Bahai News - Baha'is heading to Israel for terraces inauguration
High excitement and lofty expectations for Baha'is heading to Israel
for terraces inauguration ceremony
HAIFA, Israel, 15 May 2001 (BWNS) -- When Henrietta Josias arrives
here at the end of the week, it will be her first time in Israel -- and only
the second time in her life to travel outside of her native South Africa.
Like an estimated 3,000 other Baha'is who will be coming for the inauguration
of a majestic series of garden terraces on Mount Carmel here on 22 May, Ms.
Josias comes with high excitement and lofty expectations for what she
believes will be one of the highlights of her life.
"To me, it is a phenomenal thing that is happening to me," said the
45-year-old mother and flea market sales lady from Cape Town. "Prior to
becoming a Baha'i, I would never have had any idea about traveling to
Israel, or anywhere else for that matter, coming from a very disadvantaged
community in South Africa.
"But being a Baha'i opens your vision to the world around you," said Ms.
Josias, who became a Baha'i nine years ago. "I feel I'm part of this
great process where people are trying to become citizens of this whole
wide world and so that we see one another as brothers and sisters."
That sentiment -- to help foster the processes of world peace and human
unity -- indeed underlies the construction of the kilometer-long terraces
on Mount Carmel, which is sacred not only to Baha'is but also to Christians,
Jews and Muslims. Built over 10 years at a cost of some US$250 million, the
terraces and two new adjacent administrative buildings are designed in part
to offer to humanity at large a vision of peace and harmony.
Dedication ceremonies will begin at dusk on 22 May 2001 with an open-air
world premiere concert, which will be available live worldwide by satellite
and Internet webcast. On 23 May, indigenous musicians will perform and the
thousands of celebrants, many in colorful national dress, will ascend the
terraces for the first time.
The diversity of the gathering will itself reflect the ideals of the Baha'i
Faith, which aims to enlist people everywhere, from all races, religions and
nationalities, in a common endeavor to build a just, peaceful and
ever-advancing civilization. There are about five million Baha'is and the
Faith is the second-most widespread independent religion after Christianity,
with communities in more than 200 countries and territories.
"It will be like a 'preview' of how the world will become in the future,
showing a cross-section of humankind coming together in unity," said Nogol
Rahbin, a 20-year-old medical student, who will be among the delegation from
Sweden. "To me, this will be a chance to experience the vision that the
founder of the Baha'i Faith, Baha'u'llah, gave to humanity about 150 years
Baha'i communities from more than 170 countries are planning to send
delegations. And the list of delegates likewise spans the gamut of
professions, social and economic class, and racial and religious backgrounds.
Attendees range from a New York investment banker to a young woman from
the Fulnio people in northeastern Brazil; from a Nepalese journalist to
an architectural student from Belarus.
"To me, this event will show how a great many people, from all different
locations and backgrounds, can come together in unity, to help create
something as close to perfection as I can think of," said Alexandar Sawka,
a 17-year-old student from St. Johns, Antigua, West Indies. "The completion
of a project of this magnitude is a great step forward for any religion."
The delegates were chosen by various means to represent their countries at
the inauguration ceremonies by their National Spiritual Assemblies, the
nation-level governing bodies in the Baha'i Faith. Limited to 19 delegates
each, National Spiritual Assemblies around the world used different methods
to choose their delegations. Some Assemblies gave weight to individuals who
had given exemplary service over the years while others simply held a lottery.
Sara Nobre, like other members of the delegation from Portugal, was
chosen by lot. The 24-year-old staffing manager from Lisbon feels incredibly
"The event is the end result of many years of hard work from Baha'is
everywhere," said Ms. Nobre, who, like millions of other Baha'is, contributed
funds to the project, which was built entirely with donations from Baha'is
around the world. "It is the fruit of perseverance and love."
Jean Scales, one of the delegates from the United States of America, feels
honored to have been selected. "I couldn't believe it at first," said Jean
Scales, a 71-year-old retired English professor who now lives in Durham,
North Carolina. "I have no idea why I've been chosen. I guess it is because
I've been active over the years."
Dr. Scales has served the Faith on a number of levels since becoming a
Baha'i in 1960. Last year, for example, she toured South Africa and
Swaziland with her husband, Jay, to promote the Faith's ideals.
Like others selected to travel to Haifa, she views the inauguration of the
terraces as a once-in-a-lifetime event, one that she believes will likewise
showcase the Faith's message and teachings.
"The construction of these gardens is a reason for humanity to have hope,"
said Dr. Scales. "So many people just don't see any hope in the world today,
between wars and rumors of wars. But this shows that humankind can come
Dr. Scales believes that the beauty of the gardens -- she has seen numerous
photographs of them -- reflects the harmonious blend of spiritual and
material attributes that Baha'is believe is needed in the world.
"Around the world, Baha'is are asked to engage in social and economic
development projects to do things that will help their communities," she
said. "They don't just pray. Rather, they seek to combine the material and
Dr. Scales and others also believe that the completion of the Baha'i projects
on Mount Carmel, which include the construction of two new administrative
buildings, also represent a significant fulfillment of prophecy, both for
Baha'is and others.
"I do know that Mount Carmel is important in Christian and Jewish history,
and that the Holy Land itself is important to many of the religions in the
world," she said. "In the main Christian prayer, they speak of 'Thy Kingdom
come, Thy will be done…' To me, this is a fulfillment of that prayer in
that we Baha'is believe we are helping to build the Kingdom of God on earth."
©Copyright 2001, Baha'i World News Service
Page last updated/revised 051501
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