By Paul Gray
Daily News Correspondent
(Published May 26, 2001)
Earlier this week, 18 Alaskans joined 4,500 people from more than 200
countries and territories at the foot of Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel,
to witness the opening of the Terraces of the Shrine of the Bab.
Construction of the shrine and terraces began 10 years ago. Today the
ancient barren face of historic Mount Carmel has been transformed by the
19 majestic terraced gardens that cascade down its slope. The golden-domed
shrine and the gardens will open daily, with no admission fee.
Visitors during the May 22 opening ceremonies were impressed with the
"The significance of this event is hard to imagine when followers have
yearned for the coming of the prince of peace for thousands of years,"
said Robert Baumgartner, one of the Alaskans to make the trip. "The
gardens and terraces surrounding the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel
are a gift of love from the Baha'is to the people of the world that the
people of all religions and backgrounds may share in the healing message
of the lord of the age -- Baha'u'llah."
Mount Carmel, held sacred by Jews, Christians, Muslims and Baha'is
alike, has been at the crossroads of human history. Prehistoric
skeletons were found in caves hollowed out of the limestone walls.
Pythagoras stayed in these hills on his way to Egypt; Jesus' family is
said to have paused here on their way back from Egypt. The Crusades made
pilgrimage to this holy mountain in 1150. In 1868, the German Templers
built a colony of sturdy brick homes at the base, and in 1891
Baha'u'llah pitched a tent at the base of the mountain, making it a holy
place for Baha'is. Over the centuries, military campaigns have revered
the mountain by sweeping past it on either side on the way to and from
battle. It was described by philosophers in the fourth century B.C. as
sacred above all mountains.
The Baha'is of Anchorage contributed to the building of the terraces and
helped the Alaska group to attend the events.
The 18 gardens of eucalyptus and gnarled olive trees, ivy and flowers
bring to completion a century-old vision of the prophet Baha'u'llah.
Followers of the Baha'i faith believe he was sent to lead humanity into
an age of universal peace.
The terraces cover about a half-mile up Mount Carmel, reaching a height
of 738 feet. Water flows down the sides of staircases and through a
series of fountains. Each terrace has three garden zones. The central
area is formal, featuring lawns of zoysia grass, annual flower beds,
santolina hedges, bushes and carefully pruned trees. Side zones are more
informal, with flowering trees and perennial bushes. Wildflowers and
bulbs blossom in profusion from December to April, while flowering trees
and shrubs assume prominence during the spring and summer.
Today there are 5 million Baha'is in the world scattered throughout the
globe. An estimated 130,000 live in the United States, 3,000 live in
Alaska. The group was founded in 1844.
Alaskans attending the ceremony included: Kevin Araki, Juneau; Kjersti
Baumfalk, Nenana; Robert Baumgartner, Anchorage; Maniqsaq Baumgartner,
Anchorage; Philip Dunne; Manokotak; Paul Hill, Sitka; Katalina
Gubatayao-Bolima, Juneau; George Holly Jr., Soldotna; William Johnson,
Metlakatla; Nikki Kinne, Fairbanks; Lindsay Lamar, Anchorage; Clare
O'Brien, Fairbanks; Kim Seagren, Juneau; Curt and Debra Shuey, Kenai;
Jacqueline Tagaban, Juneau; Nicanor Torres, Anchorage; and Jones
Paul Gray lives in Soldotna and is active in the Baha'is of Alaska.
©Copyright 2001, Anchorage Daily News
Page last updated/revised 052601
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