Bahai-Israel Relationship

Introduction

One of the very important chapters in the political record of Bahai Faith is the sincere relations and close cooperation of the leaders of the sect with Zionists in general and the occupier regime of Ghods in particular. History bears witness that the relations between the Bahai leaders with Zionism has a record much longer than the life of the "Israeli regime". Ben Zvi (a Zionist activist and later the president of Israel) has confessed to his meeting (along with his wife) with Abbas Afandi in the Behji Palace (in Akka) and put the date of the meeting between 1909-1910, some forty years before the establishment of Israel (1948) which shows the strategic depth of the relations between Bahai heads and Zionists. Historical evidences also show the relations between Abbas Afandi with members of the Rochild Family who were the main organizers and investors of the plot for settlement of Jews in Palestine.



So, why do Zionists support Bahai Faith to such an extent?

Did

the "selfish and merchant" Zionists sacrifice themselves for this sect just for nothing! and without any expectation? The reality is that Bahais serve Zionists and their sprout, Israel, with all their potentials in return for their supports and in addition to collecting financial aid and sending for this regime they smuggle and illegally import Israeli goods into Iran thus trying to flourish the dying economy of the regime. It is surprising that in their sites and media and against this question (or protest) concerning the relations of the sect with Israel , the Bahais impudently claim that there is no relation between the sect and the Zionists and occupiers of Palestine and the centrality of the Beitul Adl in Israel is totally accidental! and it has nothing to do with the common interests of the two parties!. Indeed when Bahaism tie its fate to that of Zionism in this way, it cannot claim that the setting up of the headquarter of this sect in Israel is simply due to the existence of the graves of the leaders of the sect in the occupied Palestine, and for this reason Israel has turned into the Qibla of Bahais.

!

ISRAELI’S PRESIDENT VISIT TO BAHAI WORLD CENTRE.

 

1-President  Mr. Izhak Ben Zvi (1954)

The official visit of the President of the State of Israel, Mr. Izhak Ben Zvi, and Mrs. Ben Zvi, to the Guardian in April, 1954 led to a most cordial relationship between them, and Shoghi Effendi later called upon the President and Mrs. Ben Zvi in Jerusalem. On December 6, 1955 the Mayor of Haifa, Aba Khoushy, visited the Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, and was received by Mrs. Amelia Collins, Vice-President of the International Baha'i Council and Mr. Horace Holley, Secretary of the American National Spiritual Assembly.

(Bahai World Volume 13 Page 250)

 

 ( President Izhak Ben Zvi of Israel )

 

2-HANDS OF THE CAUSE MEET WITH PRESIDENT BEN ZVI OF ISRAEL(1959)

 

Some of the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land during one of their official calls on the Head of the State in Jerusalem, 1959.

 

 

 3-President Zalman Shazar (1964)

 

Israel's third President, Zalman Shazar, accepted the invitation of the Universal House of Justice in the spring of 1964 to pay a formal visit to the Shrine of the Bab and the Baha'i gardens on Mount Carmel. Included in the Presidential party on that occasion were Mrs. Shazar and Mayor and Mrs. Aba Khoushy of Haifa. Later a delegation composed of Hands of the Cause and members of the Universal House of Justice returned the visit by calling on President Shazar at Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem.

The cordial relationship which exists between the World Centre and the State of Israel was further enhanced when Mark Tobey and Bernard Leach each presented a piece of their work to the new Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The Mayor of Jerusalem, who is also Director of the Museum, expressed great pleasure and gratitude for these gifts from Baha'is of such fame.

(Bahai World Volume 14 , page 92)

 

4-PRESIDENT CHAIM HERZOG, (21 October 1984)

 

His Excellency Chaim Herzog, President of the State of Israel, paid an official visit to the Baha'i World Centre on 21 October 1984 at the invitation of the Universal House of Justice.

At 9:40 a.m. the President was formally received in Bahji, at the Collins Gate, by the nine members of the Universal House of Justice and escorted to the Mansion where Baha'u'llah spent His final years. There the President was greeted by the Hand of the Cause of God 'Ali-Akbar Furutan who conducted him to the room of Baha'u'llah and showed originals of some of Baha'u'llah's Tablets. Leaving the Mansion, the President paid his respects at the Sacred Tomb.

