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"The best port in the Levant" • Inauguration of Haifa Port 1933 ○ Yigal Greiber

The article is the result of a collaboration between Hai Pa and the members of the association for the history of Haifa

"The most convenient and protected port in the Mediterranean"

Haifa Port • The background to its establishment, construction and inauguration

Throughout the years of history, there were dozens of ancient ports and anchorages in Haifa. But the first port in modern times, or rather the first pier, was built in 1858. From the mid-19th century, the Ottoman Empire introduced reforms ("the Tanzimat") and within the framework of them allowed for the first time large numbers of Christian pilgrims to reach Israel. A significant part of those who took advantage of this were Christian pilgrims from Russia who sailed on ships from the port of Odessa on the Black Sea to Haifa.

This flow of pilgrims increased, until at the beginning of 1858 the Russian authorities decided to establish a special pier in Haifa for the use of the Russian pilgrims. For this purpose, they hired the services of the Italian Jerusalem Municipality engineer, Ermete Pierotti. Pierotti built a wooden jetty on the beach near the Sarayeh (Government Building) at a cost of over £3,000. Pilgrim ships would arrive from Odessa twice a week and the pier was also used for loading and unloading goods.

Later, this pier, called the "Russian Pier", was extended by the Templar engineer Gottlieb Schumacher and served as the main port of Haifa. A few years later, the Austrian shipping company "Austrian Lloyd" also built another pier nearby. 

Carmel Strasse

Towards the end of 1898, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II and his wife Augusta Victoria planned to make a royal visit to the country, and a decision was made at the German Admiralty to land him in Haifa and not Jaffa, due to a birth defect that did not allow him to descend the ladder from the ship to the boat. The place chosen was Haifa's beach next to the main axis of the Templar colony, the "Carmel Strasse".

Haifa Port in 1930 (Haifa History Association)

Gottlieb Schumacher

The execution of the project was entrusted to Gottlieb Schumacher who built a stone pier 85 meters long and 6 meters wide. Indeed, on October 25, 1898, the royal couple arrived and landed at the new pier called the "Kaiser Pier." This pier was also later used for unloading and loading goods and passengers. 

The construction of the railway pier on the seafront of Haifa

On September 1, 1900, the dream of the 34th Ottoman Sultan, Abdel Hamid II, began to come true - the construction of a railroad from Istanbul through Damascus to Mecca and Medina in the Hijaz, for the use of Muslim pilgrims. The realization of the dream was assigned to a young, 38-year-old German engineer, Heinrich August Meisner, who was involved in laying railroads in the Ottoman Empire from 1886.

For the purpose of bringing supplies to the pavement by ships, Meissner built an extension of the "Hijaz Railway" from Daraa in southern Syria west to Haifa, a distance of 161 km. On the seafront of Haifa, Meissner built the "Railway Pier", a large and massive pier that is 411.5 meters long and its width is 33 meters (data of 1907). The construction of the pier was completed in 1903 and it was also used by the city for loading and unloading goods and passengers. 

It was Benjamin Ze'ev Herzl who described in his utopian novel from 1902 "Altneuland", the port to be established in Haifa as "the most convenient and protected port in the Mediterranean...".

Haifa Port in 1930 (Haifa History Association)

Palmer plan

Already in the "Sykes-Picot" agreement of May 1916, the British asked for the Haifa Bay area, which they knew well and saw in it as a strategic asset in the British formation in the Middle East after the end of the war. In 1922, the Minister of Colonies, Winston Leonard Churchill, assigns the London engineering company "Rendel, Palmer & Tritotton" (Rendel, Palmer & Tritotton), which specialized in the construction of ports, to conduct a survey along the coasts of the Land of Israel for the purpose of establishing a modern port that would serve the military needs and the strategists of the British Empire. The company's representative, Sir Fredrick Palmer, conducted a survey along the coasts of the country and recommended two sites: Jaffa and Haifa. Since Shipo did not serve the British imperial interests and compared to Haifa it did, the decision falls on Haifa as the most suitable place.

Due to budget problems, only in 1926 was a loan of 1,250,000 pounds sterling obtained and an international tender was issued for the construction of the port. Companies from Great Britain, Holland, Italy and more responded to the tender. The chief planner of the "Settlement Training" company, architect Richard Kaufman, also submitted a plan that included comprehensive regional planning, taking into account the populations living in the area and their needs, but this plan was rejected by the British. Palmer, appointed to head the project, finally chooses the plan he and his company submitted - the Palmer plan.

