I may be an expert on Tel Aviv, but sometimes I like to get out of the city and travel to other parts of Israel. A 45 minute train or bus ride north will get your to one of Israel’s four largest cities: Haifa. Though Haifa isn’t the metropolitan city that Tel Aviv is, there is one phenomenal attraction that Tel Aviv cannot claim: The Bahai Gardens.
The Bahai’s website explains their religion as follows: “The Bahá’í Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent religions. Its founder, Bahá’u'lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahá’ís as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.”
The central theme of Bahá’u'lláh’s message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society.
It is almost a pity to show pictures of the Bahai Gardens, which are kept looking as gorgeous as they do through the donations of Bahai followers worldwide, but as I have described them as phenomenal and best Haifa has to offer, I have to put my proverbial money where my virtual mouth is.
There are 19 terraces within the Bahá’í Gardens, which sit on the northern slope of Mount Carmel. At the center of the gardens is a dome of gold called the Shrine of the Bab, where the Prophet of the Bahai faith rests. The intricate geometry of the place is centered around his resting point. The gardens offer a panoramic view of the city and on clear days, one can see up the coast to Akko, the hills of Galilee and even Rosh Hanikra.
The gardens are open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day of the week, except for Bahai holy days and Yom Kippur. The inner garden closes at noon, and if you wish to enter the gardens alone you may, but a guided tour is recommended by the Bahai Gardens staff and I wholeheartedly agree. What one can see through the eyes is heightened by the meaning and the story behind the view.
If you take my advice and choose to take a tour through the gardens, they are free and offered every day except for Wednesdays. There is no need to make a reservation, but if you are a group of 25 or more, you should call ahead to make arrangements.
When visiting the Gardens, remember: Wear clothing to cover your shoulders and knees. This is a holy site and visitors must be respectful. The pavement can be slippery so the gardens recommend shoes with good traction. In the summer, sunscreen, a hat and water(like every place in Israel) are absolutely necessary. Other drinks, food and gum are not permitted inside, and neither are animals or weapons. You may take pictures, but not inside the Shrine.