Haifa Could Become the Venice of Israel

Today horribly polluted, Haifa has a plan to become a jewel of the Mediterranean.

By Michael Selutin | | Topics: Haifa
Haifa could become a jewel of the Middle East.
Photo: Yaniv Nadav/Flash90

Plans for the reconstruction of Haifa Bay could turn the northern coastal city into an international metropolis.

Plans have been presented to transform Haifa Bay into a hi-tech area called Innovation Valley.  If approved, 100,000 new homes would be built, as well as five ports and canals similar to those in Venice or Amsterdam. In order to do this, however, the oil refineries that pollute the city must first be removed.


Haifa and the toxic waste

Haifa has a number of industrial power plants and refineries that have been polluting the ground for over 80 years. Haifa has the highest cancer rate in Israel, and numerous environmental organizations have been at war for years with city hall and the petroleum companies working there.

If the Innovation Valley plan is adopted, the land in question would have to be cleaned of toxic waste that has penetrated deep into the soil over the years and also contaminated the ground waters. Initial estimates put cleaning costs at more than 1.5 billion shekels ($435 mil). In addition, there is the cost of transferring the industrial facilities from the site to a new location in the Negev Desert.


The vision

The City of Haifa located on the slopes of Mt. Carmel has great potential to become one of the most beautiful cities in the world if the ambitious plan is able to move forward. The concept is to build a completely new city in place of the existing industrial zones. The project would be equal in size to the City of Netanya.

The organizations involved in the project together with the citizens of Haifa are particularly excited about the plans, which include running a system of canals and small lakes through the valley below the Carmel Mountains. These can be fed by the natural flood waters in the region and will be used for boats. Those lucky enough to get a home on the canals will be able to park their boats with access to the Mediterranean Sea. This radical plan will transform Haifa from the most polluted city in Israel into a paradise-like garden.


The Money

Of course, such a huge endeavor is not cheap, but it is possible that it could eventually finance itself. Initial analyses have shown that the land itself is valued at about 13 billion shekels ($3.8 bil) once cleaned. Apartments on the exquisite bay will get top dollar, as will other real estate properties like markets, shops, offices and other commercial facilities.

The Ministries of Economy and Energy still need to be convinced of the “Innovation Valley” plan, especially as it is not a simple effort to relocate the oil refineries. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon already supports the plan. The entire population of Haifa would certainly be pleased with the removal of industrial facilities from their city.


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