This article in Newsweek reflects a commentary I heard from a friend some 10 years ago. He was working in Haifa for the Baha’i World Centre, in a capacity that meant dealing with Arab and Jewish businessmen and public servants. He came to learn this story of the request and promise of Jewish settlers in Haifa, for their Arab co-citizens to remain in Haifa.
I was particularly interested in the author, A. B. Yehoshua’s, reference to a 1902 book called, “Old New Land”, talking about Haifa as the model city of the future Jewish state. Haifa, as seen in the photo here, was still a town in 1902, but had become the World Centre of the newly born Baha’i Faith that had already begun to extend its influence to the USA.
The Baha’i Faith came to the Haifa-Akka area in 1868 by the exile of Baha’u’llah and His family and a retinue of followers to the Akka prison, by the Ottoman government. The Jewish Virtual Library notes: In 1868 Christoph Hoffman and Georg David Hardegg came from Wuttemberg, Germany to Haifa. They were members of the Templar Society . At the time, Haifa was a town of 4,000 people.” From Wikepedia: The Templers, a religious Protestant sect formed in southern Germany in the 19th century, settled in Palestine at the urging of their leader, Christoff Hoffman, in the belief that living in the Holy Land would hasten the second coming of Christ. Baha’is would agree that Hoffman’s inspiration that they would see the return of Christ, was spot on. Unfortunately, Hoffman’s preconceived idea of how that appearance would happen, hid the reality of Baha’u’llah from the Templars. Nonetheless, the Templars provided signal services to both Baha’u’llah and the development of the City of Haifa.
Shortly after the passing of Baha’u’llah in 1892, there was a thriving group of followers in the USA and the first contingent of American visitors to Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah’s son and Centre of the Covenant, arrived in Haifa in 1898. Interestingly Herzl, who wrote “Old New Land” also visited ‘Israel’ in 1898. From this group, the message of Baha’u’llah was taken to Paris. In 1901, Abdu’l-Baha’s life returned to a period of constant threat by the Ottoman Authorities who placed him under tight arrest in Akka. In this period He wrote copious letters encouraging believers across the world, approved the building of a House of Worship in Ishqabad (Turkmenistan), and built a sepulchre for the remains of the Bab on Mt Carmel.