Bahai News - Amidst much anticipation, the Baha'i World Centre prepares for public opening of garden terraces on Mount Carmel
Amidst much anticipation, the Baha'i World Centre prepares for public
opening of garden terraces on Mount Carmel
HAIFA, Israel, 31 May 2001 (BWNS) -- After a week in which Israeli and
world news media gave extensive coverage to the inauguration of a series
of majestic garden terraces on Mount Carmel here, the Baha'i World
Centre is preparing for an expected onslaught of tourists and local
residents who wish to visit them.
More specifically, the Centre has established a reservations system in
collaboration with the Haifa Tourist Board and worked with other
organizations in Haifa to train extra tour guides for the terraces,
which will open officially to the public on Monday, 4 June. Set to start
up slowly with 400 slots per day, the guided tour program could be
expanded to handle more than a million visitors a year.
"We know that there is a lot of built-up anticipation on the part of
Israelis and foreign tourists to visit the new terraces," said Douglas
Samimi-Moore, director of the Baha'i International Community's Office of
Public Information here, which will oversee the guided tour program.
"We have been getting many, many calls already from people asking, 'When
can we visit the gardens, when can we walk on the terraces,' " said Mr.
Samimi-Moore. "And our goal is to accommodate this overwhelming public
desire as quickly as possible, while at the same time ensuring their
experience matches the kind of care and dignity that went into creating
In ceremonies on Tuesday, 22 May, before more than 3,000 Baha'is from
180 countries, some 650 Israeli dignitaries, and an estimated 100
members of the world's news media, the terraces were formally
inaugurated. Featuring the world premiere of two orchestral works
commissioned especially for the occasion, the inauguration ceremonies
were seen around the world by satellite and webcast.
Along with two major new administrative buildings, the terraces were
built over the last decade at a cost of some US$250 million, all from
voluntary donations that came exclusively from the five million member
worldwide Baha'i community, who see the completion of the project as the
fulfillment of religious prophesy.
Yet while the terraces and associated gardens are sacred in character,
Baha'is have always intended that they be shared with the world at
large. Accordingly, like other Baha'i Shrines and holy places in the
Haifa-Acre region, the terraces will be open to the public with no
Because of the great interest in the project, however, it was decided to
establish a program of pre-reserved guided tours, said Mr. Samimi-Moore.
These free tours will be the only way that visitors can actually walk
through the terraces from end to end. Drop-in visitors will, however,
be able to enjoy three special viewing areas located at the base, the
peak and roughly in the middle of the terraces, which extend nearly a
kilometer up Mount Carmel.
"We know that one reason people are so attracted to our terraces is
because of their beauty, their orderliness and their cleanliness," said
Mr. Samimi-Moore. "And so we felt a guided tour program would be the
best way to preserve that atmosphere."
In the face of the anticipated demand for visits, the Centre reached out
to the Haifa Tourist Board and to the Beit Hagefen Arab-Jewish Cultural
Center for assistance with the logistics of organizing the tour program.
The Haifa Tourist Board will manage the reservations system, which will
begin as a telephone-only system and then expand later to an on-line
system. The Beit Hagefen Center, which already sponsors a wide range of
cross-cultural tours and events in Haifa, has been given the task of
recruiting and training tour guides.
"What's happened is we realized we were facing a potential deluge of
visitors," said Albert Lincoln, Secretary General of the Baha'i
International Community, whose office has also been heavily involved in
setting up the guided tour program. "And as we came to grips with the
scale of the program needed, we realized we didn't have the manpower or
the know-how to do the whole job, so we reached out to these two local
Dr. Lincoln said a public opinion survey done in February and March
indicated that some 95 percent of Haifa residents intend to visit the
new terraces "in the near future" -- and that an astounding 75 percent
of those surveyed throughout Israel had similar plans.
The city of Haifa, indeed, has made the project a centerpiece of its
efforts to promote tourism in the region. The city has worked closely
with the project's architect and his staff throughout the construction
phase and it has linked to the project the renovation of the historic
German Templer Colony district, which runs along Ben Gurion Avenue from
the base of Mount Carmel to the sea.
"We consider the gardens a gift to us," said Moshe Tzur, managing
director of the Haifa Tourist Board. "We hope it will become one of the
main tourist attractions in the world."
For its part, Beit Hagefen is bringing in both Jewish and Arab guides,
mostly drawn from the students of Haifa University. The first batch of
guides, for example, is composed of about 30 Jewish students and 25 Arab
students, said Hani El Far, Beit Hagefen's deputy general director.
"Our aim as an organization is to convey the importance of the coming
together of every community in Haifa, Jewish, Arab, Baha'i and others,"
said Mr. El Far, explaining why Beit Hagefen has taken on this project.
"And these aims are parallel to the aims of the Baha'i community."
People wishing to reserve a place on a guided tour of the terraces
should call, in Israel, 04-831-3131.
©Copyright 2001, Baha'i World News Service
Page last updated/revised 053101
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