Participants ascending the terraces at the opening of the Terraces of the Shrine of the Bab, 23 May 2001. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.
On one glorious evening twenty years ago, people from around the world gathered in person and via television to celebrate the inauguration of a wonder of the world.
They witnessed the spectacularly beautiful ceremony on 22 May, 2001 held to mark the opening of the Terraces of the Shrine of Bab on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel. Continue reading
Saichiro Fujita (April 15, 1886 - May 7, 1976), one of the earliest Japanese Baha’is. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.
Saichiro Fujita, known to the worldwide Baha’i community simply as “Fujita,” became the second Japanese Baha’i in 1905 in California.
Fujita first saw Abdu’l-Baha in Chicago when he climbed a lamp post in order to see over the crowd that had gathered to meet Him. When Abdu’l-Baha saw Fujita He said, “Come down Zachias, for this day I would sup with thee.” Abdu’l-Baha was referring and repeating the Biblical story of a short man named Zachias, who climbed a sycamore tree in order to get a better view of Christ. Together, Abdu’l-Baha and Fujita drove off to home of Corinne True, an early American Baha’i. After resting, Abdu’l-Baha met with Fujita and stated:
So, how is our Japanese Effendi? Recently the government of Japan has undergone a change. A new emperor has come to the throne. The sovereignty of the former Mikado has come to an end… But as you are a believer in God, you have a kingdom which will never collapse and will be everlasting.
Fujita came from a prominent Japanese family and had heard of the Baha’i Faith from Mrs. Helen Goodall in San Francisco several years prior to his personal meeting with Abdu’l-Baha. Once a notorious party-hopper, Fujita became a Baha’i and received a tablet of praise from Abdu’l-Baha. Not believing it to be about himself, Fujita dismissed it. After received two more tablets from Abdu’l-Baha, Fujita began to realize he truly was the recipient of Abdu’l-Baha’s warm words and he asked what he could do to better serve the Faith. When they met, Abdu’l-Baha asked him to finish his engineering education in order to be able to work for Him in Haifa. For seven years, Fujita lived with the Trues and finished his schooling. He then travelled to Haifa where he lived, with the exception of a few years in Japan during World War II, until he passed away in 1976 at the age of 90, and is buried in the Baha’i Cemetery at the foot of Mount Carmel.
Carolyn Sparey Fox’s newest book is titled Seeking a State of Heaven and it tells the story of the German Templers who settled at the foot of Mount Carmel beneath the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa, Israel.
Their avenue of homes has become an iconic landmark of Haifa and for Baha’is they have become symbolic of those who are searching and yearning to hear about Baha’u’llah’s teachings of unity, equality and oneness. To be honest, that’s the extent of my knowledge of the German Templers so my curiosity was definitely piqued when I learned that a book about them has been written.
It was great to catch up with Carolyn Sparey Fox, who I had interviewed before, about her latest book. Here’s what she shared with me:
Baha’i Blog: What was the inspiration for putting this book together?
Since writing my first book, The Half of it was Never Told, many Baha’is have spoken to me about the German Templers, wrongly believing that they settled at the foot of Mount Carmel because they believed that the return of Christ was about to take place there. I knew that this wasn’t entirely correct, but I didn’t really have the answer, so I started doing some research — it turns out that the Templers initially called themselves “Friends of Jerusalem” and Jerusalem was actually the focus, the goal of the German Templers’ spiritual journey, not Haifa. Initially my plan was to come up with a few sentences, but as I read more and more my sentences became paragraphs, my paragraphs became chapters, and before I knew it I was launched into writing a book, which describes all about how the Templers ended up in Haifa, instead of Jerusalem.
I was also fascinated by the connection between the German Templers in Haifa and the Baha’is living in Akka, and latterly Haifa. Abdu’l-Baha knew several of the Templers personally of course, and Baha’u’llah actually wrote a Tablet to David Hardegg, one of the two men who were behind the creation of the Templers.
