OUR PILGRIMAGE JOURNEY TO HAIFA, ISRAEL
We waited for seven years, fearful that it would never happen. We were too old, too crippled up, didn't have enough money, who knows what else!
But it did happen! And on June19, 2004, Betty brought Mary over, Ruth got our bags into her van and off we went to the airport. We checked in and got our boarding passes and sat down to wait after Bob got his wheel chair. He sat down in it and dropped his film, never even attempted to pick it up! Jeannie (she met us at the airport to see us off) picked it up. And he said, "I was going to get it." REALLY!
We were all three of us so excited, nervous and agog at the airport. Betty was so worried about her mother and us because we didn't seem to know what we were doing. (But we did.) She was afraid that we would get lost and afraid that Mary would not make it back home. She watched as her mother limped around with her cane and winced when it hurt so much as she took a step. Tears came to Betty's eyes and she cried on the way home from the airport.
When Bob went through the detector the buttons on his overalls made it go off. He wore them because they were the most comfortable pants he had. So, he had to be thoroughly inspected even his feet and shoes. Of course, he passed. We had a good trip to Newark, New Jersey, where we had about a three and a half hour lay over. We rode the tram to our gate to Tel Aviv but decided to go to the food court even though we had a walk there and back with a rest in between.
We discovered that we had to wait in line for our boarding
passes but I told the attendants that Bob and Mary could not
stand in line so they took us in front of every one else. We
found that happening all along the way. There was a lady who had
told us she didn't
need to go check in so I told the attendant and he went over and got her. Most of the people with Continental were very helpful and gracious. Then it was time to go.
Bob had called earlier in the week and asked for seats by the bulkhead but our seats were in front of the 'wall' next to the rest rooms and we were very uncomfortable for the ten hour ride. But we made it! Every two hours or so one of us had to get up to go to the rest room. That kept our circulation going and we had no problems.
We were on a BIG plane, a 777; nine seats across, with two
aisles and way over two hundred passengers plus at least fifteen
crew members. There were about twelve rest rooms and all in use
constantly. We slept very little. The time difference from Newark
to Tel Aviv is seven hours; Tel Aviv at 7:00a.m.and Newark at
2:00p.m. We left Newark at 10:00p.m.and arrived in Tel Aviv
around 3:00p.m. (Newark time 8:00a.m.)
We waited on the plane in Tel Aviv for the lift where there were wheel chairs waiting for us. It was quite a ways to the terminal so we rode over on the lift. A young man was helping us and he told Bob if he was going to tip him to please do it before we got to the terminal as he wasn't supposed to take anything there. I bet! So Bob gave him five U.S. dollars. Mary and Bob were both in wheel chairs and he took us straight to the VIP
immigration desk where it took only a few minutes to get our visas for three months and then to get our luggage and by-pass customs. The young man was walking along pushing a cart with our luggage and talking to a lady from customs and took us right out the door. He found the taxi service (Isram) that had been arranged for us by Tony Lease travel agency. The girl at their counter was named Moran and she took us out to the taxi. She said that she had never heard a southern accent before and she thought it was so sweet.
We were taken quite a long distance to our hotel, The Metropolitan, where a room was reserved for us. We were very tired by then so when Jennifer Rush, from Austin, called to tell us she was going to the beach, which was a couple blocks from the hotel, we told her that we were too tired to go. We could see the beautiful azure Mediterranean Sea from our 13th floor window. Its sandy coast really looked inviting, I wished we were not so tired. It is so blue and is very beautiful all along the coast from Tel Aviv to Haifa to Akka. We had two rooms, one large bed and a couch made up to a bed. We were comfortable.
On Monday, the next morning, we were up early and waiting for
our Isram driver by 6:30 a.m. He came late and said something
about the police. We didn't really understand him but he was in a
big hurry to go and get back from Haifa, which is about 59 miles
from Tel Aviv. So we got there in a hurry. His wife was with him
and she told us about the
country on the way to Haifa.
He took us to our hotel, the Dan Panorama, where we had to wait about thirty minutes for our room to get ready. We were nervous because we thought we should be at the pilgrim center before twelve o'clock, but that wasn't so.
