A blue economy is an economy that relies on marine resources, while maintaining sustainable conduct. The blue economy and blue-tech spheres have been developing at an accelerated rate in recent years. The World Bank estimates its contribution to the global economy at $1.5 trillion a year.
Unlike other coastal cities in Israel where the sea is “far from sight,” in Haifa one can see the sea from almost every window and balcony, and therefore consciously or unconsciously the sea is an integral part of every resident’s existence throughout the city.
Thanks to its wonderful geographic location, the City of Haifa has been blessed with a large natural bay, wonderful beaches for surfing in the south, more storm-protected beaches (in the Krayot region) and a highly protected beach, the only one on Israel’s Mediterranean coastline running east to west – the “Quiet Beach.”
Another unique beach highly identified with Haifa is the “Surfers’ Beach” in the Bat Galim neighborhood, considered the best beach in Israel and one of the best in the world for windsurfing – a combination of a shallow continental shelf that creates high waves that break far from the coast, the wind’s acceleration due to the Carmel ridge’s proximity to the sea and the unusual coastal direction relative to the north has made the surfers’ beach an attraction for surfers from all over the country and the world.
At the same time, the city has two commercial ports and a marina within the Kishon River, and provides the best protection in Israel against storms – the Shavit fishing harbor.
Of course, we will not forget the historic port of Acre, a first-rate tourist attraction about an hour and a half sailing time from Haifa.
All these and more provide excellent conditions for a variety of watersport activities, including competitive sailing, popular sailing, surfing, windsurfing, yachting, rowing and swimming.
Surprisingly, despite all the advantages listed above, maritime activity in Haifa has decreased over the years.
In light of all this, we seek to strengthen through education, community and sports, a maritime culture and affinity for the sea, and turn Haifa into the sailing capital of Israel. We also strive to utilize the city’s advantages in the field of commercial-technological-scientific maritime activities and promote the “blue economy.”
A blue economy is an economy that relies on marine resources, while maintaining sustainable conduct.
The blue economy and blue-tech spheres have been developing at an accelerated rate in recent years. The World Bank estimates its contribution to the global economy at $1.5 trillion a year.
In 2018, 5.5 million people in Europe made a living in the field, and the annual turnover was 750 billion euros. In the United States, the number of marine innovation centers has doubled in five years! Broad maritime and coastal activity will add color to the city, increase the scope of tourism and add more jobs, recreation and leisure opportunities.
The Gift of the Sea
- Seas and oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface, affect the weather and are considered a “blue lung.”
- The sea is a tremendous resource that provides food and raw materials for the production of water, medicines and energy.
- The sea is the main bridge to global trade, a lever for economic activity and an arena that allows for military superiority.
- The sea is an inexhaustible space of entertainment, tourism and sports.
Therefore, in many places in the world, sailing culture and marine education are an integral part of everyday life and well-rooted in local culture.
A review of the situation in Israel (as of 2019)
1) Formal educational institutions:
a) The Government Company for Marine Education – the Naval Officers School of Acre, Mevo’ot Yam youth village and Ort Yami Ashdod school (a total of 1,400 students).
b) The Ministry of Education’s Physical Education Division – 13 marine centers throughout the country, numbering 18,000 students a year who receive two hours a week of marine education for six months. These schools employ about 140 physical education teachers who have undergone marine training.
2) Informal educational institutions:
a) Sea Scouts – Eight branches (Kinneret, Acre, Haifa, Netanya, Herzliya, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Bat Yam) with about 3,000 members from 5th to 12th grades.
b) The Israel Sailing Association – 15 sailing clubs throughout the country, numbering about 3,000 children aged 8-17.
c) The “Anchor for Life” program – Developed as a means of rehabilitating youths at high risk of drug and alcohol consumption and involvement in violence. About 450 teenagers pass through the program each year.
d) The “Ziv Neurim” non-profit association – Established for youth at risk of dropping out of the education system and populations with special needs to help them develop motivation to succeed, realize their potential and make behavioral, emotional and cognitive change. Its activities are concentrated today in three naval centers (Acre, Netanya and Ashdod), with about 40 educators and 600 students.
e) The “Etgarim” (“Challenges”) non-profit association – Makes the sea accessible to people with special needs. The organization currently operates two sailing clubs (at the Tel Aviv Marina and Haifa mooring dock), which are active almost every day of the week with about 350 students taking part.
f) The Zevulun Sailing Association – Israel’s first nonprofit for marine education. Active in Haifa and Acre with about 100 children and adults.
g) The Beit Halochem organization for disabled IDF veterans.
h) The “HaGal Sheli” (“My Wave”) non-profit association – works with at-risk youth in Bat Yam, Herzliya and Kfar Galim, and focuses on surfing. About 3,500 children are already participating in the activity. More centers are planned.
i) The Israel Surfing Association – The association has about 120,000 registered surfers of all ages.
