The Bahá'í World Centre
Baha'i Holy Places in Haifa and Akko, Israel
As is the case with three of the other world religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), it is ties of historical circumstance that bind the Bahá'í Faith to the Holy Land . The houses and other places associated with the exile here of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá have been lovingly restored by the Bahá'í community.
The Bahá’í World Centre, the spiritual and administrative heart of the Bahá’í community, is located in the twin cities of ‘Akká and Haifa in northern Israel. It comprises the Shrines of Bahá’u’lláh, and the Báb, the holiest spots on earth for Bahá’ís. It also incorporates the burial place of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as well as other holy sites in the surrounding area.
In the vicinity of the Shrine of the Báb there are a number of structures including the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, the International Teaching Centre Building, the Centre for the Study of the Texts and the International Bahá’í Archives, all of which are set in extensive gardens.
Every year thousands of Bahá'ís visit Haifa and Acre as pilgrims and have the privilege of visiting these sites in the company of fellow believers from all parts of the world. At five-year intervals the elected representatives of the national Bahá'í communities gather in Haifa to elect the members of the Universal House of Justice, which administers the international affairs of the Faith from its Seat on Mount Carmel.
Also in Haifa are the Bahá’í International Community’s Secretariat and Office of Public Information.
The staff of the House of Justice comprises Bahá'í volunteers drawn from many different lands. Living in the Haifa/Acre area, staff members serve by invitation for varying periods of time. A measure of the expansion at the Bahá’í World Center is the fact that whole departments are now responsible for tasks that Shoghi Effendi used to undertake single-handedly. The exact organization of departments and offices varies from time to time, but they can be grouped into the following categories:
Secretariat—concerned with the correspondence of the Universal House of Justice, including the filing, indexing, and retrieval of this material, as well as the processing of responses to incoming letters.
Research Department—responsible under the direction of the Universal House of Justice for preparing material from the authoritative Bahá’í texts on issues specified by the Universal House of Justice, as well as producing compilations of scripture, translating and checking translations, and researching questions that come from all parts of the Bahá’í world.
Department of Library and Archival Services—divided into an Archives Office, responsible for the preservation, arrangement, and description of the Bahá’í authoritative texts; a Conservation Office, responsible for preserving the Bahá’í sacred writings and relics, as well as other historic documents and artifacts; and the Bahá’í World Center Library.
Offices charged with the responsibility for major construction and renovation projects and for the preservation and maintenance of the holy places and other Bahá’í properties at the World Center, including acquisition, restoration and construction, cleaning, maintenance, security, and gardens development. Important acquisitions include outright ownership of Mazra‘ih (1973), the House of ‘Abdu’lláh Páshá (1975), and additional land around Bahjí and Mazra‘ih and on Mount Carmel. This group of offices also organizes pilgrimages.
Offices concerned with all legal issues and relations with government agencies, the media, and civil society. On 22 April 1987 an international agreement was signed with the State of Israel, carrying forward the recognition that had been obtained by Shoghi Effendi under the British Mandate and in the early years of the creation of the State of Israel and defining the relationship of the Bahá’í World Center with the state.
Offices responsible for statistical analysis and for audiovisual resources.
Offices responsible for worldwide issues related to socioeconomic development and the environment.
Offices concerned with the management of funds, including such functions as handling contributions, accounting, purchasing, disbursements, and cost analysis.
Offices that perform service functions—meeting needs for data processing, personnel, accommodation, health, telecommunications, and administrative development.
Spiritual Significance of the Baha'i World Centre
Bahá’u’lláh describes the land to which He was banished thus: "This Holy Land hath been mentioned and extolled in all the sacred Scriptures. In it have appeared the Prophets of God and His chosen Ones. . . . This is the promised Land in which He Who is the Revelation of God was destined to be made manifest. . . . the Land of unfading splendor. Whatever hath come to pass in this Day hath been foretold in the Scriptures of old."
Shoghi Effendi describes it as "the Land promised by God to Abraham, sanctified by the Revelation of Moses, honored by the lives and labors of the Hebrew patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets, revered as the cradle of Christianity, and as the place where Zoroaster . . . 'held converse with some of the Prophets of Israel,' and associated by Islám with the Apostle’s night-journey . . . to the throne of the Almighty."