Today I began the second part of my trip. I got up early, checked out of the hostel (which, while incredibly simple, met all of my needs for a week), and took the light-rail to Central Bus Station. Took me a few minutes to figure out where to buy the bus ticket, but I got the ticket, and settled in to wait for the 9 am bus to Haifa. The ride ended up taking about 1h40 minutes. Very easy. Only two stops. I will say this – I was proud of myself, graduating from intra-city buses in Jerusalem, to inter-city buses to Haifa.
I arrived in Haifa and was met at the bus Carmel Beach bus station by Rolla Dalal, the mom of one of the friends forever teens from last summer. Rolla and I had friended each other during the life-raft. She drove me to the German Colony on the other side of Mt. Carmel, at the bottom of the Baha’i Gardens. A gorgeous hotel, on an incredible strip of property, at the base of the Baha’i gardens.
I visited Haifa briefly last year, but stayed to the south in Ein Hod, and really only drove through the city quickly. Today, I was able to get a much better perspective, if only a small part of it. Rolla helped me get checked-in, and then we went on a walk to the base of the Gardens, and then took a ride up the hill side, to the second level, where the temple is, and then to the far top of the mountain. She then dropped me off in a commercial area called “Carmel Center,” a downtown area on the top of the mountain, where I met two of the Friends Forever alums (Ido, from this summer, and his brother Daniel, who I met briefly last year). Their mom Eti joined us, and we had a great lunch at a hummus restaurant, then walked to their apartment where we spent a few hours socializing. Just a fun time.
Ido then walked me down the hill to the bus stop where I took a Haifa city bus back to the German Colony. Damn, I’m getting good with these Israeli buses. Had an hour at the room, and then met Rolla, her husband Solel, and Luna in the lobby and we walked to a restaurant where we had a great dinner, outside. YES, I SAID OUTSIDE. #sorrynotsorry. But more important, just a wonder conversation. We were were there for almost 3 hours.
The day did not have intense meetings. Yet, it was as memorable and enjoyable as any day I have spent here. And in many ways, I learned just as much about perceptions of the issues today (from different perspectives) than I did the first week. I can’t really put it into words, and perhaps I don’t need to, but I guess the main idea is that the discussions that have dominated my first week went from the abstract or academic or professional to the very personal level. It was a great day.
And I’ll end with this. Haifa is a gorgeous city. It is unlike anyplace I have seen in Israel. Indeed, once can argue that Haifa, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv-Yafo are completely different cities, with different feels. Geography dominates Haifa in a way different than Jerusalem. It is on Mediterranean. The ocean (or sea) surrounds it, to the west, and to the north. The harbor curves north towards Acco and all the way to the Lebanese border. I’m told on a clear day, you can sometimes see as far as Beirut. It is a city in some ways like San Francisco, but tends to have streets that switch-back up and across the city. There are tall buildings at the base, there are tall buildings on top, neighbors throughout. With stunning views, and on the harbor side, dominated by the beautiful grounds and structure of the Baha’i Gardens. Its pretty impressive.