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Three Sides of Haifa in a Day

Along the German Colony (Photos: Denis Kaliser)

Summer begins; but a bus full of ESRA day-trippers ignored the challenges of a hot day and happily travelled to Haifa for a day of varied vistas of this city on the coast.

First stop was in the center of Haifa—strolling along the regenerated Ben Gurion Street that runs from the foot of the Bahai Gardens to the port. This neighborhood is the heart of the German Templer quarter established in 1868 by a religious Protestant sect hoping to hasten the return of Christ to the world. The Templers were finally driven out of Palestine during and after the Second World War as they were viewed as enemy aliens under British Mandate rule. Today, the old stone Templer houses have been beautifully restored and transformed into restaurants, cafes, and boutiques. It was the perfect place to refresh from the long bus ride, grab a cup of coffee and a pastry; to buy a sandwich for our picnic later in the day.

Refreshed and ready to go, we traveled onward to the Bazan Group Oil Refinery. We saw massive fields of pipes of various sizes carrying the crude oil supply through the different refinery processes. We passed by the heating towers and the iconic cooling towers, which became a symbol of Haifa. The cooling towers are known as "lebaniyot," because they appeared to be the shape of the yogurt jars used in the early days of the State.

Bazan Oil Refinery is Israel's largest integrated refining and petrochemicals complex. The facility is capable of refining 9.8 million tons of crude oil per year, providing a variety of products used in industrial operation, transportation, individual consumption, agriculture, and infrastructure.

Model cooling tower In the Visitors Center at the Bazan Group Oil

New cooling towers have replaced the old ones, but one of the old towers has been turned into a multimedia visitors center. There, we saw videos of how the old towers worked with their wooden lattice layers, an example of which has been retained. We learned how different temperatures are needed to turn gases into products that can then be used for cooking and heating or for the basic plastic that is sold to other factories which produce the myriad of plastic products that abound today and even are used for polyester clothing. We entered a mock control room to play video games that school children—and we—use to learn about how the process works.

The facility is huge, employing more than 1,500 workers to run and maintain it. Our guide emphasized the efforts that are made to control environmental pollution, as well as explaining that some types of emissions are really steam/water vapor or burn off of gases. Unfortunately, it did take time to become desensitized to the sulfur smell in some places, but that slight nuisance didn't interfere with the educational value of the overall experience.

From the refinery site, we drove up on to the Carmel Mountains for a picnic lunch and then to the Hai-Bar Nature Reserve. After a general orientation to the locale and the mission of the Reserve and having been kitted out with hats and water, we headed downhill on an excellent trail to see the mammals and raptors being raised for return to the wild woodlands of the Reserve. The goal of the Reserve is to reintroduce species that lived here in ancient times, but which were hunted out over the centuries. So far, Palestinian mountain gazelles and Persian fallow deer have been successfully released in small numbers.

We heard about the "spy story" return of the Persian fallow deer, which were snuck out of Iran at the last minute while the Khomeini revolution was at its height. The Shah had promised Israel four deer before he was overthrown, but there wasn't time to get them out while he was in power. There wasn't time to even check the sex of the four deer that were flown out of Iran, and it wasn't until they got to Israel that it was discovered that only females were brought out. A zoo in Europe saved the day, and now a productive herd is being raised on the Reserve.

At the Hai-Bar Nature Reserve

Before the mammals are released, extensive effort is made to assure that they were in fact originally native to Israel. Investigation is still ongoing about the Cretan goats and the Armenian wild sheep, but it's doubtful that they ever were native to Israel. So, they haven't been released and probably will not be released here in the future.

The raptors (especially the vultures) are a success story. We saw the Sea Eagle (white tail) and the Griffon vultures (Gips fulvus in Latin), which put on quite a show for us, spreading their wings and flying from perch to perch in their large enclosure. The vulture enclosure was the last stop downhill on our mini-trek, after which we slowly headed uphill to finish with an interesting video about the Hai-Bar Reserve. This is a worthwhile site to visit, but be aware that it is only open to groups during the week and the general public on Saturdays and holidays. A tour is a necessity to appreciate what you are seeing. 

 

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Monday, 02 August 2021

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