After volunteering in the Holy Land, a dear friend from Brazil, Nabil Sami Silva, was inspired to put together a visually stunning book called ‘O Qiblih de uma Comunidade Mundial’, which translates into English as The Qiblih of a World Community. “Qiblih” means “point of adoration” and it is a reference to the Shrine of Baha’u’llah in Bahji, Israel. It is the direction to which Baha’is turn and face during our Obligatory Prayers. (If you’re curious as to why the Qiblih is located in Israel, you may wish to check out our article “Why is the Baha’i World Centre in Israel?”)
Nabil’s book takes us on a breathtaking photographic pilgrimage to the Baha’i holy places and historic sites in Haifa, Akka and their surrounding areas. The book is in Portuguese and it features sweeping photos of the Shrine of the Bab and its terraced gardens, the Shrine of Baha’u’llah and the Mansion of Bahji, the prison in Akka, and many other places that you visit as part of a Baha’i pilgrimage.
You may recognize Nabil’s work: he was one of the contributing photographers to our project, Personal Reflections on the Baha’i Faith from Around the World, and we also featured his work in this images post, 11 Beautiful Photos of the Baha’i House of Worship in Chile. I wanted to catch up with him and talk about his latest project and I hope you enjoy our conversation too: Continue reading
I can’t tell you how excited I was when my dear friend Michael V. Day first told me about the book he was writing! I had the pleasure of serving at the Baha’i World Centre with Michael and have long admired and respected Michael’s writing abilities and the eloquence of his pen, so when he told me what the book was about, I knew it was going to be great!
Journey to a Mountain: The Story of the Shrine of the Bab is a stunning book that provides the exciting historical background to the Shrine of the Bab like no other publication. It is the first in a trilogy and covers the years 1850-1921. Although part of a series, this George Ronald publication can stand alone and is captivating all on its own. The book has just been released and Michael agreed to tell us all about it. Continue reading
Curtis Kelsey (1894 - 1970). (Photo: courtesy of Carol Rutstein)
Curtis Kelsey was an American Baha’i who served in Haifa during the final weeks of Abdu’l-Baha’s lifetime and who installed the lighting equipment that first illumined the Shrines of Baha’u’llah and the Bab.
Curtis was born in 1894 in Salt Lake City. He was a simple, happy-go-lucky, pure-hearted and easy-to-laugh fellow who only had a grade 8 education. Like many others, Curtis became a Baha’i because of a profoundly spiritual experience. His mother, Valeria, was a Baha’i and she tried to share the teachings with her family but they weren’t interested. Confined to his bed by typhoid fever and its accompanying severe headache, Curtis was cured when he heard orchestral music from an unseen source. Curtis called for his mother and asked her what he had just experienced. She turned to the few Writings in her possession. Curtis couldn’t rest until his experience was explained – he even left his work in order to “camp out on the doorstep” of every Baha’i and study the Writings. While an answer was not immediately found, his examination led him to the Faith. Abdu’l-Baha later explained that he had heard the music of the celestial kingdom and that it had awakened him spiritually. Continue reading
As Baha’is around the world gather on 17 Rahmat according to the Baha’i calendar, they will focus on the Bab’s martyrdom in Tabriz in 1850, ponder its spiritual significance, and offer their supplications to the Divine.
On that holy day commemorating the horrendous event of His execution, it is also probable that many will wonder what it would have been like to encounter the One who was the Prophet-Forerunner of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith. Continue reading
Dr. Ugo Giachery, May 13, 1896 – July 5, 1989. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)
When we think of spiritual giants, we may fall into the trap of picturing them deep in prayer or meditation without a care for the practical world in which they live.
But if we have such a view of them, then it is likely to be far too narrow and therefore inaccurate.
In this regard, have a look at the life of Ugo Giachery, a man born into an aristocratic family in Palermo, Sicily in 1896. Dr. Giachery was deeply spiritual, yes, but also immensely practical.
His life could have been one of waltzing about in elite circles or retreating into the academic world making a career out of his doctorate in chemistry.
However, he chose another path. After becoming attracted to the world-embracing teachings of the Baha’i Faith, he set about implementing them the best he could. World peace was no abstract notion for him. He had been wounded in World War I and so he knew the horrors of global conflict. It was perhaps inevitable that he would find appealing a religion promoting a practical path to peace. Continue reading