A visit to Haifa – the warzone

Haifa War ZoneI’ve been to Haifa, in the warzone! Katyusha rockets fall there. I came from my home in Tel Aviv, in the center of Israel, considered by many Israelis to be “a bubble”, disconnected from what’s really going on.  So, I came to see “the real world”. I’ll try to lay down my impressions, and try to avoid politics. I sort of translated my Hebrew post. You can view all my pictures here.

 

After receiving an invitation from a fellow blogger, I took myself to the train station and bought a train ticket to Haifa. Not many people go to Haifa these days. The train terminates at the most southern station of this northern city. Less than an hour from Tel Aviv, it’s a totally different place. My welcome note was a siren at the train station. A few people ran, but the rest remained calm. I wasn’t excited at this point.

Small metal balls meet a houseMy host took me for a walk in Bat Galim neighburhood. We entered a grocery store. The Arab Israeli owner was very nice. There were hardly any customers. Not at that time in the afternoon, and not at any time, but she keeps the shop open. She could run away to her relatives in Shfaram, but that’s not home for her. When asking her where she stands on politics, she said that she doesn’t understand the matters of the “big ones”. She didn’t even vote in the recent elections (held in March). Peace and quiet is all she wants.

Dinner is ready !We kept on walking in the area, until we reached the “house that collapsed”. This house was devestated by a rocket last week. I’ve seen many pictures of this place, but it’s still amazing to see it: the phone hanging out the building, the dinner table all set up (now enjoying lots of wind), and lots of small holes. The small metal balls hit all the surrounding buildings. Thousands of such balls are stuffed in a rocket. We met a guy that was sent to guard the Hello? Is there anybody home?building. He gave me a few of those small balls as a souvenir. Then we began talking about politics. He doesn’t have any doubt about the war. “They should have done that earlier”, and “We should hurt them harder”. Killing of civilians? “We hit only civilians hiding missiles”, “Our people’s security comes first” and a few more cliches. I tried a practical argument: If we kill too many civilians, the US will stop our righteous operation before we finish the job. He wasn’t convinced. Next.

Bat Galim PromenadeWalking along the deserted promenade at Bat Galim made me think about the touristic potential of this beautiful place. Surprisingly it is also very cheap, especially now. My host showed me 2 more “sites”. One is near the beach, and the other is up on the Carmel mountain. They are connected by a cable car, shut down due to the war.

We took a bus to down town Haifa. On the Damaged Post Officeway we heard that another rocket landed in Haifa, without a siren preceding it. Right after getting off the bus, a siren (2) was heard. We ran into a yard. No excitement yet. We went to see the damaged post office in the center of town. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but at least they begin repairing it. Across the street is Charlie’s barber shop. Charlie showed us a piece of the rocket that found itself in his shop. Although hardly receiving any clients, he prefers sitting there than at home. He said that he would go mad at home. After finding out that I’m not a local he Souvenir from a rocketwas amused. He wan’t expecting guests in his bombarded city. I had my hair cut at this good man’s place. Well, it’s also cheaper than in Tel Aviv. He told us that one of workers was threatened after opposing the war on a TV interview. The radio kept us up to date with the recent rocket.

Only after leaving the barber shop I realized: The city is dead! In the Desertedcenter of town, at a junction with a water fountain, near a famous club, there are hardly any people or cars. It was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday. I remembered that I’m coming from one of the most vibrant cities in the world, maybe it’s natural for Haifa. No! Even in Beer Sheva, a provincial boring town, there is more life on Saturday, the Jewish day of rest.

I’m usually upset with all the curious people who pile up to see a road accident, and blcok both directions on a highway. This time, I was one of those curious people, although I’mEmpty street certain that I didn’t interfere or bother anybody. We went to the fresh site of a rocket landing. On the way, we passed through an empty commercial center. Even the supermarket was closed. Suddenly, another siren was heard (3). This time, I was afraid. Shortly before arriving there, a rocket hit that neighburhood. Now, maybe a another one will come, and we are quite alone. Well, nothing happened and we continued our journey. Near Maccabi Haifa’s football stadium (Israel’s champion in the recent years), there were some old Fresh Damagepeople playing Remi. It didn’t seem like they were distracted by the sirens. Of course, if someone ran to the shelter, the other could cheat !

We could easily identify the rocket landing site: Lots of reporters, curious people like ourselves, government beurocrats and the police were there. The rocket hit an upper floor, and then hit also the first floor. On the way, a tree was burned. I don’t know the condition of the injured people. Luckily there were no casualties. Someone gave me ballistic commentary of what happened. Later on, I passed on the explanation to others.The Fan

Except a minor argument between a policeman and some woman, everyone seemed calm and patient. Maccabi Haifa’s “number one fan” was there sticking up his thumb and holding up a sign that supported the military and condemned the Hizbollah. He was glad to get his picture taken. Suddenly another siren (4) was heard. We all ran into a house. Since electricity was down, there was air condition, and it was very hot. But the owner was hospitable and everyone ws laughing. Just after leaving the house, a fresh siren (5) appeared and the owner said “Welcome back”. Someone said that he is becoming stronger with each siren and each rocket. A press photographer said that he becomes weaker, but the goog atmosphere remained.

Broken windowThe sunset was a sign to begin returning. At the bus station I stared at the empty street. I also wanted a good memory, so I got a touristic picture taken with a fountain in the background. Waiting at the station, I saw a bus coming. After seeing that it’s not my bus, I returned into the station, but the bus stopped anyway. The driver was bored in his empty bus, so he gave me a private ride to the train station.

That’s it. After hearing 5 sirens, having interesting conversations with the locals, and seeing many rocket landing sites, I returned to Tel Aviv. It was so fun seeing a city that is alive!

My impression from Haifa is that the people are calm, pateint and very nice. As the politicians and military men say: The public is strong (and disciplined). On the other hand, most of the people aren’t seen around. My impression is that a few people left town, while the majority of the people aren’t leaving their homes. The city is dead, that’s what depressed me.

Here are all the pictures.

I thank Fietsen again, for hosting me in Haifa. He ran around with me and was very good at developing conversations.