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Published: Saturday, 5/19/2001

Baha'is to dedicate gardens at Israel shrine

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

The Terraces of the Shrine of the Bab, a $250 million project to create 19 terraced gardens on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, will be dedicated Tuesday in a ceremony of special significance to the world's 5 million members of the Baha'i Faith.

“This is a big milestone in the progress toward establishing the kingdom of God on Earth that has been predicted in the Bible and other religious heritages,” said Christy Besozzi, media relations representative for the Toledo Area Baha'i Community.

There are about 144,000 Baha'is in the United States and 30 in northwest Ohio.

The Terraces, which took 10 years to build, stretch six-tenths of a mile from the base of the mountain to its peak, flanking the gold-domed Shrine of the Bab, where one of the two founders of the Baha'i Faith is buried.

Designed by Iranian-born architect Fariborz Sahba, the gardens feature fountains, ponds, flowing water, flowerbeds, walkways, trees, shrubs, balustrades, and wrought-iron gates. The construction, which also included two administrative buildings, was funded entirely by voluntary contributions from Baha'is.

“The Terraces have been designed to create an appropriate setting and approach for the Shrine of the Bab,” Mr. Sahba has said. “The Shrine is envisaged as a precious gem, for which the Terraces provide the setting, like a golden ring for a precious diamond.”

Tuesday's ceremonies will be held on the 158th anniversary of the declaration by the Bab (Arabic for “The Gate”) of his mission to prepare humanity for the imminent appearance of Baha'ullah, or “The Glory of God.” The Baha'i Faith began when Iranian nobleman Mirza Husayn-Ali announced in 1863 that he was Baha'ullah.

The Baha'i Faith, whose headquarters are in Haifa and Willamette, Ill., is monotheistic and teaches that the founders of the world's major religions, including Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, and Muhammad, are divine teachers sent by God to educate humanity through teachings and laws suited to its stage of development.

Baha'ullah taught that “the Earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens,” and his message is one of global unity and justice, including equality of the sexes. The Baha'is have their own sacred scriptures, laws, calendar, and holy days. There is no priesthood and most members meet in homes and rotate teaching duties.

Mount Carmel, a holy site for Christians and Jews, was the location of the prophet Elijah's defeat of the worshippers of Baal. The mountain became significant to Baha'is when Baha'ullah visited it in the early 1890s.

Baha'is believe that Mount Carmel is the holy mountain described in Isaiah 2:2: “And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.”

“We believe that this is setting up the ability for the nations of the world to come to the mountain of God,” Ms. Besozzi said.

The dedication of the gardens will include the premier of “Terraces of Light,” an oratorio by Norwegian composer Lasse Thoresen, and a symphony by Tajikistan composer Tolib Shahidi.

More than 4,500 people from 200 countries are expected to attend the event. The 19 terraces, which represent the Bab and his first 18 followers, will be open to the public, free of charge, beginning in June. Baha'i officials said the terraces, which will be illuminated at night, are expected to triple the number of visitors to Haifa to 1.2 million annually.

Further information about the Terraces is available online at www.bahaiworldnews.org.

Tuesday's ceremonies will be broadcast globally by satellite, including locally at the Dana Center on the campus of the Medical College of Ohio, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The public is invited and there is no admission charge.



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