In recent years, Haifa has more firmly established its reputation as one of the region’s most ethnically and religiously diverse cities, including among its residents Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, and Bahá’ís. In this spirit, on 29 May 2011, a special ceremony was held in the Bahá’í gardens to inaugurate the UNESCO Square for Tolerance and Peace, situated at the point where Haifa’s historic German Templer Colony meets the terraced gardens of the Shrine of the Báb. This followed the inscription, in July 2008, of the Shrines of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb, together with the surrounding buildings and gardens, on the UNESCO World Heritage List as sites of “outstanding universal value”. At the ceremony, Ms. Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, said, “I am more than convinced that the only ways to build a more peaceful and equitable world are through education and dialogue—to deepen understanding, to strengthen mutual respect, and to prepare the ground for reconciliation.”
Over the next year, the Square was developed through the addition of upgraded stonework and decorative f loral plantings in the centre of its traffic circle. In 2012, at an event to mark the completion of this work, hosted by the Bahá’í World Centre in collaboration with the Haifa Municipality and the Beit Hagefen Arab-Jewish Cultural Center, some 250 students from various high schools around Haifa came together at Beit Hagefen to explore the concept of co-existence and the theme of Haifa as a shared city. The young people then participated in a march towards the UNESCO Square for Tolerance and Peace, led by the Mayor of Haifa, a representative from Beit Hagefen, and a representative from the Bahá’í World Centre. The march ended with the symbolic release of doves representing Haifa’s international stature as the City of Peace.