Map - The plan for the construction of Haifa Port - 1926 (Haifa History Association)
Map - the plan for the construction of Haifa Port - 1926 (Association for the History of Haifa)

According to this plan, a main breakwater will be built starting in the area of ​​the Rambam Dahayom Hospital in the east direction, for a length of 2,210 meters and a secondary breakwater based on the Ottoman railway pier to the north for a length of 765 meters. The opening created between the two breakwaters will be the entrance to the port and its width is 183 meters. Also, 360 dunams are supposed to be dried which will be used as an operational area of ​​the port and as a hinterland for trade and economic activity. Another 50 dunams are supposed to be dried in the east of the port, for the establishment of an oil terminal.

80 years later

For construction purposes, 56,939 dunams are expropriated (18,568 dunams are cultivated areas, 21,453 dunams are marshes and 16,919 dunams are sea areas). In April 1929, a government department was established in Haifa to coordinate the port construction project under the supervision of the "Randall, Palmer and Triton" company. In October 1929, the works in the area begin, mainly leveling the area, paving roads and establishing an extensive network of railroads. At the same time, a lot of mechanical engineering equipment is brought from Britain, one of the most advanced that ever existed. A year earlier, as part of the preparations, the British were looking for a suitable site for a quarry to build the breakwaters. They sent British archaeologist Charles Lambert to Nahal Merot, where he discovered prehistoric remains of early man. On Tuesday, October 29, 2013, exactly 80 years after the inauguration of the port, a ceremony was held at this place to declare it a world heritage site.

The British located the Kurkar Ridge in Atlit as a suitable place to quarry huge quantities of stone for the construction of the breakwaters, paved an extensive network of railroads to the site, built a bridge over Nahal Oren and even a small train station, which exists to this day. Many hundreds of workers, Jews and Arabs, are employed there (three of the Jewish workers, Avigdor Balfour, Zvi Beril and Meir Kleist, were killed in work accidents and are buried in the old cemetery on Jaffa Street. A number of Arab workers were also killed, but their names were not mentioned in the Hebrew press).

Friedrich Palmer (Haifa History Association)

Kaiser Pier

In Haifa, the works progressed and the main breakwater grew longer, while at the same time dredge ships were deepening the port area, and the sand removed from the bottom was moved to the dried area. The water line at that time was today's Independence Street (then Kings Street) and after the drying of the area, the dock for tying the ships was built on the inner side and the buildings that exist to this day on the outer side. During the drying of the area, the Kaiser Pier built by Schumacher was buried in its entirety and only three curb stones taken from it are today at the entrance to the Haifa City Museum.

Haifa Port (Haifa History Association)

The main breakwater

The works continued at full speed. A factory for reinforced concrete castings in various shapes and sizes for construction purposes was also established on the site and Amudaim also take part in the works. In December 1931, the construction of the main breakwater is completed. When construction of the pier was completed in November 1932, the water depth near the pier was 31 feet (9.4 meters). As early as 1931, even before the works were finished, dozens of small vessels were already anchoring there and unloading and loading goods. British warships are also anchored in the port.

During the year 1931, almost 200,000 tons of goods passed through the port, most of them boxes of oranges for export and even potash from the Dead Sea. For the needs of building the breakwaters, approximately 1,300,000 cubic meters of stone were mined in the Atlit quarries. Two large warehouses (116 meters x 36 meters) and other buildings were built on the platform, including the port administration building (the same building from which the British flag was taken down on May 15, 1948).

Haifa Port (Haifa History Association)

First passenger ship

In April 1932, the British newspaper Manchester - Guardian wrote: "It was Napoleon who said that Acre is the key to the East, but the English believe that this key is at the other end of the gulf and they are building a port in Haifa which will raise it to the highest level on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea... Haifa Port Building It should be considered a symbol of the future of the Land of Israel..." As early as August 1933, XNUMX, a large passenger ship called the "Italia" entered the port for the first time, taking passengers to Europe.

