The Bahai Gardens on Mount Carmel
The Carmel Mountain has always been linked with abundance and fertility, as reflected in its original name "kerem," or vineyard. Mount Carmel, sacred to Jews and Christians alike, is also known for its importance to the Bahá'í, serving as their spiritual and administrative headquarters.
The golden-domed Shrine of the Báb, the resting place of the Prophet Herald of the Bahá'í faith, is situated at the heart of the Carmel slopes, and is one of Haifa's most distinctive symbols. The shrine is surrounded by spectacular terraced gardens sculpted on the mountainside.
Mount Carmel was already known to be a holy place in ancient times.
Mount Carmel plays a special and important role for members of the Bahá'í faith world-wide as the dwelling place of the world center of their religion.
The historical link between the Bahá'í and Israel was strengthened at the very inception ofits path as an independent world religion. At the end of the nineteenth century, the founder of the Bahá'í religion, Baha'u'llah, was driven out of his country of birth, Persia. His forced exile took him first to Baghdad, then to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), Adrianopol (Edirne), and finally to Acco (Acre), which at that time was a penal colony under the Ottoman emirate. Baha'u'llah's final resting place was Bahji, which is just outside Acco.
At the time of his visit to Haifa in 1890, Baha'u'llah showed his son, Abdu'l-Baha a specific spot on Mount Carmel and made clear that this spot should serve as the eternal resting place for the bones of the Bab. The Bab had been the person who had brought the good news about the Bahá'í religion to the world. Baha'u'llah instructed his son to establish a suitable burial place at this spot and prophesied that at this exact place the world center of the entire Bahá'í faith would be established. The Bab had died a martyr's death in Persia in 1850, six years after prophesying his spiritual mission. For sixty years after his death, his bones were transported secretly from place to place in order to prevent them falling into the hands of his enemies.
It was only in 1909 that these bones were finally interred on Mount Carmel, at the precise spot that Baha'u'llah had pointed out to his son. And it was Abdu'l-Baha himself who laid the first structure of the Shrine to the Bab.
Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Religion, continued in the footsteps of Abdu'l-Baha by establishing the Shrine which has survived to this very day. The Shrine to the Bab was planned by the well-known Canadian architect, William Sutherland Maxwell. The Shrine was designed using an impressive combination of Western and the Eastern architectural styles. The wonderful granite pillars were built in the classical Roman style. Its Corinthian capitals are influenced by ancient Greek art, while its impressive arches add a unique Oriental touch to the entire effect.
The Bahá'í Shrine: the terraced gardens of the Shrine of the Báb
In 1987, gardening and construction on the Carmel slopes began with a purpose of beautifying and adorning the surroundings of the shrine of the Báb. The eighteen monumental terraced gardens connect the foot of the mountain to its crest, nine above and nine below the shrine. The gardens were designed by architect Fariburz Sahba who won international acclaim for his design of the Bahá'í House of Worship in India, also known as the "Lotus Temple."
The gardens were designed as hanging gardens along the slopes of the Carmel to create an appropriate setting and access paths to the shrine, one of the most sacred places for Bahá'í. The architect explains: "The shrine of the Báb is envisaged as a precious gem, for which the terraces provide the setting, like a golden ring for a precious diamond. The terraces are designed as nine concentric circles appearing to emanate from the shrine of the Báb. All their lines and curves direct the eyes and feeling towards that central edifice. The geometry of parallel surfaces and lines have been employed to create the most agreeable and comforting setting for the spectator along the entire landscape."
The combination of natural elements of light and water played a major role in designing the gardens, in addition to other ornaments that enrich the landscape.
The gardens stretch uphill for the length of one kilometer reaching a height of 225 meters, and their landscape envelops the mountain reaching a width of 400 meters. Special attention was paid to conservation of the environment when planning the gardens, and an advanced irrigation system was installed to help conserve water.
The Bahá'í Shrine: the terraced gardens of the Shrine of the Báb
The formal path of the gardens is surrounded by landscaped gardens on both sides.
The meticulous gardening along the path gradually changes with diverse plantings of native trees and wildflowers designed to recreate the natural landscape of the region.
Flowers in a variety of colors are landscaped with grass, as other types of ground cover and trees create a colorful tapestry of beauty throughout the year. A wide and rich variety of plants are spread over extensive grounds on Mount Carmel and create a small "nature reserve" that attracts wildlife and contributes to the environment. It is a rare island of tranquility in the heart of an active and vibrant city. The uppermost terrace is connected, through a pedestrian tunnel, to the Louis Promenade that extends along the mountain top. At the foothill of the mountain, the entrance plaza to the first terrace joins the German Colony restoration project, which commences from the sea.