Proceeding to Haifa by official motorcade, the party alighted at the Mount Carmel gardens and visited the Shrine of the Bab. This was followed by a visit to the Seat of the Universal House of Justice which concluded with a formal luncheon in the banquet hall, in the President's honour. The visit of the first Head of State to call on the House of Justice in its permanent Seat was the occasion for the inaugural use of the splendid dining room, readied for the occasion by the dedicated efforts of dozens of skilled and devoted Baha'is serving at the World Centre.

Among those attending the historic event, in addition to the members of the Universal House of Justice and their wives, were the Hand of the Cause 'Ali-Akbar Furutan and the Mayor of Haifa, His Worship Arye Gurel, and Mrs. Gurel. An album of colour photographs of the major Baha'i Holy Places in Israel was presented to President Herzog by Mr. Hushmand Fatheazam, on behalf of the Universal House of Justice. The President responded with expressions of sympathy for the suffering Baha'is of Iran and pride in the Baha'i community and its world-famed Holy Places.

The beauty of the Baha'i Holy Places, the splendour of the Faith's administrative centre, and the warmth of the welcome extended were the subjects of enthusiastic comment on the part of the President, his aide-de-camp and the Mayor of Haifa.

(Bahai World Volume 19 page 26)

 

5-Two members of the House meets Mr. Chaim Herzog, President of Israel (1986)

During the month that followed most of the governments of the world, including those responsible for the administration of significant territories and islands, had received the Statement. The presence in the Haifa/'Akka area of the World Centre of the Faith made it possible for two members of the Universal House of Justice to join officers of the Baha'i Inter¬national Community in calling on Mr. Chaim Herzog, President of Israel for the presentation that took place on 4 December. By Ridvan 1986 a total of 138 such presentations had occurred. Of these, 62 had been made in meetings between Baha'i delegations and the responsible Head of State, 42 through meetings with representatives of a Head of State, and 21 through the United Nations missions of the countries concerned through the intermediary of the Baha'i International Community. Through force of circumstance 13 were dispatched by mail.

(Bahai World Volume 19, page 377)

 

6-The Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin

 

The Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, visited the Baha'i World Centre briefly on 13 June to view models of the Terraces Project underway on Mount Carmel (see also p. 72). He was escorted during his visit by project manager and architect Fariborz Sahba and the Deputy Secretary General of the Baha'i International Community, Albert Lincoln.

(Bahai World 1994-1995)

 

7-Shimon Peres, Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs (1994)

 

Shimon Peres, Israel's Minister of Foreign Af¬fairs, made an official visit to the World Centre on 4 August 1994. Following an audio-visual presenta¬tion on the status of theUniversal House of Justice and invited to a lunch on in his honor in the banquet hall of the Seat. The party was joined by the Mayor of Haifa, Amram Mitzna. Mr. Peres ended his visit by viewing the Terrace Projects in progress and paying his respects at the Shrine of the Bab.

Among the other government officials who visited the Baha'i World Centre during 1994-95 were Israel's Minister of Education and Culture, Professor Amnon Rubinstein, in May 1994

ESTABLISHMENT OF A BAHA'I COURT IN ISRAEL

 

Following the passing of the beloved Guardian, the Hands of the Cause Residing in the Holy Land made a further study of the possibility of establishing a Baha'i Court in Israel, and in November, 1959 announced:

 

"We wish to assure the believers that every effort will be made to establish a Baha'i Court in the Holy Land prior to the date set for this election. We should however bear in mind that the Guardian himself clearly indicated this goal, due to the strong trend towards the secularization of religious courts in this part of the world, might not be achieved."

The International Baha'i Council made a further study of the possibility of establishing a Baha'i Court in the Holy Land. It was found that circumstances existing in the State of Israel made it impossible to attain this goal of the Crusade in the manner stipulated by Shoghi Effendi. The Hands of the Cause Residing in the Holy Land confirmed this -finding.

(BAHAI WORLD Volume 13 Page 251)

EXTENSION OF INTERNATIONAL BAHA'I ENDOWMENTS

 

One of the most enduring works of the Guardian was the preparation of a secure foundation for the support of the World Spiritual and Administrative Centre of the Faith in the Holy Land. The acquisition of properties situated in the heart of Mt. Carmel and in the plain of Akka was essential to this purpose and was vigorously pressed by Shoghi Effendi throughout his ministry.