We got a cab after settling into our room and since we didn't know exactly where to go and I guess the driver didn't either, we got out where we had to walk down a hill and then back up so when we saw steps we said, "0 No". A young lady went inside and told them we needed help, so a man came out and took us to an elevator. That was a big help and we used that elevator ever after.
The new pilgrim center in Haifa has three stories. The top
floor has the auditorium with a back door going outside, that we
used often to get a taxi; the second floor has a large
dining area and a kitchen and closet and office space for the people that work there and take care of the pilgrims. The bottom floor has bathrooms and I don't know what else but the elevator took us up to the second and third floors and also down to the bathrooms.
We registered as pilgrims in the building next door to the newer pilgrim house. A breezeway links them together. There is a reception room and offices for the people who work there taking care of the pilgrims. Jean Ferrell had advised me to ask for a guide named Marsha Lample.
We didn't even have to ask for her as we were assigned to group B and she was our guide. She is a beautiful woman both inside and outside. She's a tall dark skinned woman who has long beautiful black hair with a gorgeous ready smile. Stories flow from her like the water from the fountains in the gardens. She's married to Mr. Lample who is a Counselor at the Teaching Center. We fell in love with her.
After orientation we were taken immediately to the Shrines of
the Bab and `Abdu'l-Baha. I felt spiritually numb as we walked
in. It's such a spiritual place that it generated that spirit
throughout the entire group. The feeling was as if we were in
another world: the Kingdom of God. There were several people with
us, so we filled the room that was the Shrine of `Abdu'l-Baha.
Mary had to sit down on a step before we reached there, as
someone was saying a long prayer and out of respect everyone was standing still. She sat on the curb. The lady in charge got worried about her, so got her a chair so she could sit down in the Shrine. Mary became very emotional as she was alone for a while and as she was ready to leave she went out to get her shoes, which one takes off before going into the Shrine. When a young Persian man helped her get them on, she almost broke down and cried. Then we went around to the Shrine of the Bab, which is on the opposite side, to say prayers.
The Shrine is so awesome it took our breath away. The white
marble walls with arches, columns and spires lead up to the pure
golden dome. There is not a speck of tarnish on the dome or the
walls or the spires or the columns or the arches. Nine terraces
lead up to the Shrine and then nine more terraces from the Shrine
up to the top of Mount Carmel. Each terrace is embellished with
beautiful gardens set out in precise order and arrangement. Each
has urns and fountains and lights and different colored flowers.
The Guardian set eight pointed stars in the gardens, each one
bordered by blue-green shrubs and flowers set out in the center.
Beautiful Cyprus trees are all over the place, at all the Shrines
bordering the gardens. Outside of the gardens are planted flowers
varieties; those that are native to the area. They are not for people to walk in. The Shrine is a major attraction to the people of Haifa and to tourists who are given tours of the gardens. They have been called the "Eighth Wonder of the World". The busiest avenue of Haifa lines up to the gardens and when one drives towards the Shrine at night with all the lights on, it looks like a fairyland. Because there was no light, not even a candle, for the Bab when He was a prisoner, there are lights everywhere around the Shrine.
The Bab was the forerunner of Baha'u'llah. He announced to all the coming of "He Whom God would make manifest". He was arrested and put before a firing squad in 1850; just six years after the announcement of His Revelation. His body was taken by his followers and hidden away from the clerics and government for some sixty years. Finally He was brought to Haifa and laid to rest in the Shrine.
Baha'u'llah, Himself, had traveled to Mount Carmel, 'the Hill
of God and His vineyard' and pointed out to His Son,
`Abdu'l-Baha, (which means "The Servant of Glory') the site where
the Shrine was to be built. `Abdu'l-Baha had six rooms erected
and laid with His -
own hands the earthly remains of the Bab in them. Later the magnificent Shrine, as it is now, was completed by the Guardian of the Faith after the passing of 'Abdul-Baba. The Terraces were completed recently and an inaugural event marking the official opening of them was held in May, 2001. Many officials from Israel were present as well as Baha'is from all over the world including Beverly and Fred Orio and many of our old friends from Belize. When they flew back to Houston, Foy and Yvonne Justice; Jeannie, Sarah, and Timothy; and Bob and I drove down and visited with them during the four-hour layover. That was special. The Terraces were completed by the Universal House of Justice and Baha'is around the world contributed to the fund to finish them.