Alongside these educational frameworks there are, of course, small nonprofits and private schools for surfing, standup paddleboarding (SUP), kitesurfing, kayaking, sailing and diving, as well as yachting schools.
Review of the state of activity in Haifa (as of 2020)
In the framework of informal education, the Haifa Sea Scouts has about 200 members, compared to 390 in Herzliya and 350 in Tel Aviv.
The Haifa Sailing Club has 45 active sailors (who participated in four competitions in 2019), and is the fifth largest in Israel after smaller towns such as Mikhmoret and Herzliya.
Rowing clubs in Haifa have 50 rowers, compared to 190 in Tel Aviv.
The Shavit Marina and Fisherman Wharf has 365 yachts (soon to be 415), and two active yachting schools. The Herzliya Marina has 680 yachts and five yachting schools, and the Marina in Tel Aviv has 280 yachts and two schools.
As part of formal education, 600 children attend the School of Marine Education in Haifa every week, compared to 2,500 in Herzliya and 2,000 in Mikhmoret.
Goals and Objectives
- Combining additional models of sailing in the city (social, family) and examining vessels to suit them.
- Opening 6-7 new maritime activity centers and improving existing infrastructure.
- Establishing the “sailing triangle,” a sailing route including a docking point, from Haifa to Kiryat Yam and Acre.
- Establishing a “Sea Authority” in the municipality, an independent, professional authority that will handle all marine and sailing issues.
- To prevent accidents between swimmers on the beach and boat sailors.
- To expand the area designated for existing sailing associations and transfer those organizations that are still operating in the Kishon River (risk of collision with ships in the port).
- To build a larger and separate religious beach.
- To allow the docking of 160 small vessels, most of them from the sailing associations.
Expected schedule: Receipt of all approvals, reviews, marine engineer planning by June 2024; Completion of construction – June 2026.
As a port city with leading academic institutions, maritime security infrastructure, maritime museums, marine nature reserves and advanced maritime industry, Haifa must utilize these advantages and become a regional and national economic power in this developing sphere/field.
- Establishing the National Marine Innovation Center.
- Global collaborations: UAE, Halifax (Canada), Rotterdam and more.
- Developing the “Innovation District” near the port together with the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister’s Office.
- Integrating into the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).
Strengthening and developing existing bodies, increasing the number of operatives at sea and appealing to new audiences.
In order to increase the number of people active at sea, we will implement short-, medium- and long-term work plans.
· We will expand and improve existing infrastructure on the “Hashaket Beach (The “Quiet Beach”),” and evacuate hazardous equipment and facilities to a rear lot that we received from the municipality on Tel Aviv Street.
· We will expand exposure to schools by inviting to Hashaket Beach events and activity days.
· We will increase the number of children studying formal maritime education from 600 children a week to 1,100 per week in 2022, and 2,000 children per week in 2023. We will do this by directing more informed resources, helping with equipment and logistics, proper use of personnel and effective work with education officials within and outside the municipality.
· We will increase the number of children sailing competitively (registered with the Israel Sailing Association) from 80 to 150, and improve achievements. We will do this by directing more informed resources, helping with equipment and logistics, proper use of personnel and effective work with sports officials within and outside the municipality.
· We will increase the number of children attending the Sea Scouts weekly from 150 to 250. We will do this by directing more informed resources, helping with equipment and logistics, and effective work with education officials in the municipality responsible for youth movements.
· We will examine integrating the “Ziv Neurim Association,” which works with at-risk youth in sailing centers, on the Quiet Beach.
· We have also introduced maritime education into the religious education system. Four schools participated in the activity this year, and two more will be added in 2022.
· We will also appeal to the Arab sector in the city.
· We have established the Sea Authority, a professional body whose role is to pool resources and incorporate all sailing activities at sea: events and competitions, classes and maritime education, supporting and strengthening existing bodies, managing the new marine centers, ensuring sailing safety, developing diving sites and more. The Sea Authority will strengthen the commitment and cooperation between all local sea-related bodies through professional conferences, a permanent forum and an informative web page. All positions in the authority are to be filled.
· We have established the Kiryat Haim Sea Center[i]. Hundreds of surfers, divided into two nonprofits, including surfers with special needs, visit the center. It is necessary to maintain it, monitor the activity and maintain order and the good relations between its attendants.
· After 11 years of disagreement with the Israel Navy and the danger to sailing safety, we have been granted permission to deepen the Hashaket Beach that has been partially blocked by the construction of the Polinum port. Work will begin in November this year.
· We will operate a new model for fun and inexpensive available popular-family sailing on the Quiet Beach.
