While road-tripping around Israel I also had my sights on Haifa, a city located north of Israel and the third largest city after Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. As we were staying in Shlomi, the drive was only about an hour if not less. With a population of a quarter of a million you will find all religions living in harmony here. One religion in particular that takes the show in Haifa is the BaHai Faith. A monotheisic religion that emphasizes the spiritual unity of humankind – basically that we all have the same spiritual sources and come from the same God, that all humans are equal, that diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance. I can’t argue with that. If only we as people operated that way, the world would be far more peaceful today. Also considering that Israel’s population is mainly made up of Jews, it’s quite astonishing to find Bahai taking center stage in Haifa with the beautiful gardens on Mount Carmel. Nearly a million people visit the gardens each year, but the faith is still considered relative new. Started by a Persian 200 years ago, spreading from Iran now with 7 million practitioners around the world today, its a shame that believers are still being persecuted in countries such as Iran and many others in the Middle East. The first leader of the faith was shunned by the Shia clergy and executed in less than 10 years of the movement starting.
The efforts to increase fellowship were continued, which led to the name Baha’u’allah by Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri who also wrote to Pop Pious IX, Queen Victoria, Napolean III but he too was also banished to the Ottoman Empire’s most infamous prisons located in Akko(Arce). This was after fleeing from persecution in Tehran, Istanbul, Badgbad and with conflict between the Babis(practioners of Bahai faith) arising it also wasn’t long before the Ottoman authorities banished Bahais to Acre in Palestine(1868), the city is now part of Israel. This is also another beautiful city I visited while I was in Israel(post to come). It is considered to be one of the world’s oldest cities to have been constantly inhabited and now seen as the birthplace of the Bahai faith. Each follower of the religion is required to make at least one pilgrimage to two of the most holy sites; in Haifa and Akko both of which are in Israel.
The Bahai gardens, now a UNESCO site, can be accessed either from the upper gate at Merkaz Carmel or the lower terrace at the Shderot Zionut. We approached from the top at Louis Promenade which also gives you panoramic views of Haifa. The Bahai Gardens are really unique and such a beautiful sight, featuring a staircase that ascends up the hill, with water features and a central terrace containing the golden domed Shrine of the Bab(founder of the faith). Some parts of the Garden are not accessible to tourists as they are considered sacred but amazingly tranquil. Beautiful colours giving you a sense of peace and harmony to be surrounded by such beauty. I had both my boyfriend’s sister and brother giving me the tour of the city as one of them lives in Haifa. There are usually daily tours at 12pm in both English and Russian all free! In 45 minutes you are taken on a tour with 600 steps so comfortable shoes are a must. Getting to the Bahai Gardens and in and around the city is fairly easy as their are good bus transportation links throughout the city. I would recommend starting from the top and head down for the better views of the gardens.