When `Abdu'l-Baha passed away in 1921 He was also interred in the Shrine. There are now two Holy places for the pilgrims to visit and say prayers.
After this very spiritual experience we rested until time to go to the center for a presentation by Hand of the Cause Dr. Varga. I think jetlag caught up with Bob and me as we sat back in the auditorium so we didn't hear much of what he said and slipped into a nap. I am so sorry but that happens sometimes even when one is old! He talked mostly about the Baha'is having love for all people and showing it in their actions. He is getting quite elderly now and is the only Hand of the Cause left. These people are very devoted Baha'is and Baha'u'llah appointed four while He was here; `Abdu'l-Baha appointed some and then the Guardian named several. They were like the Hands of the Head of the Faith who donated their lives to helping Him.
After stuffing ourselves with the breakfast set before us at
the morning buffet, in the hotel, which included everything
except meat, we hailed a taxi and knowing where to go this time
went to the pilgrim center where buses took us to the Shrine
Our trip was interesting. All along the road were beautiful flowers; oleanders of red, white, and pink and bougainvillea of many colors growing on the walls and fences. Many big business buildings are along the road with many new ones going up. `Abdu'l-Baha predicted that Akka and Haifa would be like one city in the future and that's now and they are.
Bob and Mary were given wheel chairs at the new pilgrim center that is a short distance from the Mansion that `Abdu'l-Baha rented for His Father, and the Shrine of Baha'u'llah that is next to the Mansion. A large parking lot is available for the buses, taxis, and cheroots (taxis that hold ten people). There are two paths leading to the gate into the Shrine, one is red gravel for walkers and one is black topped for wheelchairs. All along the way are flowers and shrubs and trees. Then one goes through the gate that has either Baha'is or hired people to watch, then up the path to the Shrine. The Baha'is are quite aware of the terrorists and guard against them. At the end of the red gravel path is the Shrine. Red geraniums in one bed and flowers of different colors alongside them with urns holding beautiful flowers and statues of eagles lead to the Shrine. A beautiful rug covers the steps leading to a carved oak door. Each one must remove his shoes before entering the Shrine walking through a hall that leads to a room with a rectangular garden in the center of the room with paths around it covered with rugs where the pilgrims may kneel in prayer or simply stand and pray. Chairs were placed in the back of the room for those like Mary and Bob who could not stand. I went into a side room with several others where we all stood and bowed our heads while someone chanted the Tablet of Visitation. After it was over I got so choked, coughing and sneezing and carried on so much that I had to leave. Soon Mary joined me and we went into the gardens and sat down to look at the beauty while waiting on Bob. We all went back to the bus and rode back to Haifa and the pilgrim house where we were escorted to the seat of the Universal House of Justice. The chairman of the day talked to us, then each of the seven members of the Universal House of Justice who were present walked around and shook hands with each pilgrim.
Glenford Mitchell, Peter Khan, Hooper Dunbar, Mr. Grossman, Douglas Martin, Kiser Barnes, Dr. Javaheri were the members present; Ian Semple was not well and Dr. Arbab was out of town.
Mr. Mitchell stopped and after shaking hands with me said, "I know you." I told him my name and that the boys, Roy and Will, and I had gone to Jamaica and met his uncle and brothers. He said that three of his brothers were in New York and had their own business. While we were in Jamaica the boys and I had gone out to the country for a weekly fireside with a family of Baha'is with one of his brothers. He went every week about 60 miles. The family had no electricity and met us with a lantern as we got there after dark. There were several members of the family present and a friend who wanted to know more about the Faith.
The members of the Universal House of Justice always welcome the pilgrims as do all the people at the World center.
After resting we went down to a café in the shopping center connected to the hotel and ate a salad and ordered a lunch for the next day. Bob took it up to our room and put it in the refrigerator as he was too tired to go back to the center and wanted to soak his feet.