The decade of the fifties saw a marked acceleration of this process and notable victories were won. Foremost was the cleansing of the area immediately surrounding the Shrine of Baha'u'llah from Covenant-breakers and the acquisition of their properties, which were expropriated by the Government of Israel and transferred to the Faith. The purchase of land for the future Mashriqu'l-Adhkar on Mt. Carmel was another milestone at the World Centre, as was the addition of the plot on Mt. Carmel, formerly owned by the sister of a "notorious enemy" of 'Abdu'l-Baha, which opened the way to the building of the International Baha'i Archives. Other significant purchases provided the land needed for the development on Mt. Carmel of extensive new gardens containing the "arc", about which, in future, the various buildings of the World Administrative Centre will be built. Another important step was the pur¬chase of five houses at the foot of Mt. Carmel, part of the German colony settled before 1870 by the Templars, in anticipation of the coming of the Lord of Hosts. The precincts of Baha'¬u'llah's Shrine were protected by further additions of land, and a house near Bahjf which had been used by 'Abdu'1-Baha was acquired.

In April, 1954 the Guardian announced that "the vast area of Baha'i holdings per¬manently dedicated to the Shrines of the Founder of the Faith and of its Herald" exceeded three-hundred-and-fifty thousand square metres. Within two years these endow¬ments had been increased to over four-hundred-thousand square metres, and they were further extended before 1959. In 1954 their value had been about four million dollars. In his last message, October, 1957, Shoghi Effendi estimated the value of these International Baha'f endowments as over five-and-a-half million dollars.

(BAHAI WORLD VOL 13 , PAGE 253)

BAHA'I INTERNATIONAL ARCHIVES

 

One of the foremost objectives of the World Crusade, Shoghi Effendi announced in 1954, was the erection on Mt. Carmel of the Baha'I International Archives, designed to serve as "the permanent and befitting repository for the priceless and numerous relics associated with the Twin Founders of the Faith, with the Perfect Exemplar of its teachings and with its heroes, saints and martyrs..."

The story of its design and construction is detailed in another article in this volume.2 Suffice it to say here that by April, 1957 a beautiful edifice of classical Greek style, costing over a quarter-of-a-million dollars, stood completed on Mt. Carmel. In the last year of his life Shoghi Effendi chose and purchased the entrance gate and many furnishings, including the exquisitely carved and inlaid Japanese and Chinese cabinets in which the sacred relics were placed with loving care by Amatu'1-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum.

 (BAHAI WORLD VOL 13 , PAGE 253)

ISRAEL BRANCHES

 

The Palestine Branches of the National Spiritual Assemblies of the United States and Canada and of India, Pakistan and Burma had been organized as religious societies in 1930 and 1934 respectively and were legally empowered to hold unrestricted title to movable and immovable property in the Holy Land, a status which was continued with the founding of the State of Israel. The beloved Guardian set as a goal of the Ten-Year Plan the establishment of seven additional Israel Branches of National Spiritual Assemblies, and in his Ridvan Message in 1954 he was able to announce the formation of those of the National Assemblies of the British Isles, Persia, Canada, and Australia and New Zealand. By November, 1957 separate Branches were established for the National Assemblies of New Zealand, Alaska and Pakistan, bringing the total number of Israel Branches to eleven.

After the passing of Shoghi Effendi the Government of the State of Israel recognized the status of the Custodians elected by the Hands of the Cause and took legal cognizance of the Custodians as new managers for the several Israel or Palestine Branches of Nation¬al Spiritual Assemblies.

As circumstances permitted, properties were registered in the names of the various Israel Branches. These included the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, the Mansion of Bahjf, the properties in the Haram-i-Aqdas which were evacuated by the Covenant-breakers, and many properties on Mt. Carmel.

(BAHAI WORLD VOL 13 , PAGE 253)

RELATIONS WITH THE STATE OF ISRAEL

 

The State of Israel has invariably accorded a high status to the international institutions of the Faith, and "this process of recognition" has constituted "an historic landmark in the evolution of the World Centre..." One of the .first responsibilities of the International Council was to foster this relationship. "Contacts are maintained with Departments of Government as well as the City Authorities in Haifa, 'Akka, and many Cabinet officials." (Report of International Council, May 2, 1955.)

