Stairway Travel in Haifa

By: Roi Schvartz

Haifa and its suburbs are situated along the Mediterranean Sea in northern Israel, some 40 kilometers south of the Israel-Lebanon frontier.

The city has a unique geography. While other Israeli shore-adjacent cities are situated on plains, Haifa is different. What has begun as a small fishermen village at the foot of Mount Carmel, has evolved over the past centuries into a thriving city of over quarter of a million citizens, which sits over the whole mountainside and beyond.

While many citizens, as well as tourists, prefer the private car, the taxi or the crowded public bus as their mean of transport for moving between the neighborhoods of Haifa, two other means of transport are seldom used.

Due to its topography, many streets in Haifa are either winding or extremely steep. That turns a seemingly short distance trip into a long and tiring task. This leaves the one with two transportation means: The Carmelit, the only underground railway in Israel, and one's own legs, by using the extensive network of stairways. This article will discuss the latter rather than the former.

Our way starts in Yefe-Nof Street, at a stone throw distance from the Crown Plaza hotel. We are in the Carmel Centre, the heart of night life in Haifa. Not far from the point we stand in, one can find the zoological garden, and numerous restaurants.

We start our descent using the Gedera Stairway. The stairs wind between private houses and fruit trees, with an occasional bench from time to time. Between the tree tops one can catch a glimpse of the Haifa Bay, and sometimes even of the Israel-Lebanon border.

The stairway ends after approximately 250 meters. We turn right and follow the street until we reach Wingate Avenue. Not far to the left we can see the Bene-Zion Hospital (also known as Rothschild Hospital), which is one of the three main hospitals of the city, and the place where the author of this article was born, two dozen years ago.

Just before we reach the fence of the hospital, we turn right, into Montefiore Street, where we stroll until we reach Spinoza Stairway. This is actually the longest segment of stairs in our journey, and one may find comfort in the fact that right at the beginning of the stairway there is a small garden with benches and playing facilities for children.

After a proper rest, we start our descent. The stairway goes on a straight line between old houses and shading trees, which make the way a much more pleasant one.

The stairway ends at the Arlozorov - Balfour junction. We cross the street and turn left, until we reach a small stairway. Though no sign is present, the map strongly claims that this is Haemek (the valley) Stairway. On the way, it crosses the Hillel and Masada streets, before reaching another shaded resting place, recently renovated by a generous donor.

The way turns into Emek Zeitim (Valley of Olives) Street. We continue along the street, until we reach Neviim (Prophets) Street. This street, as well as the adjacent streets, used to be the commercial centre of Haifa, but have deteriorated over the years. In recent years, the municipality is trying to invigorate the area with a set of seemingly never ending road works, which include new sidewalks and light railway lanes.

Anyway, we go along the street, until we reach a little roundabout in front of a glass building, called Migdal Haneviim. It was once a nice shopping centre, but now it is almost completely abandoned, housing mainly the studios of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

After passing the roundabout, the street turns into an alley, and then into yet another stairway, the last one in our journey. The stairway passes near the Russian consulate, before ending at the Palyam Avenue, vis-Ã?-vis Paris Square and the departure station of the Carmelit.

Here our journey comes to an end. One might wish to use the Carmelit in order to get back to the Carmel Centre, while the courageous and fit ones might try ascending their way back to the starting point.

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