When thinking of the religious centers of Israel, most people think of Jerusalem (holy to several religions), and also Bethlehem (for the Christians).
Less well known is the city of Haifa,
with the gardens,
shrine of the Bab,
and administrative centers of the Baha’i faith.
The Bahai Gardens in Haifa are some of the most exquisite and mesmerizing I’ve ever seen in my life.
They are also known as The Terraces of the Baha’i Faith, and the Hanging Gardens of Haifa.. by any name – definitely worth a visit.
And – bonus – they’re free to enter, and free guided tours are offered in English at least once a day (except Wednesdays)
In total, there are 19 terraces. The 18 terraces of the garden represent the first 18 disciples of the Bab (the prophet-Herald of the Baha’i faith), and an additional terrace of the Shrine of the Bab, make 19 terraces.
The terraces are joined by a set of stairs, bordered on each side by small, sunken streams of water.
The gardens were designed by Fariborz Sahba, with construction beginning in 1987, and finishing to open to the public in 2001.
The Baha’i center in Haifa includes the gardens, the shrine of the Bab, and also the administrative and council buildings of the religion.
In total, the gardens reach almost one kilometer up the side of Mount Carmel, covering 200,000 square meters, and possessing 1700 steps. There are over 450 plant species, most of which are native to Israel, and were chosen for their hardiness, small demand for water, and environmental friendliness.
FAQ about the Baha’i Faith
What is Baha’i?
– Baha’i is a monotheistic religion, with two prophets (the Bab the prophet-herald, and Baha’u’llah the prophet-founder) who received revelations from God. The faith has its own scriptures, rules, and calendar but accepts the validity of ALL other major world religions
What do Baha’is believe in?
– Bahá’ís believe in one God, who is the creator of the universe. They believe that God educates humans by sending prophets to create religions, and has done so throughout history, thus all religions are valid and truthful and are part of an ongoing educational process of God towards mankind. The Bab and Bah’u’llah are the two prophets for this time period.
Do Baha’is have a holy book?
-The most holy book was written by Baha’u’llah, “Hitab-i-Aqdas”, and is the book of laws.
Do Baha’is have a pope or clergy?
– A system of democratically elected officials at each level (local, national, and international) run the council. The Universal House of Justice, with 9 members elected by the members of the national council for 5 years, is the head of the Baha’i faith.
Do Baha’is go to “church”?
– Baha’is worship through both prayer (Baha’u’llah prescribed daily recitation of one of three suggested prayers) and meditation. Additionally, service to others is also considered a form of worship. What could be considered most similar to “church”, there are devotional gatherings of Baha’is in which prayers and passages of scripture (from both Baha’i and other religions) are read.
The gardens are closed on Baha’i holy days and also Yom Kippur (and sometimes in case of rain).
Be sure to dress modestly, including clothing that covers your shoulders and reaches past your knees (no tank tops or short shorts, please).
There are many steps and terraces, so it would be smart to wear comfortable walking shoes. Most of the terraces have pebbles, and any sort of high heel is not advisable.
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