Daughter of the waves

At first sight, Bat Galim is reminiscent of a little seaside town. Waves lap gently up to the promenade, which is flanked by architectural gems. In other lands, these houses would be offering bed-and-breakfast accommodation, and on the promenade there would be little caf s and tea shops. Many residents of Bat Galim have a historical connection with this garden suburb, the brainchild of architect Ricard Kaufman, who in 1922 modeled the neighborhood on English and German seaside towns. Two- or three-story houses were built on boulevards lined with trees and flowers during the 1930s. The renowned dancer Yardena Cohen, who in her late nineties still resides and teaches in Haifa, recalls how she grew up in one of the first houses on the seafront. She and her sister walked each day to the Reali School in Hadar where her father, the biologist Pinhas Cohen, was headmaster. In 1944, Prof. Adolph Reeding presented his vision of developing Haifa's beaches for leisure. An infrastructure of roads and services already existed from the Carmel to the Rambam Hospital, which was built in 1937, and Bat Galim was the most accessible beach for the landlocked residents of Hadar and downtown. Reeding's plans included a swimming pool adjacent to the sea, coffee shops and sports facilities similar to those in seaside towns throughout the world. The casino, like the English pier, was a landmark popular with British soldiers serving in Haifa during the last years of the Mandate. This was not a suburb for the nouveau riche. Low-rise apartments and small shops sprang up along the tree-lined streets in a solid, modest neighborhood that suited Haifa's image as a workers' city. Nearly 20 years ago, the Haifa municipality renovated the promenade with attractive walkways, sculptures, rockeries and gardens. This attracted a few restaurant owners, and it looked as if Bat Galim was waking up. Not all aspects of the renovation were welcomed, however - particularly the ugly terminal building of the cable car that, as Haifaites say, goes from nowhere to nowhere. In recent years, the promenade has not been maintained, and the entire coast from Bat Galim to Shikmona is now a mess of uncollected garbage. The residents of Bat Galim are convinced that this neglect is deliberate, as a prelude to constructing the marina there. - W.B.