Mary and I hailed a taxi and went to the courtyard, an area
around the Shrine of the Bab. There were many chairs put out for
the people who worked there and for the pilgrims. We were
celebrating the Declaration of the Bab, which they celebrate by
calendar and we by the solar calendar. Many of the seven hundred people who work there from around the world were attending. Several prayers and the Tablet of Visitation were recited and then most people circumambulated (walked around) the Shrine, but Mary and I didn't feel like we could make it so we sat there and waited while David, from Canada, and Larry from Illinois, walked for us. Then we took a cab to the hotel for our much needed sleep.
Some of the pilgrims went early this morning to the pilgrim center for dawn prayers but we couldn't make it. So we ate our breakfast at the hotel and got our bags of lunch, hailed a taxi and went about 8:00 a.m. A bus was ready to take us to the city of Akka where Baha'u'llah and His entire family and some of His followers were sent as prisoners. Akka was a prison city for the Turkish government. They sent their political prisoners and others there to die. Baha'u'llah named it "The Most Great Prison'' even though He was imprisoned in the Siyah-Chal (a dungeon in Teheran which was originally a reservoir of water for one of the public baths of the capital) for around four months. We walked through the rocky streets, that were impossible to push a wheel chair through and someone helped Mary to walk on, to the prison that had been used as a barracks for the Turkish soldiers. Baha'u'llah was imprisoned in one room and forbidden that she had a bad voice but he asked her again and then to see anyone. The others were kept in other rooms, many to a room, and not given food or water that night even though they begged for a drink. Two brothers died locked in each other's arms, from malnutrition and other deprivations.
A very sad thing happened while they were in this prison. Baha'u'llah's son, Mirza Mihdi, was walking on the roof of the barracks so intent in his prayer that he did not notice the skylight and fell thru puncturing his lung on a broken crate. His dying
supplication to a grieving Father was that his life might be accepted as ransom for those who were prevented from attaining the presence of their Beloved. Marsha told us about his mother, Navaab, crying for her lost son, and how Baha'u'llah comforted her by telling her what he had died for. The Universal House of Justice has marked the spot where he fell with bricks and posts at each end and side of the area.
We were in the very desolate room that Baha'u'llah was kept in for two years, two months and five days. We looked out the window of the room where he waved to the Baha'is who had walked from Persia to get a glimpse of Him. We saw the Sea and the plain where they stood and watched for Him. The Turkish government once again took the prison as a barracks for the soldiers so the Prisoners were taken out and put under house arrest.
From the prison Baha'u'llah was directly transferred to three houses and then to the
house of `Abbud. He was there under house arrest for seven years.
We walked up the steep stairs to this house. It is divided into
two parts, the eastern part which was the
house of 'Udi Khammar and the western part, which was the house of 'Abbud himself The eastern section was so insufficient for the family that thirteen persons were in one room. Later `Abbud learned that the wedding of "Abdu'l-Baha was put off because there was no room so he provided a room for them. Later he turned over the western portion of the house to the Baha'is.
After Baha'u'llah passed away `Abdu'l-Baha continued to stay
there. It is a nice house and this is where Baha'u'llah revealed
His Book of Laws. We heard stories about the family from our
guide, Mrs. Lample, and that made it more interesting. One of
them was that `Abdu'l-Baha heard that Baha'u'llah had remarked
that it had been nine years since He had gazed on verdure (green
plants). He heard of a Palace, vacated by the owner, called
Mazra'ih and rented it for Baha'u'llah and begged Him to go live
Baha'u'llah said that He was still a prisoner. Finally 'Abdu'l-Baha asked a friend to talk to Him and then Baha'u'llah consented to go. It is a beautiful place now surrounded by flowers, shrubs and trees and owned by the Baha'is. I walked down a step and a path
among the lemon trees that were planted along the side of the Palace.
