The Carmel Mountains

On Friday morning we woke up early and checked out of Chef Hostel, piling into the car to drive up to Haifa. The drive there was easy enough and quite pleasant, but once we were in Haifa and had to find the home of my mother’s friend we were completely lost. While we made the journey from Tel Aviv to Haifa in record time (about an hour and a half) we spent another 30 minutes driving oh so slowly up the Carmel mountain and driving in circles to find the little street that we had to get to.

We finally found my mother’s friend – a man who had been her leader in a Jewish youth group when she was 15 and who was responsible for my journey to Israel – and we got into his car and headed up to the Druze village of Isfiya, which I had visited once many months prior. My mother was elated, chattering away while my father and I enjoyed the beautiful views. Once there, we stopped off at a Druze restaurant and ate until we were stuffed. Honestly, we all ordered a main dish but we could have just as easily satiated ourselves on the many salads that our table creaked beneath. 

I had already visited Isfiya and there really isn’t that much to see there, so we drove down to Daliyat al-Karmel, a nearby Druze village, to visit the market. We wandered through and once again, the sweeping views of the land below reminded me, for some reason, of Kodaikanal where I went to school. We popped into a little store owned by a very charismatic and convincing Druze man and I bought gifts for a friend’s mother and aunt as they had taken such good care of me in Jerusalem.

On our way back to Haifa, we detoured a little to a small church whose roof had stunning views of Israel and Haifa from which my mother’s friend explained the geography of the region to us. We then drove down a winding road leading us to a monument that had been erected in memory of the lives lost in a devastating fire less than two years prior to our arrival.

On that sad note, we headed back into town and were invited into my mother’s friend’s home, where he showed us his wife’s carpentry, fed us (well me, no one else could eat after that lunch) delicious cake, and regaled us with stories for a couple of hours before very kindly leading us down to the Theodor Hotel, where we spent the night. Even with a seasoned guide, making our way through Haifa’s winding roads was a nightmare and we could not have done it without his help!

The Bahai Gardens and Haifa Bay

The Bahai Gardens and Haifa Bay

The following morning, we drove up to the beginning of the Baha’i Gardens and, deciding not to go with the tour group down all the steps, briefly marveled at its symmetry and beauty before driving up to Haifa University. There, my mother’s friend engaged us once again in some fascinating stories about Saddam Hussein, the war with Lebanon, and his own life. We then ducked into the university’s small but exquisitely presented archaeological museum, where we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through its different exhibits until we were finally kicked out because it was closing.

Saying goodbye to my mother’s friend, we drove down to the very appealing German Colony where we had a drink before heading back up to Isfiya where we spent the night in a Druze guesthouse that was… pleasant but seemed much more appealing on Tripadvisor.

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