These two projects constitute one of the most attractive and extensive urban development projects along the shores of the Mediterranean. The terraced gardens create a texture befitting the natural beauty of the Carmel Mountain. The gardens were planted with various types of vegetation and flowers that bloom all year round. Down the centerline of the gardens, a formal landscape gradually blends into transition areas consisting of a variety of landscaping and flowering trees. This, in turn, becomes a more rugged terrain once it merges with the natural grove surrounding the gardens. The terraced gardens are decorated with a number of beautiful ornaments made of metal and stone, but the main decoration is provided by the natural integration of light and water. Mirror-like surfaces reflect the sunlight in various shades. In the evening hours, decorative lamps light up all eighteen terraces and focus attention on the Shrine of the Báb that glistens at their center like a precious jewel in a gem-like setting.
About the Bahá'í faithful
The Bahá'í religion is an independent monotheistic religion.
The Bahá'í believe in Baha'u'llah, who lived from 1817 to 1892.
The Bahá'í believe that Baha'u'llah was the last in the line of God's prophets which lasted right up to the era before written history.
Like other great religions, the Bahá'í come from every race, ethnic group, culture, profession and social and economic classes.
Here are some words of Shoghi Effendi, the 'Guardian of the Bahá'í Religion' from 1921 to 1957:
"The Bahá'í religion recognizes the one-ness of God and His prophets, whose essential teaching is the unlimited seeking after truth, the exposure of false beliefs and prejudices of any and every kind, as well as the teaching that the fundamental goal of religion is the advancement of concord and harmony, since it should go hand in hand with science and since thisconstitutes the one and only foundation for a reformed and advanced society, as well as a society which seeks constantly after peace.
The Bahá'í religion essentially preaches that there should be equal opportunities and equal rights for both sexes; calls for compulsory education and the prevention of conditions which create excessive poverty or wealth; recommends the adoption of one language for international communication; and the establishment of institutions which will immediately - and with urgency - work towards the preservation of a durable and lasting world peace."
In 1959, the historian, Arnold Toynbee, asserted that:
"Bahá'ísm is an independent religion on a par with Islam, Christianity, and the other recognized world religions. Bahá'ísm is not a sect of some other religion; it is a separate religion, and it has the same status as the other recognized religions."
According to the 1992 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Bahá'í religion is represented in two hundred and five countries and territories.
The Universal House of Justice is situated on Mount Carmel, exactly above the Sanctuary of the Báb. This is the highest administrative body of the Bahá'í religion, which carries out the affairs of the international Bahá'í community with the help of six hundred volunteers, representing more than 55 countries. The Bahá'í administrative center comprises a number of buildings built in neo-classical style. Included among these are the Universal House of Justice, the international Bahá'í archives, a library and the seat of the Bahá'í administration. The international Bahá'í archives, housed in a building which was completed in 1957, was the very first building to usher in a particular architectural style, which was then followed by the buildings which succeeded it. These were designedby the architect, Hussein Amanat.
Many ornamental touches contribute to the exquisite beauty of the Hanging Gardens.
You will be amazed at the decorative iron gates, specially designed earthen vessels and fountains which add a special, delicate touch to the beauty of the Gardens.
The lapping sounds of the water which flows down from the summit of the Carmel Mountain right down to its foot on both sides of the central summit of the steps, stretch out like birds in flight, making you forget for one moment the mad rush of city life.
Tours of the Bahá'í Gardens
Three areas of the Bahá'í Gardens are open and require no reservations:
The first area is 'terrace number 19', which you can access from 61 Panorama St.
The second area is situated around the Shrine of the Báb, which you can access from 80, HaZionut Avenue (Zionism Ave).
The third area is 'the entrance square' underneath terrace number 1,which you can access from the junction at HaGeffen and Ben Gurion Streets.
Terrace number 19 and the 'entrance square' are open every day between 9.00 and 17.00 hours.
The area around the Shrine of the Báb is open every day between 09.00 and 12.00 hours.
If you want to take part in a guided tour of the Bahá'í Gardens, please check the schedule of tours at the official Bahá'í web site : www.ganbahai.org.il/eng. No reservations needed.
Tours take place every day of the week except not on Wednesdays and Bahá'í holidays.
The duration of each tour is approximately 45 minutes to an hour, during which a distance of roughly half a kilometer is covered. During each tour, visitors need to walk down several hundred steep steps.
People suffering from health conditions, such as respiratory or knee problems, may participate in the tours at their own risk. We recommend wearingahatand comfortable shoes and bringing a bottle of water.
The two tours do not include a guided visit to the mausoleum of the Báb.
Please bear in mind that the Bahá'í Gardens form a part of the holiest site of the Bahá'í Faith. We therefore respectfully suggest that you wear modest clothing. Please do not bring your pets. Please do not bring weapons. We ask you not to bring any food into the gardens, and we would be particularly grateful if you kept a watchful eye on your children at all times.
All tours and visits are free of charge.
To book a tour for groups over 25, please call between Sunday and Thursday from 09.00 to 17.00 hours at 04-831 3131.