The construction of the pier of Haifa Port (Association for the History of Haifa)

Inauguration of the port

In July 1932, the High Commissioner appointed the "Committee to Determine the Ceremony of the Opening of the Port" headed by the governor of the district and including the mayor of Haifa, the director of customs, the port engineer, the chairman of the Hebrew Chamber of Commerce and the chairman of the Arab Chamber. On September 6, 1933 n,eck, at the committee meeting, a decision was made on the official opening date: October 31, 1933. Also, the committee determines all the order of the ceremony, the invitees, the schedule, and the order of events and speeches, with the High Commissioner, General Sir Arthur Grinfell Wacoup ( Arthur Grenfell Wauchope) will preside over the ceremony. The committee also plans to invite many guests, some of whom will be brought in by special train, a military band, an aerial drone, a celebratory lunch, fireworks, a military honor guard and more.

There is talk of inviting about 2000 guests, of which about 1500 will only participate in the ceremony and about 400 will also be invited to a celebratory lunch that will be held in one of the new giant warehouses. On October 23, an official announcement was published in the press regarding the arrangements for the ceremony.

Haifa Port (Haifa History Association)

"Historical event in the history of Haifa"

Emir Abdullah of Jordan accompanied by ministers from his government, the High Commissioner of Egypt with representatives of the Egyptian government, the representative of the High Commissioner of Syria and Lebanon, representatives of the governments of Syria and Lebanon, the Iraqi consuls in Cairo and the capitals and many other dignitaries were also invited to the ceremony.

On the eve of the opening of the port, Mayor Hassan Shukri said in a press interview (Dar Hayom 31.10.1933): "The opening of the port serves as an important historical event in the history of Haifa, which continues to develop at a wonderful speed. By virtue of its geographical position, Haifa with the port building has become the intersection of transportation between the East and the West and the port city of Trans-Jordan, Hijaz, Iraq, Persia and even India and its commercial importance has grown immeasurably. There is no doubt that the port of Haifa will be a major factor in its prosperity, advancement and the increase in the number of its inhabitants, at a very rapid pace...."

Haifa Port (Haifa History Association)

The bloody events

On Friday, October 27, 1933, a mass demonstration organized by the "Arab Executive Committee" was held in Jaffa, as a protest against the Mandate authorities, due to the increasing flow of Jewish immigration (this is the fifth immigration). The demonstration quickly turned violent and a British policeman was killed. In response, the British police fired at the demonstrators, killing 14 of them and injuring dozens. As a result, riots break out and spread to Haifa, Nablus and Jerusalem. The riots lasted for about two days, during which 26 Arabs were killed and about 180 were injured. 

In light of these bloody events, the High Commissioner published the following message on Monday, October 30, the day before the opening ceremony: "His Highness decided to shorten the official ceremony of the opening of the new port in Haifa, which was supposed to take place tomorrow. His Highness' feeling is that in time The current one, while in connection with the recent disturbances, lives have been lost and bereaved families are grieving, it would not be appropriate to arrange the ceremony in a festive manner, as was prearranged in Haifa. Therefore, the ceremony will be reduced to the opening by His Highness himself, in the presence of several officials. Since there will be no guests, cancel the The special train and the lunch..."

Haifa Port (Haifa History Association)

80 guests only

On Tuesday October 31st, under heavy police security, the High Commissioner landed at Haifa airport at 10:00. At the same time, only about 80 guests arrived through the western gate of the port, most of them senior government officials, representatives of shipping companies and military officers. They concentrated on the wharf between the two large warehouses, where a podium decorated with flags and flowers was set up, flanked by an honor guard of British sailors from the warship "Hastings" anchored in the harbor, and an orchestra of Scottish soldiers dressed in skirts and wearing leopard skins. The High Commissioner together with the commander of the British Air Force in the Middle East, the governor of the district Edward Keith-Roach (Edward Keith-Roach) and a number of other officials, were taken by motor boat to the British merchant ship "Lancastrian Prince" anchored in the waters of the gulf and it sailed into the harbor.

Haifa Port (Haifa History Association)
Haifa Port (Haifa History Association)

"The best port in the Levant"

At 12:50 in the afternoon the ship docked near the wharf to the sound of 21 cannon volleys fired from the "Hastings" and the commissioner and his entourage disembarked and were received by an honor guard brandishing his weapon. After brief opening remarks by the Director of Customs, Mr. Steed, District Governor Keith Roach read the speech of Palmer, who was absent due to illness (he died a year later), after which the High Commissioner spoke, who, among other things, said: "There is a great asset here, a protected sea area to which Large and huge ships will be able to enter. A port that will provide all the necessary amenities for the growing export and import trade. A port that will be able to spread and expand as the trade movement spreads... I am guaranteed that the opening of this great port will give further impetus to development and thereby help the prosperity and spirit of the inhabitants of this country... ".

