PLACES TO VISIT OUTSIDE JERUSALEM
Haifa, once a small town of 10,000, is now the third largest city in Israel, with a population of 225,000. It possesses the country’s main port and the nation’s largest heavy industries. It is, at the same time, situated in the most beautiful bay of the Mediterranean coast and on the slopes of the most charming mountain in Israel – Mt. Carmel. The origin of Haifa is obscure. Its name appears for the first time only in the 3rd century A.D., in Talmudic literature. It is not associated with any major military of historical event.
Haifa, as a small town, was occupied in turn by Crusaders, the Arabs, the Turks, and the British. In 1898, Theodor Herzl, founder of Zionism, visited Haifa and prophesied a future larger city. His praise attracted thousands of early immigrants, and Haifa is today one of the most important cities in Israel.
One of the main features of Haifa is that it is the world center of the Bahai faith of some 2,000,000 followers. The Bahai faith began in Persia in 1844. Its leaders were exiled to Acre. They believe in the brotherhood of all men, unity of all religions, a common world language and that all prophets were sent by God to preach the same message, the most recent being Baha Ullah (founder of their faith). They have a shrine in Haifa, which is considered their holy city.
In the Grotto of the Nativity, under the central altar, is a silver star commemorating the “Nativity,” the birth of Christ. Christian tradition and art in all forms is inextricably linked with the star. Indeed, St. Matthew’s Gospel, recalling the visit to the Magi to Bethlehem, says, “We have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him… And lo, the star went before them, until it came over the place where the Child was.”
Mount Tabor is located in Lower Galilee and is the traditional spot for the Transfiguration of the Lord.
Mount Tabor rises abruptly 1,600 feet above the surrounding plain and 1,900 feet above sea level. It is picturesque and a striking mountain in Galilee. In Psalm 89, David sings that “Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in the name of the Lord.” Its strength and beauty are a testimony to the Creator. In ancient times, it was a frontier line between the northern tribes. It was considered a holy mount for Israel, as it was a witness to the glory of God manifested in the important victory of Barak, foretold by the prophetess Deborah, over the strong Canaanite army of Sisera. (Judges 4:6) The Arab Village at the foot of the mountain is named “Daburieh” in honor of the prophetess Deborah. Mount Tabor was also chosen by Jesus to be the site of His transfiguration. (Luke 9:28-36) The summit of Mount Tabor, 1,300 yards long and 450 yards wide, is surrounded by the remains of a fortress wall built in the 13th century by the Muslims. In 1924, the Holy Land Franciscans built the Church of the Transfiguration, incorporating the new construction with the remains of previous churches. Besides the Crusader church are ruins of ancient strongholds and monasteries. From the summit, there is a splendid view of almost the entire region.
Site of the birth of Saint Mary Magdalene
Magdala was a major port on the Sea of Galilee, a center of trade and commerce, and an exporter of salted fish to markets as far away as Europe — but its fame down the centuries has rested on one famous person, Mary Magdalene. In the 4th century a church was built on the reputed site of Mary Magdalene’s house. Destroyed in the 7th century, it was rebuilt by Crusaders in the 12th century but was converted into a stable when the Crusaders were expelled from the Holy Land. The excavations, conducted by Father V. Corbo and Father S. Loffreda between 1971 and 1977, brought to light part of this Roman city (1st century BC -4th century AD) and remains which indicate that probably there was an ecclesiastical building from the Byzantine and Arab period (5th – 9th century AD) nearby.