Saturday, January 9, 2010

Baha'i community mourns passing of former leader

Fri., November 06, 2009

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Leaders of Israel's Baha'i community will next week commemorate the recent passing of Murray Smith, former Deputy Secretary General of the Baha'i International Community.

Smith, a New Zealander who served in Israel from 1994 to 2007, died last month of cancer at the age of 67 in New Zealand. A former Labor member of parliament in his native land, Smith was a well-known and well-liked figure at diplomatic receptions and events in Israel.

The commemoration gathering will take place Thursday at the Baha'i Garden in Haifa - one of the most important holy sites for followers of the Baha'i faith. Smith's family will attend a commemoration service in New Zealand, which will be held on the same day.

"The main thing about Murray was his human warmth," said Albert Lincoln, Secretary General of the Baha'i International Community, who worked with Smith throughout Smith's service here.

According to Lincoln, that trait, coupled with Smith's experience in politics, afforded him a "very good grasp" of the Israeli parliamentary system, which Smith described as being very similar to the one in New Zealand.

"I will miss seeing his friendly face," said Ambassador Yitzhak Eldan, chief of protocol at the Foreign Ministry. "In his pleasant way, he aptly represented the principles of the Baha'i community and its international aspects, which we value very much. I was very saddened to hear about his passing at a relatively young age."

Smith served as an MP for three years until 1975. In 1989 he converted to the Baha'i faith, moving to Israel in 1994 with his wife, Miette Smith, who took up the Baha'i faith some years before he did and volunteered at the Baha'i center in Haifa as a librarian.

Believers of the Baha'i Faith refrain from alcoholic drinks, drugs, gambling, theft, violence, adultery and defamation. The Baha'i, for whom Haifa is a major holy site, are forbidden to participate in partisan activities and consider themselves to be apolitical. "From my experience I have learned that the party political system will not solve the problems of humanity", Smith said in an interview in 2007.

During the Second Lebanon War, Murray announced the Baha'i Garden will remain lit at night beyond the normal hours, as a way of "lifting the morale of the people of Haifa."

Murray Smith is survived by his wife, Miette Smith, and five children.

Haaretz israel news - English


Vaughan said...

Murray was a great man, so sincere, intelligent, a wonderful colleague, knowledgable about everything from international affairs to sport, friendly, an excellent colleague, a record of service originally to his nation and then to the New Zealand and then international Baha'i community. I miss him very much and pray for the progress of his soul.

Mark Townsend said...

It was the "Sublime Porte" of the Ottomans that said there should be no teaching in Palestine. They were the ruling government of the time. This has never been rescinded; has it? How would the Jewish State ever come to the conclusion that the Baha'i Faith should be taught deeply in Israel?
Let them discover why themselves.