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Sunday, January 02, 2011

HAIFA'S BEAUTIFUL BAHA'I GARDENS AND AN UGLY, UGLY PRISON

Baha'i Gardens  HaifaMany religions find a home in Israel, and it’s joyous to learn about other beliefs in a land where many have their roots. The Baha'i faith has its international headquarters in Haifa, and their famous gardens is the next stop on our Margaret Morse Tour. This religion was founded in the mid nineteenth century by a Persian nobleman who saw himself as the most recent messenger of God similar to Abraham, Krishna, Buddha, Zoraster, Jesus, and Mohammed. The Baha'is believe that all religions are seeking oneness—unification—as there is one God, and one people, and one earth. Given that truth, all people should come together in peace and equality. All should focus on the idea of oneness. Baha'i is an umbrella faith that encompasses all religions. One can practice his own religious customs and still remain a Baha'i. Of course other religions reject that invitation, and the Muslims persecuted the original believers. Baha'u'llah, the founder, was exiled from Persia. He came to Haifa for freedom and to establish the international headquarters. The Baha’i faith owns a significant portion of Haifa, and their shrine and gardens are located on the slope of Mt. Carmel. The Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Baha'i Gardens  Haifa

Amazingly there is no significant Baha'i community in Israel. Those of the Bahai' faith come to Haifa, spend a year or two studying and working in the world-famous Baha'i Gardens. Nature is part of the oneness, and these gardens provide a route to a Bahai's goal.

Baha'i Gardens  Haifa

When Israel became a state, she welcomed all religions, and the Baha’i followers have created an unbelievable place of beauty. On this day, we only visit the top of the gardens. Sadly we have to go through security to enter. The gardens extend down the hill, and they are places of wonder. They are a geometric cascade of hanging and terraced gardens. My photos do not begin to express the pensive mood one would have working or relaxing amidst such beauty.

Baha'i Gardens  Haifa

I can only juxtapose the extraordinary beauty of the Baha'i Gardens with the incredible ugliness of our next stop, the Prison at Akko, built atop the Crusader Walls and the Ottoman Citadel.

akka prison

One site promotes oneness and beauty while the other continued separation and hatred. During the British Mandate period, the prison was used for Jewish Resistance fighters and other political prisoners.

akka prison

It is interesting that the political prisoners came from different segments of the political spectrum with different philosophies and leadership. They were forced to interact with each other in order to make plans.

sculpture at akka prison

The gallows were used for hanging these political prisoners.

gallows at akka prison

Eight Irgun fighters were hanged here, and an eternal flame burns within in memorial to these heroes. Their names are on a plaque that hangs above the flame. Also imprisoned here at one time was Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i Faith.

Memorial Wall

There was a famous prison break from the prison in May, 1947 that made world news. For more information on this break and its repercussions, visit this link to the Jewish Virtual Library.

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