Posted by: bahaiguy | January 7, 2009

Baha’i Journey to Haifa Israel on Pilgrimage

Just picked up my tickets to go to Haifa. Woo Hoo!

Plane tickets to go to Haifa, Israel!


NOTE: This Blog is a journal of one Bahai’s first trip to Haifa Israel on 9-Day Bahá’i Pilgrimage. It began on January 19th, 2009. After being on the waiting list to go for over 10 years, I guess you could say I was pretty excited! I’ve documented everything on here to help others on their first trip to the Baha’i Holy Land. Hope it helps…

Letter of Acceptance to go on Pilgrimmage

When you receive your letter (which is accompanied by an email) you have to go to this site which is Pilgrimage Scheduling site for Haifa. They will have given you a login and password in the documents you were given… The cool thing is, even though your time has come to Travel to Haifa – there are PLENTY of dates to choose from on site, including all the various different language hosted tours – Hey that’s what makes the Bahá’i Faith so cool.

Tip: While you are logged in to the Pilgrimage scheduling site, its a VERY good idea to go in and check / update your contact details. After you select your date,  you will get a “welcome package” covering all the basics. I booked for Jan. 19 – 27 2009 which as of this posting in coming up reaaaaally quick.

Booking Plane Tickets to Haifa, Israel

The first thing to bear in mind is when you get your letter that you are due to choose dates to go on Pilgrimage is that you DO NOT wait till a month out to purchase your plane tickets. Just book at least 2 months in advance to get the best options. And by best option, I mean not have to have a layover in Hong Kong for 20 hours. Luckily I had a great travel agent fro Harvey World Travel named Melissa. After about 30 minutes of searching she found a rout with only an 8 hour stay in Hong Kong.

Tip: About plane tickets – I can’t recommend enough the need to use a ‘Travel Agent’ to help you book your flight. There is just to many variables to try and attempt it yourself.

I was also advised by several people not to fly El  Al Israel Airlines, but for the second half of my voyage after flying into Hong Kong from Cathay Pacific Airlines, El Al was the only option. I will have a better idea of why I was advised against flying with them, but from what I gathered, there is heaps of extra security hassles when flying with them. Stay Tuned… (*UPDATE: Yes, there is A LOT of security checks. Fly another Airline if possible. El Al is otherwise great airline).

trip-advisorBooking Hotel Accommodations in Haifa

For me the first thing I did was ask my other Bahá’i friends where they stayed. Once I got a few names, I then went to Trip Advisor to see what other people were saying and the ratings the different hotels in Haifa were getting. There is plenty of accomodation both at the Base of Mt. Carmel and at the top looking down the mountain with a particularly good view of the Shrine of the Bab…. After reading the reviews of Dan Gardens I booked my room for 9 days with them.

The total cost of the room was $912 US. This includes a breakfast each morning. I’m not sure if this is a good price or not, I had no idea what it would cost or if this is an expensive time of year to go there. Below are three pictures of the Hotel, one of the patio area, another of the front exterior of the building, and finally the reason to book Dan Gardens in the first place…. aaaaaaah look at that view!

Tip: Don’t forget to request a NON-SMOKING room, they will put you in one if not noted…

The Hotel I booked is 'Dan Gardens, hi above on Mt. Carmel in Haifa'

The Hotel I booked is 'Dan Gardens, high above on Mt. Carmel in Haifa'


Tips: Preparing for Pilgrimage to Haifa

This is a work in progress as I’m still two weeks out from leaving ) Here is what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Find out what the weather is in Haifa for the time of year you are going. Its summer here in Australia, I highly doubt its summer in Haifa
  2. Your Passport: This one is a biggy because you need to check your expiration date and ensure it has at least 6 months before it expires
  3. Bring your Bahai ID card
  4. Bring your Acceptance Letter for Pilgrimage
  5. Inform pilgrimage@bwc.org that you are indeed coming. Also inform them if anyone one in your family cannot make the trip NO MATTER how late it is
  6. Pack your carry-on with all your most important items including shoes and a change of clothes. I have been warned that it is very common to have your luggage lost and nobody wants to spend their first day in Haifa shopping for shoes

Note: Baha’i Pilgrimage full trip days 1-9 follow this post….

Posted by: bahaiguy | March 1, 2009

Arrival to Haifa

This Baha’i Pilgrimage Haifa Israel blog is all about my Journey to the Baha’i Holy Land in Haifa, for a 9 day Pilgramage. It was my first trip, after being a member of the Baha’i Faith for 10 years. I hope this Blog will help you plan your travels to the Holy Land and give you a wonderful glimpse of what to expect…

Boarding EL Al Airlines

Note: If you interested in reading the two earlier blog post’s I made about preparing for the trip to Haifa, you can view them below, or following the “Day 9″ post (links open in a new window):

The most secure Airline ever....

The most secure airline ever....

The flight on EL AL from Hong Kong to Tel Aviv is around 11 hours. The length of this flight is largely due to the fact that Israeli airlines will NOT fly over Arab countries. I guesstimate if they did you could easily shave 3 hours off the trip. I’m not complaining because I slept for about 8 hours on this flight, and with the two meals it flew by.

Note: About EL AL Israeli Airlines – Once you do finally board the plane and are airborne you feel extremely safe. They are the safest airline in the world for good reason and aside from having my luggage searched about 3 times it was an excellent flight.

