At the David Citadel Hotel, it was a special surprise in this Jerusalem winter to see a replica of part of the beautiful gardens at the Bahá’í Center in Akko. The colorful “welcome mat” set the tone of the annual reception of the community to celebrate the Bahá’í New Year, Naw-Ruz. This New Year celebration is especially important, as October 2019 will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the forerunner and herald of the Bahá’í Faith. 2019 is also the 176th year of the religion’s founding.
Bahá’í’s from around the world were among the extraordinary guests. (Israel – and Haifa in particular – is the center of the world Bahá’í movement. All faithful must come to Israel at least once in their lifetime to live and volunteer to serve). Among the luminaries were Carmel Irandoust (Bahá’í Deputy Secretary-General), David Freeman (representative, Bahá’í International Community), Amir Halevi (Director-General, Israel Tourism Ministry), Ambassador Meron Reuben, (Protocol chief of state, Israel Foreign Ministry), Noga Sher-Greco (Director of Religious Tourism, Israel Tourism Ministry), Shmuel Elgrabi (Israel Government Bahá’í Advisor/Coordinator), patriarchs and leaders of other religious orders, ambassadors and other members of the diplomatic corps, politicians, VIPs and media personalities.
It was impossible not to enjoy the exquisite buffet dinner offered to the guest as they mingled, renewing old acquaintances and making new friends. A five-piece orchestra provided live musical accompaniment, adding to the ambiance of the hotel’s grand ballroom. The formal part of the evening began with a short presentation by Ms. Irandoust, who read the greeting from Israel’s State President to the Bahá’í community on the occasion of the Naw-Ruz. President Rivlin’s charming message ended with wishes of “peace and joy” for all Bahá’í members, worldwide.
Dr. Joshua Lincoln, Secretary General of the World Bahá’í community, then welcomed and addressed the guests. He offered thanks to everyone for attending to help celebrate the New Year, then spoke of the significance of the centennial year; the history of the Bahá’í religion; the joyous transition from winter to spring which coincides with the New Year celebrations; and of Bahá’í successes and expansions around the world, including openings of new temples and the spread of harmony and peace.
Dr. Lincoln’s address did not ignore the suffering and persecution of Bahá’í faithful in many parts of the world, still to this day, especially in Iran. (Persia/Iran being the birthplace of the Prophet, and the Persian language is an important factor in the religion).
Responding on behalf of the State of Israel, Amir Halevi of the Ministry of Tourism opened his remarks by wishing the community “Shana Tova” – a happy new year. “The Bahá’ís are a community - a young community by Jewish standards - with a deep history and rich social relations with other communities here in Israel. … I am pleased to say that since the creation of the State of Israel, we have positive, friendly and mutually respectful relations.” He added: “The Bahá’ís have contributed not just to the physical beauty of our country, but also to its social fabric.” He mentioned that thanks to the injunction to visit Israel, Bahá’í tourists from some unusual countries visit, including from Tonga, Tuvalu, St. Kits and Nevis, Kiribas, Lesotho, the Seychelles and many more.
Some information that might add interest: Bahá’í is a relatively new, independent monotheistic religion. There are about six million faithful, all around the globe, with religious texts translated into hundreds of languages. Bahá’í beliefs include, among many others, the unity of God; faith in fundamental harmony between religion and science; volunteering; equality between men and women; monogamy; non-violence, compulsory education; using a common world language (like Esperanto) and world peace.
The Director and staff of www.diplomacy.co.il send warmest greetings to the world Bahá’í community on this auspicious occasion.
Photos by Silvia G. Golan