The High Commissioner spoke from the stage on the phone with the Minister of Colonies in London, Sir Philip Cunliffe, and informed him of the opening of the port, and he responded with a short speech broadcast over loudspeakers to the audience. At 14:00 the ceremony ended and the crowd dispersed. 

Among the many reports in the media about the opening of the port, the report of the Australian newspaper "Sydney Morning Herald" (2.11.1933) stood out, which read among other things: "The best port in the Levant...". 

Haifa Port (Haifa History Association)


Although already about a year after its opening, it was clarified that the port was not sufficient for civilian economic activity, but it continued to compete with the old port of Jaffa, from which most of the Israeli citrus trade is exported. Only after the outbreak of the events, in April 1936 and the Arab strike, does the premiere move to the port of Haifa. As mentioned, the port is an important link in the British imperial system and for that purpose it was designed and built, and its use for the civilian needs of the country's residents was secondary.

Haifa Port Stamp - Palmer (Haifa History Association)

"From old Beirut to young Haifa"

The port also competed with the port of Beirut and the Palestine newspaper reporter quoted a Beirut doctor who said about this competition: "From the old city of Beirut, to the young city of Haifa, where new and vigorous blood flows...".

Since its inauguration, the port has undergone changes, additions and expansions, but at its core the original plan has remained. Both in the new outline plan 2000 and in the national outline plan (TMA 13 / 3 - Development of an urban sea front in Haifa) there is no change regarding Palmer's original plan.

The port's builder Friedrich Palmer died about a year after its inauguration and his name was commemorated in the main entrance to the port, called the "Palmer Gate" (today this gate is blocked). On June 23.6.2014, XNUMX, the Stamp Service issued a new stamp commemorating Palmer's work and name.

Haifa Port (Haifa History Association)

Contact Chai here: At watsapBy email

Yigal Greiber
Yigal Greiber
Member of the Haifa History Association

Articles related to this topic

18 תגובות

  1. In 1933 my late father worked as a laborer at the port after a few weeks he was fired because he did not have the red book because he was a revisionist member of Beitar. He found a job with the contractor Levin and worked as a laborer in the construction of the Carmelia Hotel on Herzliya Street there together with 3 other laborers, Kalman Frost, David Steibigel and Mordechai Dufelt and of course Avi Jacob Pirer. They founded the North Group and among other things worked as subcontractors expected and strengthened
    Concrete the oil pipeline of the IPC company Farm Tanks near Kiryat Haim. And they also built the oil dock in the port of Haifa.

    • The contractor Levin later became a member of the first Knesset on behalf of the Nahum Levin freedom movement. The coating of the pipes in the IPC tank farm was for fear of being vulnerable to German and Italian planes during the war.

  2. It is important to add that the port of Haifa was part of a plan by the British government to pump oil from the wells in Iraq, distill it in Haifa and transport it by ship to Britain. The port was part of a larger project that included the construction of the oil drilling infrastructure at sites H1 and H2 in northern Iraq, the construction of an oil pipeline from Iraq to Haifa, and the construction of the refineries in Haifa. Just before the end of the huge project, the British mandate in Israel was cancelled.

  3. Remembers the workers who were brought to build the port in the land of Haran in Syria.
    According to the stories of my father who was a child in Haifa at the time - these would live in the streets of the lower city near the port, dressed in rags and quite dirty (to say the least).
    Apparently the language expressions were born in this context: "looks like a Koran", Koranic work" and more...

  4. The article is excellent and above all regarding the establishment of Haifa Port from the 30s. It is desirable to add to this the development
    The "dried area" between the port area itself and Hatzamtu Street (on the sides of the port street and the railroad), for the construction of the buildings that the area

  5. The port workers from Thessaloniki arrived in Haifa after the construction of the port in 1933. They did not build the port, they were brought to Haifa by Abba Khushi, Secretary General of the Haifa Workers' Council, to work as porters at the port of Haifa when its construction was finished.

  6. The port will cut off the city from the sea.
    Hopefully the new port (under Chinese control - unless someone up there comes to their senses) will not force the city out of the country.

  7. A very high level article, congratulations

    In general, the port is the cry for our generations as Haifaites. Cut off the city from the sea and destroyed the whole beautiful bay. If it weren't for the port - luxury neighborhoods would be in Shemen Beach and near Kishon today.

