Haifa – Festival of Festivals

Haifa — Israel’s jewel on the Carmel — is well known for the successful integration of the different religions in the area – Judaism, Islam, Christianity & Bahai.

As part of this tradition, Haifa celebrates the Festival of Festivals marking the different seasonal festivals including Chanuka, Christmas, and Ramadan for the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities in Haifa who live peacefully side-by-side.

The Festival of Festivals was initiated in 1914 by Hassan Shukri, Haifa’s first mayor. Since its founding, the Festival of Festivals has grown in size and popularity.

The festival celebrates Haifa’s religious and cultural diversity, highlighting the unique flavor of the city and its residents. The intention of this event is to encourage the values of peaceful coexistence and mutual respect of all religions and cultures in Haifa. A former mayor of the city, Yona Yahav, aptly gave the description of the event as one “without boundaries of culture and religion. Just show up and rejoice!”

The festival used to take place in Wadi Nisnas, an Arabic neighborhood. Since 2018, the Festival of Festivals has been held in the German Colony, at the foot of Bahai Gardens. Dr. Einat Kalisch-Rotem, Haifa’s first female mayor, moved the festival from Wadi Nisnas to the German Colony.

This change in venue proved to be auspicious. Since then, the festivals have been a success following tens and thousands of visitors to partake in the celebration. Wad Nisnas, though, is still a popular place to visit. If you have perfected the art of standing in a long queue, you might be in for felafel (falafel) treat at three most popular felafel stores in Haifa — Felafel Hazkaynim, Felfal Michel, and Felafel George — which are usually jampacked with hungry patrons.

The Festival of Festivals includes food, liturgical music concerts, plays, arts and crafts fairs, circus, plays and dance and musical concerts. And of course, there are also street celebrations.

Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time during the festivities:

  • Don’t be shy to bargain — it’s part of the Middle Eastern culture and brings a unique flavor to your visit in Haifa
  • It’s advisable to take an umbrella with you.
  • Always hold your wallet and mobile phone close by.
  • Since most of the activity in Haifa consists of lots of walking, it’s best to wear a comfortable pair of shoes.
  • Not all stores will accept credit cards, so bring plenty of cash.

If the weather is good and you’re coming to Haifa’s for a day’s visit (or two), you might want to combine your visit to the festival with some side trips. Good suggestions include a visit to the beach where you can have a leisurely walk along the promenade, as well as a visit to Park Hecht. You can also check out cafes and restaurants on the boardwalk. You might also want to check out the Druze villages or the Haifa Zoological Gardens — you will need your own vehicle to get to these destinations.

The Festival of Festivals takes place every year on all four weekends (Thursday to Saturday) in December.