The official visit of the President of the State of Israel, Mr. Izhak Ben Zvi, and Mrs. Ben Zvi, to the Guardian in April, 1954 led to a most cordial relationship between them, and Shoghi Effendi later called upon the President and Mrs. Ben Zvi in Jerusalem. On December 6, 1955 the Mayor of Haifa, Aba Khoushy, visited the Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, and was received by Mrs. Amelia Collins, Vice-President of the International Baha'i Council and Mr. Horace Holley, Secretary of the American National Spiritual Assembly.

The establishment of a Baha'i Department under the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the official acceptance of Baha'i marriage and the excusing of Baha'i children from school attendance on Baha'i Holy Days, the exemption of Baha'i properties from taxation and customs duties are all evidences of the official recognition accorded by the State of Israel to the World Centre of the Baha'i Faith. The passing of the Guardian gave indubitable proof of the stature which the Cause of Baha'u'llah had attained in Israel. "A great wave of sincere, shocked and deep-felt sympathy poured out to the Baha'i Com¬munity from the officials of the State of Israel and its peoples," wrote the Hands in Haifa in their Convention message, 1958; "from the President, Prime Minister and Cabinet members down to the simplest citizens, tributes and condolences poured in; at every point the Government of this State has responded..

Shortly after the body of the nine Hands in the Holy Land began to function under the provisions of the above resolution, action was taken by the entire body of the Hands to designate Abu'l-Qasim Faizi as a Hand residing in the Holy Land to replace Dr. Adelbert Miihlschlegel, as it was not possible for Dr. Muhlschlegel to serve in the Holy Land.

The membership of this body of nine Hands included the four Hands appointed by Shoghi Effendi to serve in the Holy Land, that is, Ruhiyyih Khanum, Mason Remey, Amelia Collins and Leroy Ioas, all members of the International Baha'i Council, and five other Hands from both East and West, each widely experienced in the teaching and administration of the Faith in their respective continents. Mr. Balyuzi was the Chairman of the National Assembly of the Baha'is of the British Isles, Mr. Faizi had served in the same capacity on the Regional Assembly of the Arabian Peninsula, and Mr. Haney was the Chairman of the National Assembly of the United States. Mr. Furutan had been  the  Secretary  of the  National Assembly of Iran for many years, and Mr. Khazeh had served as a member of that body.

In. other documents the Hands of the Cause set forth the basic principles governing the relationship between the body of the Hands and the nine Hands residing in the Holy Land — who for legal purposes were designated as Custodians of the Faith — and delineated the functions to be discharged by their co-workers in the Holy Land. The most important of the decisions re¬corded in these documents are summarized below:

1. The functions of the body of the nine Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land were denned to include the following tasks: To correspond with the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Baha'i world on matters relating to the prosecution of the Guardian's Ten Year Plan; to assist the National Assemblies in the solution of administrative problems; to act for the protection of the Faith whenever its teachings, institutions or properties were assailed by enemies from within the Baha'i community or outside its ranks; to administer all the properties, assets and accounts belonging to the Baha'i world community (other than those belonging to the various National and Regional Spiritual Assemblies, or to l&cal Baha'i bodies); to maintain correspondence with the Hands stationed in the several con¬tinents on all matters related to their task of propagating the Faith and defending it from attacks, and in this way co¬ordinating and encouraging the efforts of the Continental Hands. In addition to these functions, the authority to expel from the Faith violators of the Covenant was vested in the body of nine Hands, acting on reports and recommendations submitted by the Hands of the respective continents. It was also specified that in all dealings with the Israel Government and any local authorities in Israel, the Custodians should act through the International Baha'i Council.

2. It was decided that the entire body of the Hands of the Cause would meet periodically in the Holy Land, and that the body of the Hands would have full authority to change the membership of the Hands in the Holy Land, and to make any alterations in the functions and powers of the Custodians as the Hands might decide.