Each place was furnished, by the Guardian, with pictures,
especially those taken of the Baha'is, and of the House of
Worship in Willmette, Illinois, and other relics and
furnished as much as possible as it originally was. We never had time to go into all the rooms of any of the houses. When they were first released from the barracks, as it was taken over once again for the soldiers, most of the companions were sent to a caravanserai, named the Khan-I-Avamid (Inn of the Pillars). The Baha'is lived mostly in the western and southern wings of the caravanserai on the top floor. The bottom floor was used for the animals. It was very tiring to walk over all these places but we could see what a desolate place this area was for the prisoners. Everything was mostly stone and brick and not many green plants even now.
We took the bus back to the pilgrim center, had our lunch and
rested. It was late by the time we got back so we didn't go to
the hotel. After a wee rest we went to hear Mr. Barnes, a member
of the Universal House of Justice, and did we ever love him. He
is a large African-American from the United States and has a
great sense of humor. He not only has a sense of humor, but has
such a loving manner that we all fell in love with him and wanted
to bring him home with us. He told us about Hand of the Cause,
Samandari asking a young lady to chant a prayer before he spoke. She refused saying told her that when a Hand of the Cause asks you to chant, you chant. So she chanted. It was awful! After she finished, he told her to always refuse no matter who insisted. We all laughed and so did Mr. Barnes. Then back to the hotel to bed.
We had our usual sumptuous breakfast at the hotel. Then we met our group at the pilgrim center and went in a taxi, as it was too far for Mary and Bob to walk, to a terrace going up the mountain from the Shrine of the Bab. It was a beautiful awe inspiring view, nine terraces going up all the way to the top of Mount Carmel. Marsha told us how `Abdu'l-Baha, while still a prisoner of the government, stood on the balcony of the House of `Abbud and looking with binoculars supervised the erection of the six room Mausoleum. A bridge goes over a street that the city of Haifa lowered for the terrace to be built over it. The city offered to help in the construction of the terraces but were told that the Baha'is would support it. They were asked if they could lower the street for the bridge to go over and that would be acceptable and they did. We took pictures and gazed with awe on so much beauty; red geraniums blooming in three-foot wide gardens all along the pathways with flowers of many colors bordering them. The urns, fountains, and flowers were so beautiful and Marsha's stories were captivating.
After using our eyes and ears as much as possible we returned to the hotel and called the daughter of a dear friend from Oklahoma, Nageen Mollaian. Nageen, her six-week old baby girl, Alia, and another daughter of a friend from Oklahoma, Melody Hakim, came by the hotel to visit. Nageen looked the same as she did when she was two, only grown up now. Later in the evening she brought her husband, Victor, to the auditorium to meet us. They both work at the World Center.
The second 'most great thing' about pilgrimage is meeting Baha'is from around the world, who are also on pilgrimage; and seeing those wonderful Baha'is who work there. The dining area is such a great place to meet each other. We sat around and talked and asked questions; Where are you from? How long have you been Baha'is? Do you know so and so? There are three long tables with plenty of chairs for every one to sit in. Also water, coffee and even tea. In the kitchen is a long cabinet with dishes and silverware for pilgrims to use. A very large refrigerator is for the pilgrims use also. We met Baha'is from all over the United States, from Australia, Solomon Islands, Europe, St. Kitts, and other places.
We had dinner at the little café in the shopping center: hamburger with French fries and salad, excellent.
Mr. Douglas Martin was our speaker for the night. He also is a member of the Universal House of Justice and is from Canada. He spoke about the Five Year Plan and the study circles and telling people about the Faith. He also advised us to not let what is going on in the world upset us, that God has a plan and we don't know what is going to happen next. But we should also know what is going on in the world.
Friday 15: After breakfast we went to the pilgrim center and met with our group then went to the International Teaching Center. We met in the large auditorium that has beautiful blue upholstery and a curtain across the stage that looks like squares of wood but is cloth. We all sat down and listened to Ms. Penny Walker, a member of the International Teaching Center. She, of course, talked about teaching. Then we went into a large reception room where we mingled and discussed what was going on in our communities with the other pilgrims and met the other two members. Nine members of the Continental Counselors are appointed to the International Teaching Center and are stationed in the Holy Land and given special duties.
We went back to the pilgrim's center and ate our lunch and had a good time with the rest of the pilgrims.
