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Encyclopedia Of The Palestinians: Briefly, Haifa's History
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Posted on November 12, 2000

Arabic, Hayfa; Hebrew, Hefa
Haifa lies along the Mediterranean Sea on the Gulf of Acre at the foot of Mount Carmel. A small fishing village in the nineteenth century, Haifa developed gradually into a major seaport in northern Palestine. The dramatic changes in its size, economy, and demography ensued as the city was trans formed by a variety of forces, including the modern global economy and ZIONISM.
Haifa's origins are ancient, although the site of the present-day city dates to the late eighteenth century, when it was established by Zahir al-Umar, the strongman of northern Palestine. Haifa was ruled thereafter by Ahmad Jazzar Pasha, who governed from ACRE; was briefly conquered by Napoleon's army in 1799 before being occupied by Ibrahim Pasha's Egyptian forces, and finally came under direct Ottoman rule after 1840.
Haifa contains several important religious shrines. Jews venerate the Cave of Elijah. The city also contains the tombs of two major figures in the Baha'i faith: the Bab (Mirza Ali Muhammad), buried on Mount Carmel, and Abbas Efendi, the son and successor of the faith's founder, Baha'ullah.
It was during the LATE OTTOMAN PERIOD that the port began its transformation into a modern city. Aspects of this change were the growth in Haifa's population and the change in its demographic character. Haifa's population stood at some 4,000 Palestinians at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Its population began growing during the second half of that century, when its largely Muslim and Christian Palestinian demographic character likewise began to change. In 1869, German farmers from the religious Templar Society movement settled in Haifa. In the 1880s, Jews began arriving from Europe-even before the onset of political Zionism.
At the same time, Haifa began to be transformed by the period's global economy and global transportation. Increasing numbers of European steamships began calling on Haifa's ports as Europe's trade with the eastern Mediterranean increased. In 1859, the Russians built a quay to facilitate such trade, and the Ottomans built the first port facilities in 1908. The Ottoman government had earlier linked Haifa with TIBERIAS by road, and by 1905, they linked it to Damascus via a spur of the Hijaz railroad. By 1919, the city was also connected to Egypt via railroad. By World War I, Haifa had replaced Beirut as the main port serving northern Palestine, southern Syria, and the tansjordanian hinterland. Grain and other commodities flowed in its direction.
The period of the British PALESTINE MANDATE witnessed the acceleration of these processes. The new deep-water harbor that opened in 1933 was the largest public-works project carried out by the British in Palestine during the Mandate, and it heightened Haifa's economic importance. Haifa was also the terminus of an oil pipeline extending from Iraq; it housed an oil refinery as well. The city was home to one of Palestine's two civil airports. Haifa's population grew during the Mandate from 24,634 in 1922 to some 128,000 in 1944, of whom 66,000 were Jews.
During the 1948 Arab-Israeli fighting, the city fell to Zionist forces on April 23 of that year. After Haifa's capture by the Haganah, all but some 3,000 Palestinians fled the city and became refugees. The city became a mostly Jewish city thereafter and is now one of Israel's largest cities, home to some 223,600 inhabitants by 1992.
Michael R. Fischbach

The above was quoted from Encyclopedia Of The Palestinians edited by Philip Mattar


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