(BAHAI WORLD Volume 13 Page 346)

 Page 347

 Following the historic Proclamation of November 25th, 1957, the Hands in the Holy Land shared with the various National Assemblies copies of the documents relating to the establishment of the nine Hands residing in the Holy Land who were to act as Custodians of the Faith until the es¬tablishment of the Universal House of Justice. After reviewing these documents, all the National and Regional Assemblies of the Baha'i world officially recognized the nine Hands in the Holy Land and pledged their full support and allegiance.

The authority in these various documents enabled the Hands in the Holy Land to take prompt steps to safeguard the properties of the Faith, particularly the extensive and valuable international endowments at the World Center, the value of which was estimated by Shoghi Effendi in his last message at over five-and-a-half million dollars. Recognition of the authority of the Custodians by the officials concerned to administer the bank accounts held in the name of the Guardian, comprising the international reserve funds of the Cause, was a great victory.

It was these far-reaching decisions and actions which made it possible to continue the co-ordination and direction from the Holy Land — the world spiritual and administrative center of the Cause — of the international activities of the Faith, and for the vital tasks of the Guardian's Ten Year Plan to be prosecuted vigorously by a unified Baha'i world community.

It thus became evident that the Guardian had, during the thirty-six years of his ministry, reared a world community with an ad¬ministrative structure and institutions which enabled it to withstand the shock of his passing and to bring his World Crusade to a victorious and triumphant conclusion in Ridvan, 1963, making possible at that time the establishment of the Universal House of Justice.

 

Israel Postal Authority issued A stamp featuring the Seat of the Universal House of Justice

 

A stamp featuring the Seat of the Universal House of Justice was issued by the Philatelic Service of the Israel Postal Authority on 16 February as part of an ongoing series of stamps in honor of the reli¬gions represented in the Holy Land. The design for the stamp was cho¬sen in a national contest.

 

A Baha'i stamp and accompanying first day cover were issued by the Israel Postal Authority as part of a series of stamps in honor of the religions represented in the Holy Land.

 

 In April 1985, the House of Justice created an international agency to coordinate relations with the media and other information sources, the Office of Public Informa¬tion, with its headquarters in HaifaNew York. and a branch office in

(BAHAI WORLD 1992-1993)


 Baha'i stamp issued in Israel, 1993

The establishment of the first academic Chair for Baha'i Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel

 

The establishment of the first academic Chair for Baha'i Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem—with the mission of promoting understanding of this new Faith and studying its history, its teachings, and its role in the modern world—represents a significant step in the institutionalized study of the Baha'i Faith.

 

In the words of Professor Menachem Magidor, president of the Hebrew University, the establishment of the Chair signifies "interfaith, intercultural, and interethnic discourse between people of different convictions and different beliefs." And as he remarked at the dedication of the Chair, "While we are definitely a Jewish university, we should be an intellectual bridge between Jewish culture and other religions."

 

Following the event at the Hebrew University, a second event commemorating the foundation of the Chair was held on 25 June 1999 at the Baha'i World Centre in Haifa. This gathering focused on the evolution of Baha'i scholarship and the unique nature of the relationship between the Hebrew University and the World Centre, particularly the Centre for the Study of the Texts. The cooperation between these two institutions will allow the university access to historical documents crucial to the development of Baha'i studies.

 

Albert Lincoln once again spoke on behalf of the Baha'i Community and during his speech read the text of a letter from former president of Israel Itzhak Navon to the President of the Hebrew University, congratulating him on the formation of the Chair. Mr. Lincoln also elucidated the commitment of the Baha'i World Centre to working with the university in pursuit of its scholarly goals.

 

A large delegation from the Hebrew University attended, including the president, vice-president, and rector of the university. It marked the first time that the university senate had ever convened outside Jerusalem.

 

Menachem Ben-Sasson, the university's rector, spoke about the longstanding relationship between the Baha'i Faith and the Hebrew University, which dates back to the founding of the school in April 1925, when Shoghi Effendi wrote in a cable, ".. .BAHA'IS HOPE AND PRAY THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THIS SEAT OF LEARNING MAY CONTRIBUTE TO THE REVIVAL OF A LAND OF HALLOWED MEMORIES FOR US ALL AND FOR WHICH ABDU'L-BAHA CHERISHED THE HIGHEST HOPES."

