Reception Center opens for Baha'i pilgrims to the Holy Land
HAIFA, Israel — A new Pilgrim Reception Centre has opened here to receive Baha'i pilgrims and visitors to the Baha'i holy places in Haifa and Acre and the Faith's world administrative headquarters on Mount Carmel.
Every two weeks from October through July, about 150 Baha'is arrive in Haifa to participate in the nine-day pilgrimage program. Pilgrims pray and meditate at the resting-places of the Founders of the Faith and visit other sites associated with Their lives. Baha'is around the world consider pilgrimage to the Baha'i Holy Places a sacred obligation, which they strive to fulfil at least once in their lives.
The Pilgrim Reception Centre is located near the Shrine of the Bab, the resting-place of the Herald of the Faith, and opposite the Monument Gardens, where members of the family of Baha'u'llah are interred. The Centre is housed in two historic buildings that formerly served as a clinic. The larger one was built during the time of the British Mandate and the smaller structure has a more Middle Eastern appearance, with patterned ceramic floors and stone arches.
Remodeling of these buildings began in July 1998. The exteriors were restored and the interiors were completely remodeled to create large, functional spaces. A pedestrian walkway was built to connect the two buildings into one complex with a total floor area of 1,069 square meters. The complex contains a reception lounge, kitchen and dining facilities, and an auditorium with seating capacity for more than 300 and booths for translators.
The first Baha'i Pilgrim House in Haifa was built near the Shrine of the Bab by a Persian believer in 1909 and continued to serve as the primary gathering place for pilgrims until the new facility was completed. The Founder of the Faith, Baha'u'llah, was banished to Acre, then a prison city under Ottoman rule, in 1868 and lived in the vicinity of Acre until He passed away in 1892. He visited Haifa on several occasions and ordained that the spiritual and administrative centers of the Baha'i Faith be established on Mount Carmel. He also indicated the precise spot on Mount Carmel where the remains of the Bab should be interred.