Bob went back to the hotel to soak his sore, aching feet and
Mary and I went along with a group of ten to the Shrine of
Baha'u'llah. Each chipped in and we hired a cheroot, a ten
passenger taxi, and rode out to Akka and on to the Shrine which
is about four miles from Akka. Mona and Sana and their son, Nima;
Rob and Natalia Chalmers, brother of an Austin Baha'i; Larry
McGhee from Chicago; David, from Canada; Tony Tomson, from
Australia; and Mary and I were the pilgrims there this day. We
said prayers at the Shrine, walked through the gardens taking in
the beauty, and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. We had asked the
cheroot driver to return for us about 4:00 p.m. but he didn't
show so we, nine of us, got in another one. Nima was too busy at
the Shrine so we left him to get another taxi as he was a grown
boy. He did show up later. There are buses as well as taxis going
back and forth. Sunset on Friday is the beginning of the Sabbath
Israelites and the Baha'is respect that. So we had no program this night; we rested and we needed it.
Saturday 26: This was our group's day to visit the Archives and we were all excited. A very nice young man from South Africa named Andre was our guide. They made sure there were chairs at each place for Bob and Mary to sit in while they looked at the objects in the cabinets. The first cabinet we saw was the one with the photograph of Baha'u'llah. The next cabinet had three portraits of Baha'u'llah; they had been done in black and white and Ruhiyyih Khanum had them colored. We stood and gazed on them for several minutes before going to the next cabinet that held a picture of the Bab. We also gazed on it for several minutes but don't remember to tell anyone what They looked like. I remember that I thought Shoghi Effendi looked like Baha'u'llah. And I thought how wonderful to be able to see what They looked like and to look on the Face of two Manifestations of God. I wonder would I have known Them if I had been alive at that time? We never know.
We went on to the next cabinet that held many relics from the
Day when Baha'u'llah was alive and things that He used. One
cabinet held hair that His daughter, Bahiyyah Khanum, had saved
and arranged in a wavy pattern along with His razor and some
dishes He had used. There were some clothes that He had worn and
many pictures of Baha'is of the early days. Letters and other
relics of the history of the Faith were stored in some
cabinets. One cabinet held the clothes the Bab had worn when He was executed. The stain of blood was on the front of the shirt; that made us cry. Some of the headdresses of Baha'u'llah as well as clothes of `Abdul'-Baha were kept.
One cabinet had a letter from `Abdu'l-Baha's mother to Him when He had been to where she was staying and didn't see her. She was upset. Mona read them and told us what the letter said. She is a red-haired Persian who lives in Florida now.
There are two balconies with relics and letters that we walked
upstairs to see. Mary walked up with some help, but Bob didn't
even try going up the stairs as his feet were hurting. This was
an awesome experience. The Guardian had the Archives Building
erected before he passed away and furnished it with pictures on
the walls and the
Afterwards, we went with Dania and her two children, Leyla and Vahid, to a Chinese restaurant and then next door for ice cream. We had been advised to not eat in a place that did not have a guard but this one did, a nice young man outside checking out all customers. Dania was divorced but got married right after getting home from pilgrimage. She called her mother from Israel to get permission to marry him. I got an e-mail from Leyla and she said it was a nice wedding and they really liked their new step father.
Then, Mary, Bob and I walked up the hill to our hotel: it
wasn't easy but we enjoyed the sights as we were not able to walk
much to see the city, only from the taxi to the hotel when it
stopped in front of the door. Bob stopped at a McDonalds and
hamburgers to take for lunch the next day. We kept them in the refrigerator in our room that night and in the huge refrigerator in the kitchen at the pilgrim center the next day.
That night a counselor from the International Teaching Center gave a talk. She spoke of telling people about the Baha'i Faith and telling them how they can join if they would like to. She said that we should explain to them and give them a card. I knew that Bob would love her and he did. She played a guitar and we all sang along with her. Then she left her guitar so the young people could play and sing while we went back to the hotel to rest.
Sunday 27: Once again we visited the Mansion at Bahji and also went into the Shrine of Baha'u'llah to say prayers. Then to the House of 'Abdu'llah Pasha where 'Abdu'l-Baha watched with binoculars to see how the construction of the Shrine of the Bab was coming along because He was under house arrest and couldn't go to Haifa.
