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2 posts categorized "Religion"


From the Bab to the Baha'ullah: My Baha'i pilgrimage

The moment I stepped inside I heard the most powerful sound of all: Silence. I was overwhelmed. It was no ordinary silence. It was silence that was saying something, that this was a sacred place and I should be silent to respect it. I felt as if the power of the silence was running through my veins, welcoming me into it’s holy place while reminding me to remain silent.

These were the emotions running through me when I went into the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa. Baha'is from all over the world go on a pilgrimage, in which they visit and pray at the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa and The Shrine of the Baha'ullah and the Bahji in Acco (Acre) to connect with God and pay their respects to their two holiest messengers.

Inside the shrine, two women lay their backs to the wall behind me on both sides, praying to connect themselves closer with the Bab. At the back of the interior was where the Bab is buried. Carpets lay out all over the square floor. Endless sets of candles displayed creating an image of unique composition. Four chandeliers set at the corners of the square room, with one magnificent chandelier dazzling in the middle over the square floor. Red petals laid out face down in front as if they were a placed there as a sign of mourning and honor for the Bab.

A few weeks later, I continued my pilgrimage to the site of the Bab’s successor and the holiest site of the Baha’I Faith: The Shrine and Bahji of the Baha’ullah in Acco.

I walked through a white arching balcony as if I was entering a castle and into its courtyard. There was a long narrow path in between tall trees on each side, which led to the Shrine and the Bahji (Mansion) of the Baha'ullah. Once I reached the end, with no trees blocking my view, I saw the most indescribably beautiful image I had ever seen.

You would have thought it was humanely impossible to put together such a beautiful place. I thought I was in the Garden of Eden. It was so big, so green, so evenly cut and clean. Bushes

Bushes were shaped into perfect squares.

Pots of red and purple roses on the sides of the paths of the garden's maze.

Sculptures of eagles and babies sitting on a fountain in between the roses.

Flowers designed in shapes of stars, dropped down one level, so when you walked over you would look a few feet down and see a beautifully carved star in the grass with yellow and orange flowers coloring it in.

I could smell the fresh scents of the many different kinds of flowers, whether red, purple, yellow, or organge. They all mixed together to create a unique scent.

Tall and thin trees stood mightily on the far sides. I found myself in the middle of a huge garden with these tall trees towering above me from perhaps 100 feet away. It was an incredibly overwhelming feeling.

Down at the end, was the Shrine of the Baha'ullah, where is laid to rest, and to it's left the Bahji, a Mansion where the Baha'ullah lived the last 12 years of his life (1879-1891). It was a huge mansion with blue colored on the doors up on it's balcony.

We were all instructed to take off our shoes before entering the shrine, to respect the religious integrity of the Baha'i Faith's holy site. And again, just like Haifa, the very moment I stepped foot onto the first of many Persian rugs laid down on the ground, I heard the most powerful sound again: silence.

I was taken into a different world. I could sense the entire group's awe as we walked around small square room with Persian carpets laid down on a path circling a small garden in the middle of the room.

Lamps lit around the inside garden.

Rooms for prayer were on the sides with carpets hanging as curtains.

And then, there was the memorial site. In the corner of the room, people lined up to peak through a small squared cage on the wall. Above it was a golden colored clock with the word "Baha'ullah" written inside of it in Arabic script. (Baha’i scriptures were originally written in Persian, but are usually written in Arabic these days).

It was damp inside with lamps inside lit along with many glowing candles, some with fire, some with electricity, around a chandelier on a carpet where the Baha'ullah is laid to rest.

I couldn't describe the emotions running through my mind. I was in the presence of the resting place of the Baha'ullah, the most important figure of the newest Persian religion. It was only over a century ago when he lived next door.

The Baha’ullah settled in Akko, Israel in 1879 where he lived the last 12 years of his life. Back then, he would embrace Baha'i pilgrims to come, pray, and preach and teach them god's messages. Baha'is to this day come to meditate in the rooms covered with the carpet curtains to connect with god and the holy messengers.

