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Haifa Sister City of Odessa

Haifa Sister City of Odessa

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Haifa is the 3rd largest city in Israel, with a population of 283,640 (2018) inhabitants and, since the British Mandate, the Country’s main port, specialised in exports. In recent times, its reputation as education and research centre has grown, thanks to the presence of two of Israel’s leading Universities: University of Haifa and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Haifa is considered the Israel’s most ethnically mixed city. Actually, it is the home of Jewish new immigrants, coming mainly from Ukraine, Russia and Ethiopia, accounting for 22.8% of the total population, veteran Jewish (residents of Israel for more than 20 years), Arabs both of Muslim and Christian faith (10.6% of the city population), as well as a new growing group of “non Jewish, non Arabs immigrants” (around 1-2%).

Historically, the city has also been the venue for Protestant migrants from Germany, Jews from Romania, “Baha’í” believers (after the interment of the remains of the Prophet Báb on the Mount Carmel) and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a reformist movement founded in India. Moreover, has to be mentioned the presence of Muslim Sunni, Christian Catholic and Orthodox and Druze communities.

Due to this ethnic and religious mix, which creates amazing fusions of different cultures the City is considered a model of tolerance and the most cohesive city in Israel.

The "San Francisco" of Israel

Beautifully set on the slopes of Mount Carmel (which owes its name after an old monastery of Carmelites), facing the Mediterranean Sea, Haifa is called by some as “Israel’s San Francisco”. Although traditionally a working city, there are many attractions for tourists: Baha’i Gardens, German Colony buildings, Haifa’s beaches and some important museums.

The city’s crown jewel when it comes to tourism is undoubtedly the Baha’i Gardens, which form part of the Baha’i World Center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Baha’i religion is an Islamic sect, which emphasizes tolerance and peace. These beautiful gardens are a place of pilgrimage for members of the Baha’i faith and are set across terraces sloping down Mount Carmel towards the Mediterranean Sea.

At the foot of the gardens is Haifa’s German Colony. It was founded in the late 1860s by German Templars (not to be confused with the Templar Knights of the Crusades) and throughout the two world wars in the early 20th century was inhabited by a community of German Protestants. The main street of the German Colony, Ben Gurion Avenue, runs direct from the bottom of the gardens towards the coast and is lined with cosy restaurants and red-roofed cafes.

As far as museums in Haifa are concerned, the Madatech Science and Technology Museum is Israel’s national museum of Science. The city’s zoo, the Haifa Educational Zoo, beautifully set on Mount Carmel, has over 100 species of wildlife, whilst the city’s Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum chronicles the story of Israel’s Navy and some of its major successes. The Haifa City Museum has a varied schedule of exhibitions ranging from film to art. Just south of Haifa is the Atlit Detainee Camp, a museum about illegal immigration in Israel.

Major events in Haifa

Haifa’s biggest cultural event is the "International Film Festival", which runs for one week each year at the end of September and transforms the city into a party city with over a hundred films of all genres shown.

In December, the city hosts the “Festival of Festivals”, which celebrates Hanukkah, Christmas, and Ramadan. During this festival, thousands of people travel to Haifa to join the celebration and walk along the “Co-existence Walk”, which passes through the city’s old neighbourhoods.


The municipal cooperation for the years of 2008-2009 saw these initiatives held in Odessa and Haifa respectively:

  • Exhibition of cartoon artists of Haifa, Zvi Roger’s photographic exhibition «Modern Haifa», exhibition «Odessa. Beginning of the Twentieth Century», prepared by the City Hall of Odessa.
  • Exchange of sports teams to participate in the traditional competitions in judo, conducted by the sport departments of the municipalities, took place.
  • Visit by the Odessa delegations to Haifa to participate to the celebration of 75th  Anniversary of the city Rotary Club of Haifa and to the International Conference of Sister Cities in Jerusalem.
  • On the 15th anniversary of Sister City Agreement between Odessa and Haifa, an extra cooperation agreement 2007-2008 was signed by the Odessa mayor Eduard Gurvits, for strengthening the bounds of cooperation in economic and cultural branches.
  • Visit by the Haifa delegation headed by Mayor J. Yahav to Odessa to discuss issues concerning the further development of amicable relations between two cities, particularly in the sphere of tourism, cooperation in the issue of opening research centers in high technology.
  • From 13 to 18 of October, 2017 a delegation of Odessa was on a working visit to the State of Israel. During their meetings the Mayor of Odessa Gennadiy Trukhanov and Mayor of Haifa Mr. Yona Yahav discussed the further development of cooperation between the two sister cities.

The Odessa Journal thanks the Foreign Relations Department and the Secretary General's Office of Haifa Municipality for the help offered to create this article.

The Odessa Journal
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