But first we went to the pilgrim center that is close to the
Shrine of Baha'u'llah. It was built recently to accommodate many
pilgrims. There is a large reception room with seating for groups
to rest and visit, three or four small rooms for visitors to
store articles while visiting the Shrine and the Mansion. There
is a large dining room and must be a kitchen with an oven as one
the caretakers baked a cake and served it to us after we ate
lunch; also nice rest rooms. With 200 pilgrims coming twice a
month that is really
We went to the garden that Baha'u'llah called Ridvan (Rezvan) that means 'Paradise'. We sat on beautiful white carved benches and looked at the beauty of the flowers and fountains and the green shrubs and trees thinking about Baha'u'llah living in the barracks and in the city of Akka for ten years; how He must have enjoyed the flowers. There is a small room in the garden where Baha'u'llah would go. We sat on the steps outside while someone said a prayer, as there was no room for chairs inside. A very nice, gentle, elderly Persian man served us apple juice while we sat in the garden. It is a very peaceful spot.
This night Glenford Mitchell answered questions. He came into the auditorium and sat down in a chair with the audience. The he jumped up and said, "I guess I'm supposed to talk." He said that he would answer questions but on some he said 'not now'. So, I guess he either didn't know or thought it was not the time. None of us asked questions.
Monday 28: After another large breakfast we went outside the
hotel and as usual several taxis went by so we hailed one and
went to the Golomb Street Gate that is the main gate to the
buildings on the Arc. The first building that we visited was the
International Teaching center. This building houses the offices
of the nine Counselors who are appointed every five years to
serve in Haifa. Counselors are appointed by the Universal House
of Justice and serve in different parts of the world for the
Protection and for
Propagation of the Baha'i Faith.
The building is beautiful but very practical. We went on the elevator up to the second for to see the building closer. There are people working in their offices so we couldn't go everywhere. It was a pleasure to be able to see these building that we have read about and that most of us helped to pay for. Baha'is all over the world contribute for these buildings and other expenses at the world center to be done.
One of the buildings has a skylight that carries light all the way down to the floors, about six of them, under the ground. I can't remember which building it is. Then we went to the Seat of the Universal House of Justice. Bob, Mary and I went in the side door so we didn't have to walk up the steps. We rode the elevator up to the second floor where Dr. Varga's office is. He told Marsha we could all come in and speak to him so we went in one by one. He is a delightful man and very dedicated to the Faith. He has served The Faith for many years.
Then to the hall where `Abdu'l-Baha's portrait hangs. We had seen it in Arizona when we visited Desert Rose Institute before the artist sent it to Haifa. He told us it was going to hang there and he gave us a copy of it while we were there. People were working in the offices so we didn't go to the end of the hall where it hangs. Then we went down to the banquet room where a long, large table is waiting for banquets! There have been a few banquets when the House of Justice entertains a King or President. It was all very lovely.
Then to the Center for the Study of the Texts that is another fabulous building but practical. The Universal House of Justice said, "The Center for the Study of the Texts is the seat of an institution of scholarly research designed to assist the Universal House of Justice in consulting the Sacred Writings, and to prepare translations of, and commentaries on, the authoritative Texts of the Faith." It also serves as a temporary home of the International Baha'i Library and other offices until the library is built. The Library will be the next building on the Arc.
All the buildings have columns around the entrance and are a pure white made of marble. Chandeliers are all special made for each building to suit the style of the building. A small house near by holds a history of the Baha'i Faith and visitors may apply for a tour. We saw pictures of dear friends from Oklahoma and many relics of the early days from Iran; a piece of the chain that was around Baha'u'llah's neck when He was a prisoner in the Ciyah-Chal and many pictures of the early Baha'is in Iran.
Finally Marsha called a taxi for us so we could go back to the hotel and rest before the nightly presentation.
Mr. Rob Von Cyechos gave a talk and of course he talked about teaching. They all talked about the Study Circles that teach us all how to teach and what to teach and how to live the life of a Baha'i, in other words, do as the Universal House of Justice asks us to do. He is a member of the International Teaching Center.
