Bahai News - Garden depicts Baha'i faith
Garden depicts Baha'i faith
HAIFA, Israel - On this hillside in the chaotic Middle East, there is
order and symmetry. The hedges are trimmed and simple, the roses have
space to be seen and grow, and the thick green grass drapes like a
blanket down a half-mile of terraces.
The Terraced Gardens on Mount Carmel were built on the site of the
Baha'i World Centre as a place for contemplation and prayer. When the
completion of the gardens is marked Tuesday, it will be the culmination
of decades of work and a sign of the 158-year-old religion's growth.
The effort was to make the gardens a place of peace, in hopes that the
world may be as peaceful someday.
The Baha'i (pronounced bah-HIGH) faith is monotheistic and recognizes
teachings of Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other religions. The
religion holds as a central tenet the belief that racial and national
divisions someday will diminish, allowing a unity of all humans.
There are about 5 million Baha'is worldwide. There are more than
140,000 in the United States.
The dedication of the gardens provides one of the biggest events in
the faith's modern history.
"As far as a movement, we are in the very early stages of our
development, in our adolescence maybe," said Douglas Samimi-Moore, a
Baha'i spokesman. "A by-product about this (dedication) is that of the
Baha'i community emerging from obscurity."
The gardens were developed over decades, but the intensive
construction plan started in 1987. It carved out and resculpted a large
section of the mountain at an estimated cost of $250 million.
Nancy Markovich, a Baha'i from Kennisaw, Ga., was for seven years the
assistant to the project manager. She is on a short list of former staff
invited to the opening.
"The absolute transformation of the mountain, for us, is indicative of
the transformation of the spirit of man that we must strive for," she
said. "I was there. I saw the blood, sweat and tears that went into the
While the garden is mainly built on aesthetic principles, its light
and orderliness are intended, in part, to counter the dark experiences
of the young faith.
In 1844, Persian merchant Sayed Ali-Muhammad, known as the "Bab,"
prophesied the coming of a teacher who would bring peace to the world.
In 1863, nobleman Mizra Husayn-Ali, announced himself as the Bahaullah,
meaning "Glory of God," the fulfillment of the Bab's prophecy.
They were not readily accepted.
In his book, The Holy Land, the Rev. Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, a
Jerusalem-based archeological historian, comments: "The basic principle
of the movement is that no religion has a monopoly of truth, and it
tries to integrate the wisdom of all great religious teachers. Such
tolerance naturally provoked violent opposition."
The Bab and Bahaullah both suffered harsh imprisonment in Persia, now
Iran. The Bab was executed by a firing squad. Bahaullah died in exile in
northern Israel. Today, hundreds of thousands of Baha'is in Iran face
In 1909, the remains of the Bab were entombed on Israel's Mount
Carmel, known in the Bible as the mountain of the prophet Elijah. A
gold-domed shrine, with classic colonnades and stately lines, was built
over the underground crypt in 1953.
Today, the hill is surrounded by the port city of Haifa, with its
dense apartment blocks and hotels. With a population of about 840,000,
it is one of Israel's largest cities and an easy mixing of Arabs and the
predominantly Jewish residents.
But it is the hillside shrine and the gardens - the gold-domed
building surrounded by the cascading green lawns - that dominate the
coastal landscape. The 19 main terraces are shaped loosely in concentric
ovals. There's a rose garden, a desert landscape, palm trees, olive
trees and neatly trimmed hedges just a few inches tall that line the
The gardens are neatly ordered at their centers and become
increasingly wild as they spread to the woodsy edges. A major city
thoroughfare was lowered several yards so the gardens could pass
uninterrupted on a bridge above.
Even before the gardens were completed, portions of them were a
regular tourist destination. The completed complex will be open to the
public and there is no charge, as the Baha'is do not accept
contributions from outside the faith.
The date of the opening coincides with a Baha'i holiday, marking when
the Bab announced his mission as a prophet. Grandstands are going up at
the base of the gardens where about 3,300 Baha'is will join hundreds of
The ceremony will be typically simple and understated. It will include
music played by the Israel Northern Symphony. The ceremony will
culminate in the evening with the lighting of the
©Copyright 2001, Cox News Service
Page last updated/revised 052001
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