Bahai News - BAHA'IS UNVEIL MAJESTIC GARDEN TERRACES ON MOUNT CARMEL
WITH A DRAMATIC FLOURISH, BAHA'IS UNVEIL MAJESTIC GARDEN TERRACES ON
HAIFA, Israel, 22 May 2001 (BWNS) -- In an expressive and emotionally
powerful ceremony featuring a symphony orchestra, a 70-voice choir, a
specially built 4,000-seat amphitheater, and the setting sun, Baha'is from
more than 180 countries and their guests celebrated today the inauguration
of a majestic series of garden terraces on the face of Mount Carmel.
For Baha'is here, and for co-religionists around the world who watched
via satellite and internet webcast, it was a momentous event, marking
the completion of a complex of buildings and gardens on what throughout
history has been called "the Mountain of the Lord."
The Universal House of Justice, in a statement read during the ceremony,
offered the project, the celebration surroundings it, and the
golden-domed Shrine in glories, were offered as a source of hope against
the "turmoil and crises of our time."
"That our Earth has contracted into a neighborhood, no one can seriously
deny," said the statement of the Faith's international governing body,
which oversaw the construction of the project. "The world is being made
new. Death pangs are yielding to birth pangs. The pain shall pass when
members of the human race act upon the common recognition of their
"There is a light at the end of this tunnel of change, beckoning
humanity to the goal destined for it according to the testimonies
recorded in all the Holy Books. The Shrine of the Bab stands as a symbol
of the efficacy of that age-old promise, a sign of its urgency.
"It is, as well, a monument to the triumph of love over hate," continued
the statement. "The gardens that surround that structure, in their rich
variety of colors and plants, are a reminder that the human race can
live harmoniously in all its diversity."
The temporary amphitheater here, erected over the last week at the base
of Mount Carmel, was packed with more than 3,000 Baha'is, more than 650
dignitaries from Israel and international embassies, and at least 100
representatives of the news media from around the world.
The dignitaries present for the ceremony included several Israeli
Government ministers and deputy ministers, three Israeli Supreme Court
justices, and more than 30 ambassadors to Israel from around the world.
Members of the Israeli Knesset and local officials, including the Mayors
of Haifa and Acre, were also present, as were local and regional
The ceremony featured two orchestral works composed especially for the
occasion. Towards the end of the second composition, and just as dusk
was falling, the lights on the 19 newly constructed terraces, which
extend nearly a kilometer up the north face of Mount Carmel, were
gradually turned on, illuminating the mountainside in a dramatic climax.
"For the Baha'is gathered here, this was a profound act, an inauguration
ceremony for a set of sacred gardens and new administrative buildings
that mark the completion of our world center, an event we have worked
towards for years," said Douglas Samimi-Moore, Director of the Office of
Public Information of the Baha'i International Community.
"This in a sense represents the coming of age of the Baha'i world
community, which is emerging around the planet with the aim of helping
to reshape and revitalize the social and spiritual life of humanity,"
said Mr. Samimi-Moore.
The focus of the terraces, and today's celebration, is the Shrine of the
Bab, a golden-domed, white marble structure that is the second-most holy
place to Baha'is in the world. It is the final resting place of the Bab,
the Herald of the Baha'i Faith, who was born in Iran in 1819 and
executed in 1850 at the order of religious authorities, who were
challenged by His claim to prophethood and the rapid growth of His
Much of the program today celebrated the ultimate triumph of the Bab and
His message, in that there are now some five million Baha'is around the
world, forming a community capable of financing and constructing the
US$250 million complex of terraces, gardens and two major new buildings
that have virtually reshaped the north face of Mount Carmel.
