We met a few other pilgrims to the Baha’i Holy places in Israel, in the TelAviv airport. Together we took a ‘sheroot’ bus from TelAviv airport to our B&B in Haifa. The driver was enthusiastic to reassure us he would look after us, and he was true to his word. Apart from the general salubriousness of being among a larger group of like minded people than we are commonly used to, a Baha’i pilgrimage offers proximity with many people from all corners of the Earth who have interesting tales and knowledge to share.
Our first day in Haifa is orientation. We are staying on top of Mt Carmel and the walk down the mountain in night or day provides marvellous views. When Haifa was a small town at the early 20th century, the head of the Baha’i Faith told a visitor that one day there would be light of a city around the bay. That day has come and it is almost astounding to think of the great expansion in a hundred years. It tells me that we have no idea how the world will be in another hundred years. I think if we could be around, we would be gobsmacked. Reminds me that my grandmother once sighed how much change there had been as she was a child in horse and carriage era and lived to see man walk on the moon. We humans have such a penchant for taking things for granted. What a wonderful capacity! We do something great. Tomorrow we think it is ordinary. The next day we do something greater.
But I digress. Back to the walking. I walked up the public stairs on Mount Carmel on the evening of our first day, but not thereafter although I walked down everyday. Felt very fit by the end of the week. Israelis like dogs and walk them regularly. One day a woman passed me with a beautiful black great dane with a muzzle, but he was very friendly. I never heard a dog barking incessantly. Maybe they keep them indoors and well trained.
Our first day of pilgrimage consisted of a visit to the Shrine of the Bab (1819 – 1852), one of the two founders of the Faith. The Bab was executed in the north of Persia by a squad of 750 soldiers so that his body was severely mangled. His remains were secreted from Persia to Haifa until they were interred on Mt Carmel in 1909. Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the other founder of the Faith and the head of the Faith from 1892 – 1921, is also interred in that shrine. Abdu’l-Baha built the basic shrine. His grandson and the head of the Faith after him, then raised a superstructure with a golden dome. Over the past decade, the world governing body of the Baha’i Faith, known as the Universal House of Justice, realised a set of nineteen terraces (9 above and 9 below the shrine) running from the bottom of Mt Carmel at the end of Ben Gurion avenue to the top of Carmel bordered by Panorama street.