About Arriving in Tel Aviv

Arrival to Tel Aviv was pretty speeding and I had no trouble picking up my baggage. The next decision you have is how to get to Haifa. You really have two options:

  1. Get a train ticket. I rode a train direct to Haifa for around $30 Shekel
  2. Take a Sherut. This is a good option especially if you are arriving to Haifa with other Bahai’s because you need 10 people to go on board. The good thing about Sheruts is that will drop you off right in front of your Hotel.
I stayed for the duration of my trip here at Dan Gardens, Haifa Israel

I stayed for the duration of my trip here at Dan Gardens, Haifa Israel

Haifa Accommodation

For my accommodation, I chose Dan Gardens Haifa. Its on top of Mt. Carmel at 124 Yaffe-Nof Street, only 5-10 mins walking distance from the top of the Terraces looking down on the Shrine of the Báb. I def recommend stayin ON TOP of the terrace rather than at the bottom. You will be around more Bahai’s there as most people do choose to stay at the top. Also you are able to walk down the terraces to go to the various things on your program which mostly use the Pilgrim reception center as the main meeting spot.

5 Tips for Booking a Hotel in Haifa

  1. Wherever you book in Haifa make sure to let them know you are a Bahai… My room rate was discounted from $112 US per night to $70
  2. Also its a good idea to choose a hotel that has FREE breakfast (like Dan Gardens). It makes starting your day so much easier when you dont even have to think about food – just eat and go
  3. Request a non-smoking room
  4. Earlier you book, the better the views – so get your booking as soon as you decide to go to Haifa
  5. Do your Haifa Hotel research at Trip Advisor

For Bahai’s: Make sure to bring your “Pilgrimage Acceptance Letter” and your Bahai ID to board this flight to Tel Aviv…

Posted by: bahaiguy | February 28, 2009

DAY 1 of Bahai Pilgrimage

This is what the Pilgrim House looks like...

Pilgrim House

DAY 1: Registration and Meeting the Friends

Day one of Bahai Pilgrimage is about getting registered and meeting the other people in your group.

Basically you just need to head down to the Pilgrimage Reception Center to get signed in. There is a lot of excitement and smiles as people begin to start their 9 day stay in Haifa.

There is also an orientation at the Auditorium of the International Teachin Centre Building. You will watch a short video on the what to expect, some basic rules for reverence and other useful info. You will also have the opportunity to visit the Shrine of the Báb and ‘Abdul-Baha… Oh and the smell of those roses :)

“I cannot at this juncture overemphasize the sacredness of that holy dust embosomed in the heart of the Vineyard of God, or overrate the unimaginable potencies of this mighty institution founded sixty years ago, through the operation of the Will of, and the definite selection made by, the Founder of our Faith, on the occasion of His historic visit to that holy mountain, nor can I lay too much stress on the role which this institution, to which the construction of the superstructure of this edifice is bound to lend an unprecedented impetus, is destined to play in the unfoldment of the World Administrative Centre of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh and in the efflorescence of its highest institutions constituting the embryo of its future World Order.”
Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith: Messages to America, 1947–1957 (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1999), p. 95

Shrine of the Bab, Haifa

About the Baha’i Shines in Haifa

Just a word about the Sacred Shrines – for many this can be a very emotional experience. I had heard such amazing things about Haifa and the Holy Places, but I don’t think I was prepared for just how powerful an experience it was. The beauty of the Baha’i gardens, the smell of roses when you enter, I had to fight back tears on at least my first 3 visits. They were ‘happy tears’ and ‘I feel so unbelievably lucky to be here tears’…

The sense of peace and contentment you feel when you are on Mt. Carmel, The Shrines, and surrounding area including Bahji and the Shrine of Bahá’u’láh is truly like Heaven on Earth.

For Bahai’s: Be sure to write down the address of the Reception Centre before you head over for the first time because it is NOT labeled and will only have a St. number. I dunno if this is for security reasons perhaps…

Posted by: bahaiguy | February 27, 2009

Day 2 of Bahai Pilgrimage

The Bahji Reception Centre is the first thing you see when you arrive...

The Bahji Reception Centre is the first thing you see when you arrive...

Day 2: Visit to Bahji

On your second day the excitement builds as you meet your Guide and take your first visit to Bahji. Our guides name was Anne and I simply cannot give her enough praise she was everything you could hope for in a guide, very informative, so sincere in her adoration of the Holy Sites and and such a sweet soul.

A quick note on the Bahai Gardens at Bahji and the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, I dont think my words are even capable of doing just to the experience of going to Bahji, so I will let the pictures do most of the talking if that is even at all possible. Let me say this, no matter what you have heard or what other visitors to this Holiest of sites have shared with me could have prepared me with just how awe inspiring, beautiful and majestic it is.

“Public access to the heart of the Qiblih of the Bahá’í World is now made possible through traversing the sacred precincts leading successively to the Holy Court, the outer and inner sanctuaries, the Blessed Threshold and the Holy of Holies.”
Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá’í World, 1950–1957
(Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1999), p. 30


First Arriving in Bahji…

Bahji - The most Holy place on Earth for the Baha'i Faith

When you first arrive, you are led into the large iron gates and see a rather large and modern Reception Centre (as shown above) surrounded by a very beautiful landscape. Its not, however, untill you walk down the large path that leads to the burial ground of the Prophet founder of the Bahá’i Faith, Baha’u’llah that the magnitude and size of the gardens become apparent.

As if the walk leading up to this most Holiest of spots on Earth isn’t enough, you become aware of the size and beauty of Bahji, it is a truly amazing experience that I feel so so lucky to have experienced.

Snapdragons

Majestic Olive Trees at Bahjí

Snapdragons

Depending on what time of year you visit Bahjí, you will see a wide array of different flowers. In this photo: Snapdragons

Another view of the Bahai Gardens in Bahji

Another view of the Bahai Gardens in Bahji

bahji-in-haifa

For Bahai’s: Don’t forget to pack a lunch on this trip!

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