 

(Bahai World Volume 1999-2000, Page 377)

MESSAGE FROM THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
Bahá’í World Centre • P.O. Box 155 • 31001 Haifa, Israel
Tel: 972 (4) 835 8358 • Fax: 972 (4) 835 8280 • Email: secretariat@bwc.org

12 May 2008

To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

As the worldwide Bahá’í community proceeds with a unified and coordinated endeavour to advance the process of entry by troops, developments of far-reaching significance at the Bahá’í World Centre, foreshadowed in our message of Ridván 2006 to the Bahá’ís of the world, are now occurring.

The way has been opened to further beautification of the environs of the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, the Qiblih of the people of Bahá, described by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the “luminous Shrine” and “the place around which circumambulate the Concourse on high”. After negotiations over several years, agreement has been reached with the Israeli government for the acquisition of a rectangular plot of land 90,000 square metres in area, located between Bahjí and the main road, which is currently being used by the government.

The property in the possession of the Faith has been further augmented by the conclusion, after negotiations which extended over some twenty years, of a land exchange with the Israel Land Administration, by which a portion of the land bequeathed to the Faith in the Ein Sara neighbourhood of Nahariya, north of ‘Akká, is being exchanged for an additional 100,000 square metres to the east of the Mansion of Bahjí, an area of about 32,000 square metres adjoining the island at the Ridván Garden, and the caravanserai adjacent to the Mansion of Mazra‘ih. Discussions are continuing with the authorities for a further exchange, using more of the Ein Sara land to acquire additional property in close proximity to the Bahá’í Holy Places in the ‘Akká area required to protect the sanctity and tranquillity of these places in the face of the rapid urbanization of the region.

Measures are now being taken to formulate a comprehensive plan for the development of these Holy Places in the years immediately ahead, in a manner which will preserve the distinctive characteristics evident when Bahá’u’lláh blessed them with His presence, while providing facilities for the growing number of pilgrims and visitors. Work has also been completed on the restoration of the Junayn Gardens, a small farmhouse and orchard north of Bahjí visited occasionally by Bahá’u’lláh, which was subsequently donated to the Faith. An extensive project is now under way for the restoration of the Ridván Garden to its condition when visited by Bahá’u’lláh at the termination of His nine-year confinement within the walls of the prison-city of ‘Akká. Described by Him as “Our Verdant Isle” and as the “New Jerusalem”, Bahá’u’lláh rejoiced in the tranquillity of the setting, “its streams flowing, and its trees luxuriant, and the sunlight playing in their midst.” Included in the work being carried out here is the construction of a circulating water system, which will recreate the island frequented by Bahá’u’lláh, and the restoration of an antique flour mill, which was in use during His time. No less significant is the work being carried out on Mount Carmel. The International Archives Building, constructed over fifty years ago at a time of limited resources in the Holy Land, is being extensively renovated and its facilities developed. This edifice, described by the Guardian as “the permanent and befitting repository for the priceless and numerous relics associated with the Twin Founders of the Faith, with the Perfect Exemplar of its teachings and with its heroes, saints and martyrs”, is being strengthened structurally; provisions are being made to render it accessible to the disabled; the method of display of its relics is being improved; a comprehensive security system is being provided; the exterior stonework is being restored; and its interior is being enhanced through installation of a granite floor.

Detailed plans have been prepared for the renovation of the Shrine of the Báb, the “majestic mausoleum” extolled by Shoghi Effendi as “the Queen of Carmel enthroned on God’s Mountain, crowned in glowing gold, robed in shimmering white, girdled in emerald green, enchanting every eye from air, sea, plain and hill.” This work will include installation of earthquake-resistant reinforcement not visible to pilgrims or visitors; preparation of the three chambers not previously available for meditation or worship; repair of the dome; and replacement of its tiles, which have become worn and discoloured, to return them to their pristine lustre.

The work being carried out at the World Centre of the Faith represents far more than repair, renovation, and beautification of buildings and gardens of historic significance. It can best be assessed by reference to Bahá’u’lláh’s designation of Mount Carmel as “the seat of God’s throne” and by recognition of His followers that the Qiblih is the holiest spot on the surface of the planet, while the places in which He found respite are forever sanctified by His presence. From that perspective those who participate in this endeavour, either through their dedicated labours or through their sacrificial contributions of funds, are privileged to an extent far beyond their capacity to comprehend.

