Considered Haifa’s most beautiful landmark, the Baha’i Shrine and Gardens is located in the center of the city. Crafted cypress trees and stone peacocks represent the splendor and delicate peacefulness of the Baha’i faith, which is headquartered in the city of Haifa. Many believers take pilgrimages to the gardens to seek the spirit of the earliest teachers and the land that spawned the faith, a belief that focuses on unity between all cultures and faiths. The name Baha’i comes from the Arabic word for “Splendor of God”.
Beginning in the throngs of persecution in Persia in the mid-19th century, the Baha’i faith now considers Haifa its international headquarters. The followers of the Baha’i faith practice a belief in the unity of all religions and hold that “messengers of God”, including Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were all sent at various times in history to address the social needs and conflicts of their respective times.
Mirza Husayn ali Nuri (1817 -1892), known as Baha’ Allah was the most recent of the holy teachers, and, after being exiled to Acre by the Turkis authority, began writing his doctrines of the Baha’i faith. Founding the Baha’i faith in 1863, Baha Allah was imprisoned (or exiled) by the Turkish government between the years of 1852 and 1877, during which time he wrote “The Most Holy Book” (Kitab al-aqdas).
Baha Allah’s son, Abbas Effendi (1844-1921, also known as Abd al-Baha), was pronounced the leader of the community of faith and imbued with the power to interpret the work of his father. Originally based in Iran and Acre in Palestine, Effendi spread the tenets of his faith around the world.
Standing across the summit of Mount Carmel, the Baha’i Gardens crest the northwestern slope of the mountain. The garden leads down to the Haifa port using more than 1500 steps, and the upper terraces (there are 19 in all) offer a majestic view of the bay.
The main focus of the hillside garden is located halfway down terrace number ten; the golden dome Shrine of the Bab. The golden shrine at the center of the gardens was built in 1953 and holds the remains of Siyyad Ali Muhammed – known as ‘the Bab’ – a Muslim in Persia who predicted the coming of a “Promised One” in 1844, and was eventually martyred for heresy. The Baha’i believe Siyyad Ali Muhammed was speaking of Baha Alla, who was buried in Akko, where he passed in 1892.
Though few followers of the Baha’i faith actually live in Israel, believers from abroad come and serve in the administrative and spiritual center of the faith, the Baha’i World Center. The Baha’i Seat of the Universal House of Justice also adorns the side of Mount Carmel. The Seat of the Universal House of Justice is the international governing body of the Baha’i faith.
The Baha’i Gardens, as well as The Shrine of the Bab are open to the public year-round, free of charge, and have been open since it was first built. With what has been called “classically European ambiance,” the garden was also considered the eighth wonder of the world by Haifa’s Mayor.