|In his book "The Imaginary Voyage: With Theodor Herzl in Israel"|
Shimon Peres writes about Baha'i Faith
Used as he was to Vienna’s parks, Herzl felt right at home here, where the sacred and secular sit side by side. Elijah’s mountain is above all a mecca of spirituality. The world headquarters of the Carmelite order is here, as is the Baha’i Shrine, with its dome of twelve thousand gold tiles. Set in the midst of the sumptuous Persian Gardens, it is without doubt Haifa’s most beautiful building. The shrine houses the remains of the founder of that religion, the Bab (meaning “the Gate”), whose full name was Mirza Ali Mohammed. In the mid-nineteenth century, this Muslim of Persian origin preached a new, universal message, offering a syncretist view of the world in which brotherhood, love, and charity are joined to the notion that all monotheistic religions are basically the same; only in their dogma do they differ. Thus the Bab viewed Babism as a normal progression of earlier monotheistic faiths. Persecuted in his native Persia, the Bab was arrested and martyred in Tabriz, upon order of the Shah, in 1850. At the time of his death, Babism counted some twenty thousand adherents. For more than half a century his followers kept his remains hidden. In the early years of the twentieth century, they purchased this plot of land on Mount Carmel as a suitably majestic place for his permanent burial.
The Bab did not proclaim himself the messiah but the herald of such a one who would be called Baha’Allah. Thirteen years later, Baha’Allah announced that he was the Promised One foretold by the Bab, and renamed the faith Baha'i. For all intents and purposes, the two faiths are one and the same.
The Baha’i movement enjoyed a spectacular growth over the century and a half since his death, and today counts roughly four million adherents worldwide.
“What made the Bab’s followers choose Haifa?” Herzl asked.
“Some people say quite by chance,” I replied, “but I believe it was because Baha’Allah was kept under house arrest in Acre by the Ottoman authorities. He lived there until 1892, and after his death his son, taking advantage of the climate of tolerance under the British mandate, established the International Baha’i Center on Mount Carmel in the 1930s... ”
“... of which the shrine, which I must say is stunning, is the crowning achievement,” Herzl finished.
“After 1948,” I went on, “the new Jewish state committed to honor the Baha’i Center. There are some three thousand Baha’i faithful who live here in Haifa today, alongside Jews, Christians, and Muslims.”
“In peace and harmony,” I thought I heard Herzl murmur. I couldn’t tell whether it was a question or a comment. Assuming it was the former, I assented, “Yes, in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Jerusalem.”
I thought Herzl would also be interested to learn that, because of that peaceful coexistence in Haifa, the city also is subject to a special statute concerning the Sabbath, which was instituted under the British mandate and still applied today: in contrast to the other cities of Israel, buses in Haifa run all day Saturday, except in certain areas, and theaters, movie houses, restaurants, and discotheques remain open on the Sabbath, unless the owners chose to close for their own religious reasons. All of which makes the city a lively place seven days a week.