The Universal House of Justice

MESSAGE FROM UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE

30 April 1987
To the Baha'is of the World

Dearly-loved Friends,

This Ridvan, after decades of unabated effort involving prolonged, delicate negotiations, the Government of the State of Israel and the Baha'i World Centre signed an international agreement whose implications—spiritual, historical, and practical—are inestimable for the rapidly evolving World Order of Baha'u'llah.

Approved by unanimous vote of the Cabinet of the National Unity Govern­ment, the Agreement states as reasons for the Government's concurrence in it the "friendly relations between the Baha'i world community and the State of Israel" and the "desire of the Government of Israel to give effect to this relationship, and to its recognition of the special status of the Baha'i World Centre". These friendly relations trace their foundation to the inspired initiatives of 'Abdu'1-BahS Himself, particularly during the period following the Revolution of the Young Turks in 1908 when a general amnesty was effected for religious and political prisoners held under the old regime. The pres­tige acquired by the Faith through the dynamic force of the Master's unique spirit was demonstrated after His release from imprisonment in the actions He took to establish His residence in Haifa at the foot of Mount Carmel, to inter the sacred remains of the Bab in the mausoleum which had been erected by Him on the spot designated by Baha'u'llah Himself, and to travel extensively in the West. Subsequent to these travels, it was more conspicuously illustrated through the excellent relations He forged with high and low alike, the social impact of His liberal ministrations to the needs of the people in the Holy Land, and the conferring of a knighthood upon Him by the British Crown.

This legacy of prestige was evident in the recognition accorded Shoghi Effendi as Head of the Faith by the authorities of the British Mandate. The extent of the Guardian's energetic exertions to achieve recognition of the independent status of the Faith, whose permanent spiritual and administrative centres are in the Holy Land, is beyond the scope of this letter and must, in due time, be afforded full treatment in the work of future historians. Let it suffice to reaffirm here that what he was able to accomplish during the years of the Mandate, in securing custody of Baha'i properties and in obtaining official protection of the Holy Places, recognition of the Baha'i marriage certificate and of Baha'i Holy Days, and relief from certain taxes, combined to reflect a status for the Faith which was accepted by the new Government when the State of Israel was established in 1948. Writing on Shoghi Effendi's behalf to a National Spiritual Assembly on 30 May 1952, his secretary stated that "All the Baha'i properties and imports are exempt from taxation and customs, and the status of the Faith as a religion, recognized". However, the letter pointed out that "At present, we are planning to clarify our legal position with the Government, and get it on a more concrete footing". It is precisely in fulfilling the need for such clarification and more concrete foot­ing that the instrument recently signed in Jerusalem represents a distinctive stage in the relations of the Baha'i World Centre with the Government of this country.

In a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry on 22 April 1987, the second day of Ridvan, the Agreement, comprising an exchange of letters, was signed by Mr. Shimon Peres, Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister, on behalf of the Govern­ment of Israel, and Mr. Donald Barrett, Secretary-General of the Baha'i Inter­national Community, on behalf of the Baha'i World Centre, in the presence of other high-ranking government officials and Mr. Ronald Bates, Deputy Secretary-General of the Baha'i International Community. Among its contents are the following statements of recognition:

The Government of Israel recognizes the members of the Baha'i Faith as a recognized religious community in Israel in accordance with Article 2 of the Palestine Order in Council, 1922-1947, and confirms that the Baha'i World Centre is the world spiritual and administra­tive centre of the Baha'i world community and that the Universal House of Justice in Haifa is the Head of the Baha'i Faith and its Supreme Institution in accordance with its constitution.

The Government of Israel recognizes that the holiest places of the Baha'i Faith, in accordance with the Baha'i Sacred Scriptures, are located in Israel, and confirms that the Universal House of Justice is the Trustee of the Baha'i International Community over the Holy Places of the Baha'i Faith in Israel and over the Baha'i endowments in Israel.

From such clearly stated recognition flow privileges and benefits befitting the spiritual and administrative centre of a world Faith. These provisions of the Agreement are defined in terms that are renewable or renego-tiable at certain intervals, lending a flexibility and extension to the Agree­ment that are among its salient features. The Agreement can thus be regarded as the culmination of a series of preliminary measures of official recognition variously granted by sundry governmental authorities over a span of decades, now confirmed, amplified, extended, and defined in an instrument which places the operation of the Baha'i World Centre on a solid basis in its relations with the Government of Israel and in its other external relations. It thus launches a new phase in the development of the administration of the Faith at its World Centre.

