The Baha’i religion, whose holy places are in Israel, began in Persia in the mid-19th century, when its founder Mirza Husayn Ali, began to teach its basic tenets: the unity of all humankind and the progressive revelation of religious truth.
Mirza Husayn Ali, known as Bahá-u’lláh, or Glory of God, taught that throughout history prophets have come to reveal spiritual truths, including Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and a host of other religious leaders. He preached the establishment of a harmonious, ethical and forward-looking society free of economic, social and gender prejudices. Because of his beliefs, the Bahá-u’lláh was exiled to what in those days was isolation – the land of Israel. He lived under house arrest in Acre, where his home became a focus of pilgrimage, and later, in what is now the Baha’is’ holiest shrine, the Baji gardens, north of Acre, where he was also buried. It was Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad, better known as the Báb, (the “gateway”) who announced the coming of Bahá-u’lláh. He was perceived in his native Persia as a dangerous rebel and executed in 1850.
The Shrine of the Báb in Haifa, a lodestone for the some five million adherents of the faith the world over, is a striking monument of religious architecture in a tranquil garden setting. It was built in 1909 by the Bahá-u’lláh’s son and successor, who had the Báb’s remains brought there for re-interment, and is also buried there. The 19 breathtaking Báha’i Terraces that rise from the foot of Mount Carmel to the tomb, with formal landscaped magnificence that graces the slopes by day and illuminates them inspiringly by night, have recently been inscribed on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Bahai Gardens, Israel
Beauty, grandeur, and inspired design combined with the painstaking gardening of generations create the unique atmosphere of the Bahai shrine and gardens in Haifa. This is the site where members of the Bahai faith have established their shrine and world center because of its significance to the Bahai faith.
The Bahai faith had its origins in the in Iran, where its followers severed themselves from the existing Moslem Shi’ite faith. Its founder, Baha’u’llah, was exiled from his homeland at the end of the 19th century, and came to Akko (Acre) and Haifa after suffering persecution in neighboring Moslem countries. He was impressed with the beauty of Mount Carmel and expressed the desire that the Bab, the forerunner of the faith, would be buried there. About 20 years later the bones of the Bab were interred in Haifa on the site that then developed into the center for the Bahai faith.
The shrine, with its golden dome, Italian marble walls, and granite pillars, was built in 1953 and has become one of the major tourist sites in Haifa. Its 40-meter high dome is covered with 14,000 gold-coated bricks. The shrine has nine sides representing the nine major religions of the world. It is surrounded by several other unique buildings, including the Universal House of Justice – the seat of the nine members of the high Bahai council, and the building that houses the archives of the Bahai faith.
The impressive gardens surrounding the shrine were designed and inspired by the doctrines of the Bahai faith. They succeed in blending in and creating harmony with the surrounding slopes of Mount Carmel. The gardens extend over 19 terraces, the highest of which contains the Persian Gardens, with their topiary sculpted into eight-pointed stars. Stone steps lead down the slope to the breathtaking Hanging Gardens below.
The gardens are designed in nine concentric circles that look like waves extending out from the shrine at their center. The gardens combine works of stone and metal as well as fountains, shrubbery, and expansive lawns. The main path is surrounded along its entire length by colorful well-kept gardens that blend in with the natural flora and enliven the surrounding panorama of the mountainside while creating a small nature reserve. The garden has earned the name “The Eighth Wonder of the World” and its beauty offers visitors a feeling of calm and enchantment during the day, while special lighting converts the garden to a romantic quite place at night.
Other beautiful Bahai gardens surround the grave of Baha’u’llah just north of Ako (Acre). These gardens are called the Al Bahaja and are the most holy site for members of the Bahai faith. The beautiful, well tended gardens are built in the form of a large circle divided into four segments with lawns, citrus groves, topiary and flowers.
On July 2008, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee added the Baha’i Shrines and Gardens in Haifa and Acre to the eleven World Heritage Sites in Israel. The resting places of the faith’s founding fathers Baha’u’llah and the Bab, they represent the first World Heritage sites connected with a religious tradition born in modern times. The elaborate landscaped gardens and shrines are a site of annual pilgrimage, not only for the 5 million-strong Baha’i faithful, but also for hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world.
The Bahai Gardens:
Haifa: Entrance from Shderot HaTzionut, Yafe Nof and Shderot Ben Gurion
Ako: The Al Bahaja Gardens
Opposite Bustan HaGalil
Telephone (for both sites): +(972)-4-831-3131