At the foot of Mt. Carmel lies Haifa, a Mediterranean coastal city that is a major industrial and shipping center in Israel. Away from the busy port area the city’s streets are inviting and attractive, especially as you enter the wealthy suburbs at the top of the hill overlooking the harbor.
The city’s most striking landmark is the Baha’i Temple and Gardens, which have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From throughout the central city you can see the beautiful golden dome of the Temple, which sits at the top of nineteen terraced gardens. The site harbors the grave of the Persian-born Báb, who was executed in 1850 at the age of 31 for his religious teachings. He is known as the Gate, or the Forerunner, of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Baha’i faith.
Bahá’u’lláh was forced to leave his native Persia (now Iran) in 1853 and fled with members of his family and a small band of his followers to the Holy Land, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. For 24 years he lived in confinement in the Turkish penal colony of Acre, now known as Akko.
Initially viewed as a suspect group of exiled prisoners, the Bahá’ís eventually came to be regarded as a respected religious community through a growing recognition of the eminence of Bahá’u’lláh and the efforts of his son `Abdu’l-Bahá.
Bahá’ís believe that there is only one God and that he has revealed himself to humanity through a series of divine messengers, each of whom has founded a great religion. The messengers have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Those who follow the Bahá’í faith believe that the purpose of life is for each individual to develop the spiritual and moral qualities that lie at the core of his or her nature. Bahá’u’lláh referred to the human being as a “mine rich in gems of inestimable value.” These qualities can be developed only when a person turns to God.
Every year thousands of Bahá’ís visit Haifa as pilgrims. While you cannot enter the Baha’i Shrine unless you are a member of the faith, you can park your car and, with permission, walk down the steps to enjoy the beautiful gardens.