Of unusual importance—and fraught with implications for the future dealings of the Baha'i community everywhere as the Faith passes through the stages of its evolution until its stature is fully acclaimed by the nations—is the nature of the final negotiations, which engaged our representatives in extensive consultations with highly-placed officials, and from which emerged the procedure for sealing the Agreement. For it is a singular fact that the representative of a sovereign government, in the person of its Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister, and the representative of what was justifiably acknowledged as the "world centre of a recognized international non-governmental organiza­tion" sat down together to sign an "International Agreement", the first such occurrence in the history of the Cause of Baha'u'llah.

That this should have taken place in the Holy Land, to which only some 120 years ago the Founder of that Cause was banished as a prisoner, evokes in us feelings of wonderment and astonished joy. That the Government which was party to so unprecedented an act happens to be that of a people who have only recently returned, after many centuries of exile, to their homeland bespeaks a token of divine favour of incalculable spiritual and historical importance for the Jewish people.

Dear Friends, the Status Agreement now achieved makes an indelible mark on the Formative Age of our Faith, assuming a special place among the swiftly accumulating evidences of the divine confirmations which have thus far distin­guished the opening period of the fourth epoch of that Age. These accompanying signs of God's abounding grace clearly include:

  • The Conference of Continental Counsellors at the World Centre at the close of which on 2 January 1986 was announced the opening of the fourth epoch.
  • The establishment in Jerusalem of an Office of Representation for the Baha'I International Community to facilitate the relations of the World Centre with the Government of Israel.
  • The successful conclusion of the Seven Year Plan, unforgettable for the stature the Cause of Baha'u'llah attained betokening its emergence from obscurity—an emergence resulting largely from the indescribable sacrifices of the beloved friends in Iran.
  • The completion of the distribution of "The Promise of World Peace" to heads of state and the outstanding events associated with the promulgation of its contents.
  • The launching of the Six Year Plan which incorporated the feature of planning involving the consultation of Continental Counsellors with National Spiritual Assemblies, and to a large extent, consultation at the grass roots of the national Baha'i communities, leading to the choice of goals for their countries by these National Spiritual Assemblies.
  • The first visit of a head of government to the World Centre to consult with the Universal House of Justice on issues raised in its Peace Statement.
  • The participation of Baha'i publishers in an International Book Fair in the capital of the People's Republic of China.
  • The dedication of the Mother Temple of the Indian sub-continent, an event which opened new opportunities for the Faith to be proclaimed in the Soviet Union, Eastern bloc countries, and China, and which has induced the visits of high-ranking officials from these and other countries to the Temple.
  • The establishment in Liberia of the first Baha'i radio station on the continent of Africa.
  • The adoption of the design created by Mr. Husayn Amanat for the complex of edifices remaining to be constructed on the Arc on Mount Carmel.

One practical and spiritually confirming effect of the signing of the Status Agreement is that it brings us within reach of the realization of the beloved Guardian's vision for the Arc on God's Holy Mountain. For with the Agreement in hand formidable obstacles to the execution of the Arc Project have been removed. The conjunction of the completion of the architect's design and the favourable action of the Government thus signals the ripeness of the time to pursue the obligation acutely felt by the' entire Baha'i world to bring to fruition, as soon as possible, the work begun by Shoghi Effendi in the erection of the Archives Building and carried forward in the completion four years ago of the Seat of the Universal House of Justice. The plans to be made and the material requirements for so extraordinary an undertaking will, of course, be communicated to the friends in due course. In the meantime, we are happy to announce that the architect of the Indian Temple, Mr. Fariburz Sahba has been assigned the task of designing the Terraces to be situated below and above the Shrine of the Bab; he has also been appointed Project Manager to execute the design already adopted for the three remaining buildings on the Arc.

We rejoice to know that the entire company of Baha'u'llah's loved ones joins us in prayers of thanksgiving for the manifold blessings He is showering In such profusion on the humble efforts being made in His glorious Name.

The Universal House of Justice