On Wednesday, March 22nd, the Bahai World Center celebrated Naw-Ruz (the New Year) with an evening designed to gracefully bridge the past, present and future. Diplomats, leading business and community leaders, and members of the Bahai community from across the globe were hosted by Bahai Representatives Mr. Joshua Lincoln ,Mr and Mrs Kern and Barbara Wisman and Mrs Sarah Vader at a festive event held at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. This special gathering provided an ideal forum to highlight Bahai values, Bahai-Israeli ties, and Bahai engagement with many other faith communities.
Guests first passed through a serene meditative space created by the artistic arrangement of greenery, colorful flowers, and earth-toned stones. We later learned that volunteers had been toiling since before daybreak to prepare this exquisite indoor mini-garden. The gentle sound of trickling water from a fountain in the center soothed and relaxed attendees as they approached the inviting main meeting area.
Just inside the door, the reception committee greeted each guest with a broad smile, a warm handshake and a request to enter and enjoy. On a podium at the front, a string quartet was quietly presenting a pleasant backdrop to the lively socializing as old friends eager to share updates chatted amiably while first-time acquaintances introduced themselves and initiated new relationships. As everyone mingled, wait staff circulated continuously, offering a delectable selection of gourmet hor d’oeuvres while a dozen buffet tables held culinary delights for every palate; including expertly-prepared fish, chicken, meats and grilled vegetables, many salads and crudites, fresh fruits and tempting desserts.
Although the Bahai World Center is based in Haifa, Jerusalem, whose very name means “the city of Peace”, was a particularly meaningful setting for a program dedicated to the ideals of harmony and fellowship. Sarah Vader, Deputy Secretary of the Bahai International Community Secretariat, opened the evening and welcomed the distinguished guests in Hebrew. Switching to English, she continued a tone of warmth and camaraderie with heartfelt words of appreciation for Ken and his wife Barbara whose devotion to serving others was tireless throughout the past 18 years.
Following Ms.Vader, Secretary General Joshua Lincoln addressed the guests. His insightful remarks highlighted the themes of hope, joy and renewal that are central to Naw-Ruz and the spring season. He then expressed his gratitude and appreciation to all those who have joined in friendship and continuously work to spread good will among the diverse communities in Israel.
Looking to the future, he introduced the incoming Representative, Mr. David Friedman and his wife Tracy who will be joining the BWC in the summer. After mentioning several major anniversaries that the Bahai are looking forward to in the next few years, Mr. Lincoln segued into an introduction of the featured speaker, Israeli Supreme Court Justice Salim Jubran, a vocal advocate for coexistence.
Justice Jubran fondly recalled his personal connection to the Bahai community over the years, a natural result of living near their holy places, both as a youth growing up in Akko close to the shrine of Baha’ulla and now, too, as his current home in Haifa is near the shrine of the Bab and its beautiful gardens. He expressed admiration for the Bahai faith’s emphasis on equality, unity and commitment to expressing spiritual development through active engagement with one’s neighbors. Applauding the “kind and noble conduct” which follows from their deep appreciation of diversity, he concluded by drawing a parallel between the Bahai World Center’s mission and that of the judicial system from which he will soon be retiring; both are committed to maintaining the freedom of religion and multiculturalism so integral to Israel’s raison d’etre.
All of the speakers expressed their convictions that no matter where we are from and what we believe, people are more alike than different; by focusing on our shared humanity, each of us can reach out to others in a spirit of respect and cooperation. Past and present achievements demonstrate that by working together cooperatively, we can create a future better suited to accomplish our common purpose and increase justice, tolerance and peace throughout the world. These concepts were interwoven and expressed musically during the finale; four singers, a guitarist and pianist, each from a different country, stirred listeners with their performance of “The Seasons of Love”. The harmony, both musical and social, of the recently-formed group and the touching lyrics together aptly symbolized that building relationships with others is one of the most rewarding and joyful experiences possible.
After these meaningful and hope-filled presentations, those present continued to enjoy the buffet and converse freely. Guests included Emi Palmon, the Director General of the Ministry of Justice, the Ambassadors of Mexico, Namibia, South Africa, former Israel Ambassadors to several nations, leaders of the many local faith communities, as well as directors of multi-faith projects and founders, such as Dr. Iris Truman who is spearheading an effort to create an international court for resolving business and economic matters,of several new global initiatives
www.diplomacy.co.il wishes the global Bahai community and all those who celebrate Naw-Ruz a year of health, happiness and much success
Written by Leslie Sachs
Photos By Silvia G. Golan