Haifa is a beautiful port city that never fails to fascinate tourists and locals alike. When in Haifa, one of the things you should not definitely miss is taking a walk in one of its historic neighborhoods, the German Colony.
The German Colony, or HaMoshava HaGermanit in Hebrew, was established in 1868 when the Holy Land was still under the Ottoman Empire as a German Templer Colony in Palestine. It was one of the colonies established by these settlements.
Located at the foot of the gorgeous Baha’i Gardens, Haifa’s top tourist attraction, the German Colony has been beautifully restored in recent years. It is now a tourist attraction in its own right.
Who were the German Templers?
The Templers are not to be confused with the Knights Templar during the Crusader era. Instead, the Templers were a group of Protestant Christians from Germany who believed that settling in the Holy Land would hasten the second coming of Christ. The group arrived in Palestine with their religious leader, Christoph Hoffman, and established seven communities, including those in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa. The group established a colony in Haifa in 1868.
When the Templers arrived in Palestine, they found out that the land, properties, and industries had been long neglected by the Ottoman rulers. Right from when they first arrived, they knew that the area held a great potential. The Templers introduced local industries that restored order and brought modernity to Palestine. They were the first to bring urban planning to Palestine. They also introduced regular transportation services between Acre, Jaffa, and Nazareth, enabling a more efficient mail delivery service. In addition, the Templers employed modern farming methods in cultivating land. The colony opened flour mills, oil presses, engines in their workshops and the first European-style shops and accommodations for guests.
The German Colony flourished with more single-family homes, adjacent farmlands, and gardens. The community became affluent and stood in stark contrast with its poor surroundings. At the end of the Ottoman Empire, there were 750 residents, 150 houses, and dozens of businesses in the German Colony.
Over the years, the Templers lost their messianic sentiments and started seeing themselves as less of an avant-garde movement who would hasten the second coming of Christ and more of Germans living outside Germany. Realizing this, they returned to the Protestant fold and began to build churches in some of their settlements.
In 1937, when the Holy Land was now under the British Mandate, 34% of the Templers were affiliated to the Nazi Party. On King George VI’s coronation day in 1937, all the Templer families raised the swastika flag. Their support of Nazi Germany led to the expulsion of the Templers by the British. The Templers were deported to many countries, some to Australia (via Egypt) and others to Germany. By the end of the 1940s, there were no Templers in the newly established State of Israel, now known as the world’s only Jewish state.
In the 1952 Reparations Agreement between Israel and the then-Federal Republic of Germany, the amount of money to be paid to the Templers was deducted from the reparation payments.
What to see and do in Haifa’s German Colony?
Today, the German Colony is a recreational area hosting several restaurants, bars, cafés, and shops.
Although the Templers are long gone, their legacy lives on with some of the old stone houses that still stand today. Some of the Templer houses have been restored in recent years.
A walk along German Colony’s main road, the Ben-Gurion Boulevard (Sderot Ben Gurion), leads you to a line of trendy red-roofed restaurants, bars, cafés, art galleries, and boutiques. Tourists flock to German Colony for relaxation, recreation, culinary discoveries, and even a bright and bustling nightlife. Other places worth checking out are the Haifa City Museum, located just at the edge of the German Colony, and the old City Center, a small mall. Check out the other malls in Haifa.
One of the highlights of the German Colony is Beit Am (“House of the People”), one of the first buildings to be constructed there. It served as both a place of worship and community center.
The German Colony is sandwiched between Mount Carmel and the Mediterranean Sea, giving you the best views of both. Look up the hill and you see the splendid Baha’i Gardens, and down the end of the main road you can see cargo ships docked at the port on the Mediterranean Sea.
The easiest possible way to get to the German Colony is by bus. Metronit bus lines 1 and 2 stop right nearby. It is also a short walk away from Carmelit’s Paris Square Station.
From a messianic vision, the German Colony is now an area of recreation, tourism, and entertainment, connecting between its rich history and contemporary culture.
If you’re a devout Protestant and wish to discover the Protestant heritage in Israel, check out some travel service providers that offer comprehensive Protestant private package tours.