Founded more than 3,000 years ago, the city of Haifa is built around a natural bay in northern Israel, on the slopes of Mount Carmel and facing the Mediterranean Sea. In the past, Haifa existed as a Palestinian city under the Ottoman Empire, with a growing population of Jews throughout the British Mandate of Palestine. In 1948, along with the establishment of Israel, Arabs lost control over the city. Most of the Palestinians living in Haifa before the war, fled or were forced to leave the city. Haifa was, from that moment, largely inhabited by new Jewish immigrants. The city’s human landscape had changed, requiring the urban texture to adapt.
Nowadays, Haifa exists as a mixed city in which Arabs and Jews coexist.
It is inhabited by a heterogeneous population of Jews, Christian and Muslim Arabs, ex-USSR immigrants, Ethiopians, Druze and Baha’i communities, making Haifa extremely diverse and rich in cultures and ethnicities. Wandering through its streets, one can get many insights about the city’s history: the multicultural population, the building style and the religious sites create a unique and stratified urban landscape.
Haifa is often referred to as a place of peaceful Jewish-Arab coexistence, acceptance and open mindedness; the city is indeed very tolerant, but the two parts are not fully integrated within each other: the city is lived more as a “peacefully sharing the same space” rather than a real coexisting.
Furthermore, during specific times of conflict, the atmosphere in Haifa can become tense and sometimes lead to riots throughout the city.
“Haifa City” aims to create a portrait of Haifa, witnessing the traces of its historical and demographical changes, the shifts that brought Haifa to be the cosmopolitan Middle-Eastern city. The project is a photographic research of the city’s identity, analyzing its history by political and social means. Picturing the city through its different layers, Haifa is investigated as a suspended space, where the past is still echoing in the present, shaping a hidden stratum of controversy and fragility.
This project was made as a thesis for a M.A. degree in Photography at IUAV
University, Venice, Italy.
© Bianca Matalon
Photographed between 2022 and 2023 in Haifa, Israel, in the following
neighborhoods: Hadar, Hallisa, Carmel Center, Bat Galim, Wadi Nisnas, Hof Ha Carmel, Wadi Salib, Talpiyot, Downtown, Nave Sha’anan.
Supervised by Yaakov Israel.
Designed by Yaakov Israel and Bianca Matalon.
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