"Today we commemorate a sacred history of unexampled love, supreme
sacrifice and divine vision," said Matthew Weinberg, Director of
Research for the Baha'i International Community's Office of Public
Information, in a speech to participants before the ceremony. "It is a
narrative prefigured in the pronouncements of the great Seers of the
"As we stand awestruck at the majestic structures and the 'tapestry of
beauty' now defining the face of God's Holy Mountain, and ponder the
mysterious processes responsible for the remarkable transformation of
this once barren domain, the words of Isaiah echo on all sides:
'...Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the
splendor of our God,' " said Mr. Weinberg.
Both of the orchestral works composed for today's inauguration are
deeply connected to this theme. The first piece of music in the program
was "O Queen of Carmel!," a cantata in three movements, written by Tolib
Shahidi, a composer from Tajikistan. The second piece, "Terraces of
Light," was composed by Lasse Thoresen, who is one of Norway's best
known classical composers.
Mr. Shahidi's piece is based on a eulogy by Shoghi Effendi, who led the
Baha'i Faith from 1921 to 1957, to "the Queen of Carmel," as Baha'is
sometimes refer to the Shrine of the Bab. Lyrical and melodic, it made
for a serene opening work.
Mr. Thoresen's composition is an oratorio in five movements,
corresponding to the five paragraphs and essential themes found in the
stirring Tablet of Carmel, a key piece of Baha'i scripture, which was
written by Baha'u'llah about the role that Mount Carmel plays in
religious history and as the world center of His Cause. Its modern
rhythms and complex intensity were stirring.
Both pieces were performed by the Israel Northern Symphony Haifa, under
the direction of Stanley Sperber, with support from three Canadian
soloists -- mezzo-soprano Patricia Green, tenor Stuart Howe and baritone
Brett Polegato. Also featured were Austrian violinists Bijan
Khadem-Missagh, his son Vahid and daughter Martha, and the Transylvania
State Philharmonic Choir of Cluj, Romania.
The interplay of human voices and the orchestra, in an outdoor setting
at the foot of Mount Carmel, with the audience facing upward toward the
beautifully illuminated Shrine of the Bab, was a moving experience for
many of the participants, most of whom had been selected by their
national Baha'i governing bodies to represent their country at this
The musical climax of "Terraces of Light" was timed to occur just after
the sun had set, and as the music reached its crescendo. The 19 terraces
were lit up one-by-one in a brilliant flourish that will be remembered
by participants for a lifetime.
"It was stunning," said Nancy Oloro, a delegate from Zambia. "I felt
myself in a different world. In the Baha'i writings, it is said that
music gives wings to the soul. And I felt that."
The terraces themselves were also designed to glorify the Shrine of the
Bab, said architect Fariborz Sahba, who designed them and oversaw their
"In principle, whatever we have done on this mountain aims to provide an
approach to the Shrine, to compliment it and pay tribute to it," said
Mr. Sabha, who also designed the world renowned Baha'i House of Worship
in New Delhi, India. "Our intention has not been merely to build just a
beautiful garden. Beautiful gardens are everywhere. But these gardens
are spiritual gardens."
He explained that they were designed principally with Baha'i pilgrims in
mind, so that as they walked up the terraces towards the Shrine,
believers could detach themselves from the outside world and focus on
their own relationship with the Creator.
"Baha'is have made a tremendous sacrifice to build these monuments," Mr.
Sahba said, explaining that donations for their construction came
entirely from Baha'is, "dollar by dollar."
On 4 June, the terraces will be opened to the public. Because of the
overwhelming interest in the terraces, a computer reservation system is
being set up to take requests for guided tours, which will be offered at
"This extraordinary work of art that we are seeing on the mountain is a
visible expression of inspiration that comes only from the Creator,"
said Albert Lincoln, Secretary General of the Baha'i International
Community. "It is the same spirit of faith that built the great
cathedrals of Europe and the great mosques, monasteries and religious
monuments of the East.
"We think the world should consider the great vitality of this force and
consider setting aside some of the negative stereotypes which have in
this modern era come to characterize religion," said Dr. Lincoln. "In
other words, we see these terraces and this event as an opportunity to
see the positive force of faith at work."
©Copyright 2001, Baha'i World News Service
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