Background: We have identified a national problem: 20-45 year-olds are not involved in maritime activities for various reasons:
1. There are no suitable vessels (price).
2. A lack of storage space.
3. The certification process is long and cumbersome.
In light of the problem we identified, we have charted the needs, characterized suitable vessels and issued a call for appropriate proposals. We have written a short certification program – an abbreviated sailing course suitable for this unique model. The Sea Authority is about to purchase these vessels and operate an inexpensive sailing club on the Hashaket Beach at a nominal price for the benefit of all the city’s residents. This activity will begin in June 2022.
· An agreement has been signed with the Israel Land Authority for renovating the hexagonal buildings, in order to establish a permanent sailing center in Kiryat Haim. The center will include a classroom, storage compartments, a surf club and a surface for storing private sailboats. The center will open in June 2022 under the management of the Sea Authority.
· We will complete the construction of the Sailing Center in the Bat Galim Surfers’ Beach managed by the Sea Authority. The center will include a surf club, a diving club, café and marine equipment store and will open in May 2022.
· We will establish the “sailing triangle” – a sailing route from Haifa to Kiryat Yam and Acre. This project, a regional collaboration aimed at creating docking points in Kiryat Yam and Acre, will increase the attractiveness of the bay and the volume of activity. We have received a donation of a floating platform that will serve as a visitors’ platform in Acre. The beginning of the activity depends on the partners’ progress.
· On the open beaches, rowing boat activities are planned for the open seas, like in Australia and Portugal (still subject to approvals).
· An open water sea swimming course is planned for the growing community of swimmers (still subject to approvals)
· We will establish the Rowing Center in the Kishon River. The center under the management of the Sea Authority will conduct competitive and popular rowing activities. The center to be built on the banks of the Kishon River will be a members’ club, and will include a place to store rowing boats of various types, a boat repair workshop, a classroom, a gym and a café overlooking the river on its roof. Estimated opening date – July 2023.
· We will seek to transfer the Shavit fishing harbor to municipal operation. If the plan is implemented, the workers must be reorganized, cafes and restaurants established, a fuel platform for yachts and a large and professional shipyard built, the sprawling and neglected fishing warehouse put into use, the park cultivated and more.
· We will cooperate with the Nesher Municipality and conduct sailing activity in Nesher Lakes for the benefit of maritime education in Haifa and Nesher. The Nesher Municipality has received 40 million shekels from the Quarries Rehabilitation Fund for the lakes’ restoration, and is currently in the planning stage.
· Planning and constructing a small municipal marina on the Hashaket Beach and a separate religious beach. We have written a program and are at the approval phase.
Promoting the “blue economy” field in the city
- Thanks to the plan we wrote together with the Environmental Unit in the municipality and the City Engineer, the inter-ministerial committee headed by the Planning Administration Director General recommended Haifa as a national center for marine innovation.
The center, which will connect all the bodies related to the maritime/marine/sea field in the city, will attract businesses from Israel and abroad, and we are already receiving many requests for cooperation.
- The national center will be managed by the municipality or will be established as a separate third arm of the HiCenter Company.
- A TOR (terms of reference) document has been written and a planner selected to write a detailed work plan, to be submitted on September 1, 2021.
- According to the plan, we will launch personnel tenders to run the center, and in April 2022 the initial activity will begin.
- We have been accepted into the SEA20 organization and will work for cooperation within it.
- We have written a plan for cooperation with the UAE as part of the peace agreements, and will work to advance this cooperation.
- We will reestablish connections with Halifax, Nova Scotia and Port Axel in the Netherlands.
- We will promote the transition of the University of Haifa’s School of Marine Sciences to a new campus in the port.
- We will advance the passage of the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research institute to the port.
Ibn Gvirol axis: Developing the axis as a safe urban street while creating an open public space to improve the quality of life of residents of the nearby neighborhood; improving connections with urban areas of activity and expanding the infrastructure for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Accompanying the process, planning and execution by the Engineering Administration.
Altering the City Hall plaza: Expanding the plaza while reducing the volume of roads that cross between it and the Memorial Garden.
Contribution and the Benefits
All the projects presented above are expected to contribute to all the city’s residents as follows:
- Less time on the road and more time for other activities – less traffic congestion, shortened travel times by public transport, less time spent searching for parking
- Improving the quality of life in Haifa in health and environmental terms – less air pollution and more physical activity (walking, cycling)
- Less noise of motorized vehicles – improving quality of life, creating a pleasant and attractive environment for both the city’s residents and visitors
- Fewer parking spaces and more public space – beneficial utilization of central urban areas, less tarmacked areas, more green spaces
- Fewer parking spaces and more economically yielding areas – utilizing space for economic returns
- More social equality thanks to a variety of technological means that allow the mobility of a variety of populations
- Encouraging tourism by improving accessibility, connections between focal points and attractions around the transportation centers, leading to economic growth.