Tuesday 29: This was the last day of our pilgrimage and full as usual. After breakfast we took a taxi to #7 Haparsin Street where we met the rest of our group. This was the house of `Abdu'l-Baha who had it built before finishing the Shrine of the Bab. As soon as the house was finished He moved His sister, The Greatest Holy Leaf, and His grandson, Shoghi Effendi to it. `, Abdu'l-Baha moved a short time later. This is where `Abdul-Baha lived when He passed away. We went to #4 Haparsin Street that served as the pilgrim house for the Western believers. While we were there Marsha told us this story: May Maxwell was a Baha'i from the United States and when `Abdu'l-Baha passed away she was so heart broken that she was very sick so her husband suggested that she should make a trip to Haifa to visit Shoghi Effendi, who had been appointed by `Abdu'l-Baha as Guardian of the Faith. So she and her daughter, Mary, went on a ship, which took them a month, to Israel. They stayed in the house at #4 Haparsim Street and when May was resting, Mary, who was thirteen and very protective of her mother, went to the door, and not ever having seen the Guardian before, asked who he was. When he told her she was so startled and rattled that she ran to her mother's room and hardly able to talk she said," He's here".
`Abdu'l-Baha had an apartment built upstairs for the Guardian and when he and Mary were married they lived there. The Guardian called Mary, Ruhiyyih Khanum. That is what we know her as. The house on #7 Haparsim is beautiful; the original furnishings are still there. Ruhiyyih Khanum and `Abdu'l-Baha both were living in this house when they passed away, He in 1921 and she in 2000. We also visited #4 Haparsim street that was started by 'Abdu'l-Baha and finished by the Guardian. It housed the Western Pilgrims and also served as the Seat of the International Baha'i Council. Then it served as the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and later as the Seat of the International Teaching Center. Currently the offices of the Baha'i International Community Secretariat are located there and also other offices. All of the buildings were constructed of stone and are very lovely.
I wanted to go to the Monument Gardens so went to the pilgrim center and got a key to the gate and we walked up the hill through the gate and into that hallowed spot. The bodies of Baha'u'llah's daughter, Bahiyyih Khanum, "The Greatest Holy Leaf"; `Abdul'Baha's wife, Munira Khanum, and His brother, Mirza Midhi and His mother, Naavab, were buried. There are beautiful gardens all around the Monuments that are the center for the five buildings which form an Arc around them. Each of them is of white marble with steps leading up to a platform with six or seven columns and a dome at the top.
It was our last day so we all went back to the pilgrim reception center to visit and say goodbye. Anna Resnick had come over to the hotel to visit and went back to the center with us. She is a dear; she told us that her parents would be there in a couple days for a visit. They are old friends of ours in Oklahoma. So we took lots of pictures of friends that we'll never forget and got e-mail addresses and also some snail mail addresses. Anna was so good to push Mary in her wheel chair and mail our cards for us.
Wednesday 30: We were ready to go about 6:30 a.m. and were picked up by our Islam driver and taken to the airport in Tel Aviv. Bob got his seat in front with the bulwark in front of him so was quite comfortable and Mary and I sat in the next row. A young Israeli girl was going to the United States for the first time and sat beside us. She was excited and was going to a job in Arizona. Our trip to Newark took eleven hours as the sky was full of planes, or so the pilot said. I had been sick with a virus while we were in Haifa, but never let it stop me because I never wanted to miss out on anything. Mary got the virus so didn't feel very well on the way to Newark and that was a hard trip for her. Bob and Mary each had a wheel chair in Newark and that helped. The one who pushed Bob got our luggage and put it on the plane. Jeannie, Timothy, Ruth and Ramon met us at the airport upstairs and when we went downstairs there was Betty waiting for Mary. Home at last!
We wish that we could go again, but have to wait five years to apply then about seven years to go so we will be too old then. But who knows?
Thanks to all the family and friends who helped us to go on this awesome trip.
We want all of our children to go and go together. If they apply at the same time they will be able to do this. And Bob and I could go for three days and look around while we are there.
Emma Jean Hutchcraft October, 2004