  8. It is worth mentioning the Salonika workers who built the port of Haifa. In their honor, the Thessaloniki community street in the Turkish market is named.

    • They didn't build it, but there were horses in the harbor, brought by Abba Khushi after it was built

    • The article is very interesting. Today, a new private port is still being built near the existing port. The stones (actually rocks) are brought from the Moshav Elifelt area. This was actually Gilad's last job - to keep all kinds of archaeological sites there from being damaged. The new port is already partially working.

  9. Haifa Port, the history, the history is interesting. Well done for preparing the article about the port of Haifa. Shabbos Shalom.

  10. Today the workers of the Haifa port think that this is their taboo property and demand to be compensated for an area that will be opened for the benefit of the city or to profit from it. For nothing and why. It's an urban area that they didn't create and they don't own it.
    The great Likud government did well to build two more large and sophisticated ports in Haifa and Ashdod and put an end to the brutal takeover of national assets by the port committees. Exactly 100 years later, the State of Israel built the ports of the future, with the help of the new power from the east, China. Empires rise and fall. Our Haifa must be further developed in the spirit of the Zionist vision as a model city in education, commerce, housing, immigration absorption and the constant cultural renewal of the people of Israel. In the spirit of the words of the Haifa port builders, there should also be established a berth for tourism and leisure vessels, a marina in front of the Rambam hospital beach. Anyone who tries to stop, interfere, riot and cancel will not succeed. The national planning institutions harassing Haifa, and even the residents of Haifa who are working to harass the city and return it as a remote city and its oblivion by canceling the marina and canceling the development of the city for many reasons will not succeed and in the end logic and progress and development will win over the harassers and the rioters.
    More of the Haifa Bay must be drained for a new national mission to remove pollutants from the Haifa Bay and develop it into the heart of the metropolitan city, which will boost Haifa in every respect and especially in the quality of life without environmental nuisances and the development of the Kishon as a huge district that will bring Haifa to half a million residents and become the largest of the Israeli cities after the capital Jerusalem.
    The development momentum of the Kishon city district will create a huge economic engine for Haifa's renewal. The drying up of the sea to no infrastructure and no airport will catapult the city to the fore
    First class status of Mediterranean cities. An Israeli airport north of the Haifa metropolis and the north is a major historical task as was the construction of the Haifa seaport a century ago during the British occupation.
    Integrated processes of continuing the development of sea ports and adding an air port will boost the economy of Haifa and the entire north. Haifa even needs to increase its territory and power by combining the neighborhoods of Nesher, Tirat HaCarmel, Hoof HaCarmel and Atlit into one big city consisting of large new squares with efficient administrations. The logistics hinterland of the ports must be planned in a way that fits in the Kishon district in dimensions and without fences. The current plan along the Kishon is an urban catastrophe and an obstacle to the development of the Kishon district, which will house approximately one hundred thousand additional residents from Kiryat Ata to the entrances of Haifa's Nesher district, therefore it will be canceled and the logistics will be established in the area of ​​the current airport, which will be turned over in favor of an international airport above the Ein Tut interchange and Route 6 near the entrance to Carmel Park and Yokneam. In Kiryat Govt, full access to the western anchorage should be allowed by tunneling the train through Mount Carmel, another huge engineering project that is bound by reality. Lev Hamafaretz station will be directly connected with Matam station. A light rail like the one in Jerusalem will connect the Carmel beach via Kiryat Havrat with the Lev Hamfaretz train station of the new Kishon district. The ports of Haifa will become part of the Gulf Islands system. A new infrastructure island will be built on the breakwaters of the Gulf port. Galilee International Airport, near the Achihud train station with direct access from the sea, will complete the international traffic system that began a century ago at the Haifa port.

    • My response to Eyal on his important sentence "The great Likud government".
      Remember the words of the previous Minister of Transportation, Israel Katz, who addressed the current Minister, Merav Michaeli, and told her to remember who built first.
      1. The Port of Ashdod began operating in 1965. I looked for whether the Likud was in the government at the time - and unfortunately I did not find it. I would appreciate the information.
      2. The new Haifa port (in my opinion, lamented for generations because it is under Chinese control), its planning and construction began during the years of the reign of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. This too, to the best of my recollection, was not a Likud government.
      A little modesty will not hurt.

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