Yesterday, before Yom Kippur started and all of Israel shut down, my family and I managed to squeeze in a walking tour of the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa. This landmark essentially consists of lush and lavish terraces, fountains, marble railings, exotic flora, and impeccable landscaping. Before the tour started, I knew nothing about Baha’i. Given the extravagant setting, I expected Baha’i to be a wacky religion that has successfully brainwashed enough wealthy followers to accumulate vast riches. I was very wrong!

From the tour, I learned that Baha’i is essentially a religion that above all, emphasizes world peace. Baha’i believe that all religions in the world are fundamentally boil down to the same principles, and that there exist no reasonable differences between people. Baha’i have a set of principles which were described by the prophet. Here they are:

  • The oneness of mankind.
  • Universal peace upheld by a world government.
  • Independent investigation of truth.
  • The common foundation of all religions.
  • The essential harmony of science and religion.
  • Equality of men and women.
  • Elimination of prejudice of all kinds.
  • Universal compulsory education.
  • A spiritual solution to the economic problem.
  • A universal auxiliary language.

pasted from here

Its unlike any religion I’m aware of. Its principles are extremely relevant: I’d venture to say they are just what many progressive individuals believe today. Apparently, Baha’i are very active in UN policy discussions on climate change, women’s rights, and more. When I learned that the lavish Baha’i Gardens I visited started out as a very humble shrine, my respect for the religion skyrocketed. Due to voluntary donations, the golden dome was built around the shrine in the 1950s, and 18 elaborate terraces with the aforementioned marble and landscaping were built less than 20 years ago.

But even though the official conversion process is simple (you have to find two Baha’i, declare you are Baha’i and that you believe in the prophet), I don’t intend on converting any time soon. Baha’i has an administrative council, consisting of nine democratically-elected people. I am deeply curious to see how the Baha’i faith evolves over the long run. I might be skeptical, but this small injection of politics and power structure seems vulnerable to exploitation.

Regardless, I was delighted to learn about this religion! I’d very highly recommend visiting the Bahai Gardens if you’re ever in Haifa (or Akko)!