The reason we went on our around the world adventure was to go to Haifa, Israel for pilgrimage. Just like pilgrimages for other religions, the Baha’i pilgrimage is a time to pray and meditate in holy places for the religion. When deciding which dates to go, we quickly agreed to visit Haifa in the end of May because the pilgrimage would be one and a half days longer due to the holy days (The Declaration of the Bab and Ascension of Baha’u’llah). Our one year anniversary also fell within the dates of the pilgrimage, which we thought was very special.
It was an especially meaningful trip for my husband since it was the first time he returned to Haifa since he was thirteen. He had been in Haifa throughout childhood. Coming back and seeing the places he grew up was amazing. It was heartwarming to see his reaction to each place we visited.
We stayed at the Apartment G38, just a short walk from the Baha’i World Center. I cannot say enough good things about the apartments. We had a kitchenette, free laundry in the basement and the owners were very receptive. They even gave us a cell phone to use while we were there! Best of all, the bus for our pilgrimage group made a stop right outside the apartment every morning, so we didn’t have to walk to the Pilgrim House.
We checked into the apartments in the afternoon and took a quick rest before walking up the hill to the Baha’i Pilgrim House to check in for the Declaration of the Bab celebration. We had some extra time before the event started, so we walked over to the shrine where The Bab’s and Abdu’l-Baha’s remains are housed. We spent about thirty minutes meditating and praying in the rooms. It was incredible – I felt so at peace and filled with love the moment I entered the shrine.
We then went to the refreshment period before the program began. It was quite fun to meet all those new people and some of them even recognized my husband from his childhood! It was so interesting because we’d meet someone, they’d read my husband’s name tag, do a double take, shout/cry, hugs all around, and then they’d figure out that he was now married, and there’d be shouts/cries again and hugs all over again.
Anyways, eventually the program for the Declaration of the Bab began. I was having a little trouble staying awake, even though my mind was totally engaged with the program. I realized partway through that it might be a low-blood sugar thing because we forgot to have dinner! I don’t do well without snacks, and it had been a full eight hours without anything. Whoops. It was a good reminder, however, to bring snacks with me every day. After the program, we walked back to our apartment, ate a snack and went to bed; ready to get up early the next morning for the start of pilgrimage!
When we went to check in the next morning, we ran into one of the other pilgrims we met the night before. We checked in together and asked to be placed in the same group. (I’m glad we did, because our pilgrim group was a lot of fun!) The orientation was simply a video and then all the pilgrims went to the shrine to hear the Tablet of Visitation be read. After that, I stayed for nearly an hour to pray on my own. It was funny to me because when I left, I didn’t realize so much time had passed!
For dinner that night, we went with some new friends to the Allenby Restaurant. Allenby Restaurant is my husband’s childhood favorite restaurant. I think we ate there 3-4 times in the week and a half we were in Haifa. It actually was very good; their lemonade is amazing! Best I’ve ever had. Our second day of pilgrimage was spent in Bahji. Bahji is where the Shrine of Baha’u’llah is, as well as the Mansion at Bahji, and acres of beautiful gardens. When we arrived, the Tablet of Visitation was chanted in Persian and it was so beautiful. I spent time in the shrine thinking about many things: my husband and I, some friends who had recently been married, other friends who had just had a baby, other expecting their second child, and so on. After exiting the shrine, I walked a large path (the circle path) with a new friend. The path took about 20 minutes to complete and it was wonderful to get to know someone new.
The next day was a long day, but a wonderful one. We first visited the prison city of Akka, where Baha’u’llah was kept for a period of his life. We visited the prison cell and prayed; walked the city; and visited the House of Abbud where Baha’u’llah’s family lived for many years. The caretaker at the House of Abbud gave us all tea and cookies, just like Baha’u’llah’s family would have if pilgrims came while Baha’u’llah was in the prison. Later in the day, our bus was very late to take us to the second part our excursions for the day. It was 104 degrees and we stood in the shade for nearly two hours before the buses arrived. Apparently, traffic can be a real issue in Haifa. We were all relieved when the buses finally showed up and we were taken to the Garden of Ridvan. The garden is surrounded by water, filled with fruit trees and flowers. We were able to eat oranges and take as many as we wanted with us!After our snack at the Garden of Ridvan, we went to the Mansion of Mazra’ih, which was another site where Baha’u’llah and his family lived for a period of time. The house was beautiful, and so were the gardens. We finished the day by returning to the Mansion of Bahji for a few hours and then getting some much needed rest.
Next week’s Travel Tuesday post will be about the second half of our pilgrimage!
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