May 29th is the day most Baha'is around the world come to the Shrine of the Baha'ullah because that was when he passed away. This May will mark the 124th year anniversary of his passing and I hope to observe the commemoration.





My Arrival to the Holy Land

I made the decision to leave to Israel two days before my actual program with CIEE started, so i could meet up with family friends I have not seen in years. Upon my arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, I was greeted with a leap into a language I have grown up around but never actually understood. Aside from reading Hebrew prayers in synagogue and singing songs at the Shabbat table, my father speaks fluent Hebrew with his friends all the time. However he never thought to teach my brother, sister, and I. Thanks dad. This could have come in handy right now as I spend my year here. It was quite confusing since at this moment I was on my own with no one to actually translate to me where the airport coffee shop was to meet my family friends. When I finally found them an hour had passed and they weren't too happy. Guess I should have preordered my Israeli cell phone huh? Whoops. Anyway, the next two days instead of actually spending time with them I pretty much slept because of the awful jet lag. But nevertheless they were very nice about it and I will definitely make it up to them when I get the chance. Two days later I found myself back at the airport to meet the people who I would be spending most of the semester with. One by one a new exhausted face made their way off their flights and over to our meeting spot. Surprisingly, even though they all had just gotten off a long international flight, everyone was pretty bubbly for the most part. Once everyone was gathered together we made our way to our tiny bus covered in Israeli ads that would take us to our new home in Haifa. Having been to Israel once before I sort of knew what to expect from the landscape and cities. But it was very exciting to listen to the wonder and curiosity of my fellow group members. Other than myself, one other person in my group also had been to Israel before. So we both tried to give a bit of our input from what we both had previously seen. We slowly began winding our way up the side of a mountain, all of us anticipating the sight of the Haifa dorms. When we finally made it to the top we were greeted with what looked like a typical US college campus. We received our dorm assignments and we're sent on our way. The dorm is pretty decent, especially since the CIEE group was placed in the Talia dorms which are the "nicer" of the University of Haifa living facilities. Each dorm room has six separate bedrooms in it, with each room consisting of private bathrooms for each person. We all share a kitchen and a living area in each dorm too. Everyone in our CIEE group became good friends pretty quickly. We are all from different states and universities from around the US. The Haifa International School however, consists of students from all over the world. Students from Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, as well as the US. In my dorm alone we are two Americans, one German, and three local Israelis. I think my favorite part about living in Haifa so far aside from the utter beauty of it, is the diversity of the people. I can actually say that I have not experienced any type of culture shock this last month, aside from language barriers. Life in Haifa and Israel seems very westernized and comfortable. I don't think it really hit me that I am in such a different place until I visited Jerusalem with the International School. Seeing the ancient architecture and the strong basis religion has on such a tiny country was peculiar but enticing. I definitely did not feel that way when visiting Tel Aviv, although I loved the city vibe it gives off. (In Tel Aviv) Image
But being in a city that is considered so holy and rich in history to many religions really gave me the sense of why this country is one of the most "talked about" issues in everyday news. I am looking forward to spending the weekend in Jerusalem with CIEE and experiencing more of what the city has to offer. This last weekend being spent in Tel Aviv was very cool. CIEE took us to see a live band called "Heartbeat" which works to bring together Israeli Jewish and Palestinian young adults to make music and discuss important issues. They were very cool, and had awesome voices. Image
We also received a tour of an abandoned bus station in Tel Aviv which Not only has a very upbeat art scene, but is also a place where many refugees from Sudan and Darfur come to find work. The whole bus station not only turns into a daily market, but also consists of a church, a clinic, and the only Yiddish Museum in Israel. It was definitely an experience, and I am glad I got to see it. Anyway, that's all for now, Hebrew homework is calling my name! Shalom! Image