Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why Not Market Haifa?

Well this is going to be it for the next 10 days. My brother in law arrives from Amstrerdam for a few days, for the first time in Haifa and then we have our annual grandchildren's summer camp.

The summer camp this year will involve 7 of our "monkeys" and we will be visiting the Gan Garoo Australian wildlife park, a theme park, a visit to the beach, making wine with our feet, horse/pony ridiing and lots of other interesting things. Then we can flop and get back to normal.

The north of the country has so many opportunities for trips with children and from now until school starts in just over a couple of weeks time there will be crowded roads and crowded country side. Of course one can stay in Haifa. One of Haifa's citizens, Ilene Bloch-Levy, feels so full of life in Haifa that she put her feelings in an e-mail. This is how the average person views life here - what better way to sell our city? Last week, the students orientation tour was a great success and as a follow up I saw a great pictorial representation of the city at (click on "The Haifa Project - Part 3 - From the Carmel to the Sea" English version). This says it all.

"At first glance," says Ilene, "Haifa offers the ideal setting for vacationers -- towering mountains overlooking an azure sea and miles of pristine beaches. True, Haifa is a wonderful tourist spot, but it is also a wonderful place to live.

The capital of the north and Israel's third largest city, Haifa touts itself as a "friendly, family-oriented city." The city sits on three tiers of the Carmel Mountains. The lowest level is the center of commerce and industry; the middle and upper levels are residential neighborhoods boasting a population of 280,000 and a magnificent view of the Western Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea.

But two years since the Second Lebanon War, Haifa has made enormous strides in bringing new life, new industry and new bustle to the city's hub. Massive sums of moneys have been invested in infrastructure: redeveloping beaches, new parks, restructuring the seaport, and adding to its already massive industrial base -- the largest high tech industrial park in Israel -- by concentrating on developments in nano, bio and clean technology, with the aim to building the largest biotechnology center in Israel.

About an hour and a half north of Tel Aviv, Haifa's cultural life comfortably competes with the center of the country. There are museums, concert hall, symphony orchestra, theater, public libraries, zoo and community centers including religious ones in Ahuza, Neve Shaanan and Kiryat Shmuel. Haifa also is home to two academic universities: Technion and Haifa Universities, with combined populations of some 35,000, and a number of private colleges and teachers seminaries.

For English speakers, Haifa is a veritable haven. With its active AACI, English speaking national women's organizations local chapters, and 10% of the population identified as English speakers, Haifa offers poetry readings, theater groups, an excellent English library, choir, and an Anglos parshat hashavua women's group.

Religious life in Haifa is strong and growing. Religious live primarily in three neighborhoods: Neve She'enan, Ahuza, Kiryat Shmuel, and in the Ultra-Orthodox Hadar neighborhood as well.

In recent years, there has been a major effort among community groups to galvanize their resources to make Haifa even more hospitable and welcoming. Haifa is officially part of the Jewish Agency's Communal Aliyah & Absorption Program, so that in addition to the 'standard' basket of financial help and services new immigrants are entitled to, choosing Haifa as your first home means you receive additional incentives. On top of that, the newest "welcome wagon" group, made up of representatives from several synagogues, who cooperate with the municipality, will liaise with individual olim and relevant government bodies to help them through their initial absorption.

So, if Haifa is so perfect for so many different groups of people, who isn't it for? Well, it's certainly not a city for snobs. Haifa offers reasonably priced housing, excellent public transportation services (buses, train and even a cable car), and just plain down home hospitality."

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