Embracing Haifa

Just as things were starting to get tense in Jerusalem, I exited the police cordon at Jaffa Gate with my suitcase dragging behind me (the first of many an uphill dragging, in 30+ heat. I’m embracing being a sweaty mess!) and hopped onto a bus to Tel Aviv and then a train to Haifa.

The amount of people who pushed passed me as I tried to lift my case into the luggage rack was not inspiring me with confidence in Haifa or Tel Aviv, for that matter.  Fellow travellers recommended the train, as the scenery was better than the motorway.  Going along the coast, I pictured something similar to the train journey from Castlerock to Derry/Londonderry/pick one name and be done with it.  Not so, I was confronted with high rise buildings and structures that would have fit nicely in a 70s Bond movie.

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The second one is the Institute for Marine research or something like that.  It was especially Bond-esque.

I got the Roger Moore cable car up to the Carmelite Monastery on Mount Carmel.  I voluntarily got into this and paid money to do so – this trip is changing me or it is because Nicky ‘health & safety’ Kells isn’t with me!  Saw another church and came back down to visit Elijah’s cave. 

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I’m appreciating the wonder of brown signs, indicating that there is something worth visiting nearby.  Whilst tourist kiss religious sites dedicated to miracles of the past, I worship the present day miracles – brown sign posts! They are a rare occurrence and Elijah miraculously setting fire to wet wood was not worthy of one, from what I could see.

I’m still confused about Elijah’s cave.  It’s on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18) where Elijah embarrassed the prophets of Baal in as epic a way as Germany recently embarrassed Brazil (you know that N.Ireland would have only gone down 1-0 to Germany or could have beaten them.  It’s happened before.  Brazil should come for some advice) Except the Brazilians at least got away with their lives, unlike the prophets of Baal.  Anyway no mention of a cave, it’s not the one from 1 Kings 19 that’s on a different Mount.  So maybe that’s the reason for no brown sign!

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The Baha’i Gardens are a stark contrast to the rest of the city.  Heavily manicured and perfectly ordered.  The Baha’i could lend their design expertise to the rest of the city!  You can take the 1980s Epcot ride to the top to save you needing a cold shower.  The Carmelite goes underground and up a mountain !

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It won’t surprise you that I was a disappointed by Haifa.  I asked myself the same question God asked Elijah in his other cave in Mount Horeb, “why are you here?”  My automatic response to disappointments in the past – big and small, has been to retreat into a ‘cave’ and have wee moan.  I could feel myself starting to do that in Haifa, however, a still, small voice just reminded me to embrace it and make it something different.

Then Mirta arrived in the dorm, a Croatian force of positivity!  We explored the city, walked for what felt like hours so we could eat ice cream with our feet in the Mediterranean and even went to a Church conference that was taking place in the city – amazing worship in Hebrew and Arabic. 

I’m a planner and an uptight, control freak one at that.  I had something scheduled for everyday of this trip, but in embracing this trip I’ve ditched the plan quite a lot.  Following the advice of fellow travellers, following my body’s signals for rest, following the events on the news and just deciding I didn’t want to do that thing anymore.  I’ve found real freedom in allowing myself to be flexible and to try to create something positive out of a seemingly negative.  I want this to continue when I get home.  I’m hoping the still, small voice will have an answer each time I ask “how do I positively embrace this?”

This has become the soundtrack of my trip. 

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