The Baha’i Gardens are among the most popular sites in Israel, with about half a million visitors a year.
Everyone knows the gardens in Haifa but many are not aware that there are also gardens in Akko-Acre (image taken from last week).
In July 2008, the Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa and Acre were included in the list of World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO.
The parks are actually only the external part of the Temple sacred for Bahai religion. The roots of the Baha’i religion is in Shiite Islam. At the beginning of the 19th century, Sayyid Ali Muhammad a Persian merchant, declared himself as the expected Hidden Imam – Mahdi which the Shiites are awaiting and called himself the Bab (gate). He eventually created a separate religion from Islam. Persecuted in Islamic countries, the Baha’i Faith eventually founded its center in Israel. The founder of the religion was executed and his remains were crushed but his followers retained the remnants, which were buried in the temple of Acre.
The religion’s world center in Haifa was set on Mount Carmel, which was seen by the founder of the religion as sacred because he recognized it as Mount Zion “to which all the nations will come to the end of days”. Today the Bahai religion worldwide counts between 6 and 7 million followers.
There is an interesting Halachic discussion about whether one is allowed to enter the Baha’i Gardens. Traditionally, the chief rabbis of Haifa allowed the entrance exclusively to the gardens. Others prohibited it, claiming it is considered deriving pleasure from idolatry.