The Longest Hillside Garden
The Longest Hillside Garden
The distinct gold dome of the Shrine of the Bab on the Mount Carmel
hillside has long been one of Haifa’s landmarks. Now a new Bahai
project, the longest hillside garden in the world, is being
by Simon Griver
Extending from the summit of Mount Carmel, this unique hillside
garden will spread out along the northwestern slope of the mountain. In
total there will be 19 terraces and more than 1,500 steps as the garden
sweeps down towards Haifa port. The garden, particularly the upper
terraces, offer a stirring view of the blue bay below.
The highest of the 19 terraces has been completed and was opened to
the public in September 1998. The rest of the project is expected to be
opened within two years.
The centerpiece of the hillside garden, midway down on terrace number
ten, is the gold- domed Shrine of the Bab. Completed in 1953, the
building contains the tomb of Siyyad Ali Muhammed – the Bab – a
Muslim in Persia who proclaimed the coming of a "Promised One"
in 1844. He was executed for heresy in 1850, and his disciples brought
his remains to Haifa in 1909.
The man that the Bahais believe was the "Promised One" –
Husayn-Ali, Baha’u’llah – was exiled from Persia and settled in
what was then Palestine under the Ottoman Turkish empire. He is buried
near Akko where he died in 1892. Baha’u’llah’s son, Abbas
Effendi, instructed believers to purchase large tracts of Mount Carmel
overlooking Haifa Bay, which Baha’u’llah had envisaged as the
world headquarters of the Bahai faith – an event which later came to
Haifa is Israel’s third largest city with a population of almost
300,000, has the country’s largest port, and much of the heavy
industry is located here. High-tech industries have also flourished in
Haifa, partly because the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is
located on Mount Carmel. The Carmel mountain range, stretching
southwards from Haifa along the coast, lends the city great beauty, and
here, on Mount Carmel, the Prophet Elijah proved the power of God to
King Ahab and his priests.
The prophet Elijah, as all Old Testament prophets, is deeply revered
by the Bahai. The religion is an independent world religion which
emerged from Muslim society. The Baha’u’llah transformed the
religion into a universal one; he taught that he himself and the Bab
were the latest of nine manifestations of God after Abraham, Moses,
Christ, Mohammed, Krishna, Buddha and Zoroaster. Some two million of the
world’s estimated five million Bahais live in India; other
concentrations are in Iran and the U.S.
Few Bahais live in Israel, but some 700 volunteers from abroad serve
in the Bahai World Center, the spiritual and administrative center of
Bahaism. The Bahai do not engage in any missionary activity in Israel.
In addition to the Shrine of the Bab and the Seat of the Universal
House of Justice – the international governing body of the Baha’i
faith – two additional administrative buildings are currently being
The Shrine of the Bab and the Bahai gardens immediately surrounding
it have always been open to the public; the completed portion of the new
gardens is already open to the public as well. Haifa’s Mayor Amram
Mitzna describes the new garden as the eighth wonder of the world.
"We have been very lucky," he says, "not many cities get
a park that is so incredibly beautiful – free of charge."
The hillside garden has a classically European ambiance. The terraces
are lined with stone balustrades, fountains and stone eagles. Black iron
gates give access to the trees, bushes, flower-beds and neatly manicured
lawns. But the garden’s crowning glory is its breathtaking panoramic
view of Haifa Bay and the azure Mediterranean Sea stretching serenely to
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