. It was refreshing to see something which expressed a sense of horror or distortion in relation to modern life, in contrast to the very pure and cerebral religious images. I particularly liked the work of Assi Meshullam and Gil Yefman

On the walk back I passed the Science Museum and saw this.

It's DaVinci's proportions of man, made 3D. From the look of it, it moves too. I would like to see this in operation.

Two of these dinosaurs guard the entrance to somewhere that I sheltered from the torrential downpour that accompanied me.

Eventually I made it back to the market in Wadi Niswas, where I noticed this odd hanging fabric.

I never did find out what the huge construction in the rear of this picture was.

I bought a beer. Hurray!
This particular beer is from the German colony, which is largely -uh- Russian. It was very tasty.

On the penultimate day I realised I needed to stop ambling and actually see some of the things I had come to Haifa for. I got on a bus to go to Elijah's cave (supposedly where he fought the gods of Canaan, if memory serves). I missed the stop and found myself in a council estate sort of area, full of cats but also this statue:
I found my way back to cave, and met this cat.

And here is the cave:

Now, it's very beautifully decorated. The additions are very ornate. For a long time (until Israel was established in 1948) Jews were barred from the Western Wall in Jerusalem and this cave was the most visitable holy site. So it's clearly quite important. However, I found the plastering of the walls in texts, diagrams, prayers, etc really worked against any feeling of holiness. It was quite oppressive being there. One is effectively prevented from appreciatin the cave as an environment by the aggressive promotion of its re-Judaification. OK, it's not been done for me. My thoughts would be wholly irrelevant to anyone involved in it. But I felt quite disappointed by the fact that, in contrast to the Western Wall, the cave in itself was being written over.

Anyway, my next stop was Daliat El-Carmel. This is a large village of the Druze people. The Druze are an offshoot of Islam, whose religion is very secretive - the people are divided into priests and laypeople, the former of whom have exclusive access to the religious texts. It's very interesting and something I want to find out more about. The Druze have largely been rejected by Islam, and are entirely outside the Arab-Israel conflict. They serve in the IDF (Israeli army), and are effectively integrated into Israeli society.

I saw this house sign. 3/14 is a very good number - one of the best in fact - because it is my birthday, the first 2 decimal places of Pi (3.14...), and the numerical value of the name Metatron (314).
Nice Druze architecture.
To be fair, the 'old city' didn't look that much different from the new one.

I liked this - the Druze flag and the Israeli flag flying together. The Druze flag is made up of 7 colours, relating to the cosmology revealed in their religion.

The village has a very commercial edge - tourism is a huge source of income. I saw some very nice glassware and textiles, which were made by the Druze. I thought about buying some of these but to be frank the stickers proclaiming "Genuine Druze Souvenir" put me off somewhat. In retrospect I'm not disappointed I didn't buy anything there. It was nice stuff but it was really just...stuff.

I came back to my hostel and spent some time communing with the fish.
I have been saddened by the recurring presence of fish tanks in Israeli hostels. The fish must be very bored (I don't care what people say about fish memory, a living thing which has evolved in an ocean will feel stressed by being confined in a 3x5ft space). But this one particularly captured my heart. This sole, huge, fish in a tank by itself with no stimulation or change in its environment looked sad, bored and listless. I started tapping on the glass and it moved to stare at my fingers. Then it started getting excited and moving more energetically - I saw strings of old scales float from its body, dead scales which hadn't shed properly because it was so inactive. I played with it for a few minutes, then when I stopped it roamed around the tank quite attentively, taking special pleasure in the stream of bubbles from the oxygenater in the tank.

That evening I spoke to a middle aged gent from Germany, who recommended I visit the Edith and Reuben Hecht Museum before leaving Haifa. I had picked up a flyer about this and made a mental note to try and go - it shared this with four other museums, which I didn't managed to get to. However his description sold it to me. I got up early and got to Haifa university where this museum is. It was nice just being at a university, I instantly felt more at home than I have the rest of the trip. I liked this mural (this is only part of it):

To be fair the museum wasn't my cup of tea, though I would have got more from it if I hadn't been rushing to get back and catch my bus to Nazareth. I did find this display on the evolution of the alphabet quite interesting though.

And the one last thing I made sure to photograph before leaving Haifa:
The Bet Hagefen Arab Jewish Centre. Just seeing this makes me happy.

Oh! I almost forgot - the best felafel stall in Israel is in Hadar, on the same road as the Port Inn. Here you get a pitta stuffed with felafel, salad, pickles and tahina (no hummus, oddly - though to be honest the lack of it was quite pleasant), plus a selection of garlic, aubergine, tomato, and chili sauces to add into it. Stunningly good, very healthy and all for 10NIS (about £1.50), with a soft drink thrown in. I ate there every day.

No comments:

Post a Comment