Bahai News - Local Woman Recounts Visit to Baha'i Shrine in Israel
Local Woman Recounts Visit to Baha'i Shrine in Israel
May ceremony celebrated the opening of spiritual and administrative center of
the faith on Mount Carmel
Flore Kavelin of Paradise Hills was one of 3,500 selected individuals who
converged in Israel in May to witness a week of ceremonies and view firsthand
the Terraces of the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel that soar above the
city of Haifa.
At the heart of the Baha'i faith are the principles of unity, diversity and
Millions of dollars and years of planning and building came to fruition with
the opening of the terraces surrounding the Shrine of the Bab. The terraces
complete the spiritual and administrative center of the faith.
Nineteen people from each of 200 countries or territories joined a legion of
dignitaries just as diverse for the five days of ceremonies.
"Even the orchestras present represented Christians and Jews, Muslims and
people from various countries," Kavelin said. "Every detail represented unity
A goal of the Baha'i faith is to break down barriers of prejudice between
peoples and promote the model of a global society that lives in peace.
The 18 terraces are divided evenly between the Shrine of the Bab and extend
from the bottom to the top of Mount Carmel. They were designed as nine
concentric circles appearing to emanate from the shrine.
The shrine houses the remains of the Bab, the prophet forerunner of
Baha'u'llah, who became the author and prophet of the Baha'i faith.
In 1850 the Bab was executed by a firing squad. In 1909 the shrine was built
as a final resting place for his remains, following the instructions of
Baha'u'llah. The structure was expanded in 1953.
The terraces were planned by the Universal House of Justice, the governing
body of the faith, as a memorial to him.
At night each terrace is brightly illuminated, symbolizing the martyred
prophet's last days.
"He was denied even a candle while imprisoned," Kavelin said.
"The terrace project began in 1991, but buying of the property around them
began years earlier," Kavelin said. The project cost approximately $250
million, with funding coming from Baha'i communities worldwide. Even the
upkeep of the gardens and terraces is a community project, with work being
done by volunteers of the faith who commit to a minimum of one year of
"In our faith, work is worship, so this is a way to worship," Kavelin said.
Work on the landscape is a continual and painstaking process. According
to Kavelin, four people are required just to mow along the slopes of the
terraces. Three of them hold onto the fourth, who holds the mower.
Flowers, trees and shrubs from around the world were chosen for year-round
beauty and to symbolize the themes of diversity. State-of- the-art irrigation
systems run throughout the gardens.
"It is absolutely impeccable," Kavelin said. "Not a leaf is out of place."
The opening festivities included events for Baha'i only as well as for
the general public. On the second day the Baha'i members climbed the terraces
from the bottom to the top of the mountain.
"It was the most touching experience I had," Kavelin said. "People from
across the world all walking together with respect and the same aim. I saw
people on crutches and even a man with polio."
Kavelin initially decided not to take the walk due to her own health concerns
but was inspired to join the group after seeing a 70-year-old in a wheelchair
begin the trek.
"I was inspired. If he can do it, surely I can do it," Kavelin said.
The terraces and shrine will now serve as a place of pilgrimage.
Kavelin moved to Albuquerque in 1988 after living in Haifa 20 years with her
late husband, who was a member of the Universal House of Justice.
She decided to be a Baha'i when she was 17 and has "never been sorry for a
moment." She is a member of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'i's of
Now back in town, things haven't slowed down for Kavelin.
"Everybody wants to know about the terraces," she said. "I'm showing slides
and having people over."
The beauty, excitement and spiritual depth of her journey is something she
does not hesitate to share.
"I have many, many beautiful stories I didn't even have time to tell you,"
she said at the end of an interview.
©Copyright 2001, Albuquerque Journal
Page last updated/revised 062801
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