German Colony Haifa
Haifa has some very old neighborhoods and sites of historical importance. The oldest neighborhoods are in the Lower Town area, including Haifa’s German Colony.
The German Colony was founded in 1869 by the German Templars who came to Haifa from Wuerttemberg during the time of the Turkish Mandate. Their desire to live and build here was fueled by their religious beliefs. Eventually, another German sect arrived, too. These two German Protestant sects, often in dispute with each other, made up the Templar settlements.
When the Templars came, there were about 4,000 residents in Haifa, consisting of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Haifa port was growing and big steamships also made their appearance. The Templars had a major influence on the development of Haifa, thanks to their skills at building and agriculture. The Templars brought with them farming tools and the ability to use them, and they introduced horse-drawn wagons to the area to carry people and goods between their colony in Haifa and other towns like Nazareth (Natzrat in Hebrew) and Acre (Acco in Hebrew). They were very industrious and skilled in mechanics and also opened a factory to make soap from olive oil. Among them were skilled professionals, including engineers, doctors and surveyors. They also built hotels and a vacation neighborhood on the Carmel, and the road leading up to it. Some of them settled in the Bat Galim neighborhood and operated a flour mill.
Templars also settled in the area that is today called Tirat HaCarmel, a town near Haifa. Two additional settlements were begun by the Templars in the lower Galilee area. One was at the site of the Biblical town, Bethlehem of the Galilee, Bet Lechem HaGalilit (Hebrew) and the other was Waldheim, today called Aloni Abba. Bet Lechem Hagalilit is mentioned in the book of Joshua and was also called Bet Lechem of Zevulan. Today, this Jewish moshav still has many of the Templar structures and is now a tourist site.
The Templars built sturdy stone homes and buildings with red shingled roofs under the direction of the architect Jacob Shumacher. Many of these are still in existence and use today. Their very first building, built in 1869, was the Templar Community Building, Beit Ha’am on Ben Gurion Road. Today, this houses the Haifa Museum of History. They also constructed a beautiful road that was 30 meters wide (98 feet), with trees planted on both sides.
Many of these old buildings have been renovated and the German Colony neighborhood today is Haifa’s main entertainment area, bustling with restaurants, coffee shops, pubs and boutiques. Situated under the famed Bahai Gardens, the German Colony is especially beautiful at night under the lights shining from all nine terraces leading up to the Gardens.
The area of Old Haifa was built in the 18th century by Dahar el Omar, the local ruler. Today, it is the site of newly constructed buildings for government offices in the Rabin Government Center, Kiryat Hamemshala on Palyam Street. The Sail Tower, the second-tallest skyscraper in Haifa, looks like a rocket ship and also stands here. In order to preserve some of the antique flavor of the area, the promenade leading to the Sail Tower was built in an older oriental style, with mosaics on the floor that depict the history of Haifa.
German Colony Haifa: Did You Know?
During World War II, many of the German Templars became Nazi supporters. Three hundred and fifty German Templars joined the Wehrmacht, all the Templar settlements flew the Nazi flag with the swastika, and they even planned to welcome Hitler to the Holy Land. It was for these reasons that the British drove them out.