The Baha'i i in Haifa Israel
The Baha’i World Center is located in Haifa, and the glorious Baha’i Gardens that surround the Shrine with its golden dome are a major addition to the natural beauty of the city. The Gardens are maintained by a group of young volunteers, Baha’i who come from all over the world to perform a year or more of service at the Center, often before beginning university. They and other volunteers are housed in a number of residential buildings that Baha’i owns around Haifa, or in apartments owned by the Center in other buildings.
One of these, generally occupied by older volunteers who give longer periods of service and take on more administrative tasks, is in my building. I recently said goodbye to one, who had become a good friend, and was returning to New Zealand after four years here. Now we keep in touch online.
Recently I met another Baha'i, Renata, and her delightful toddler, Flavio. She and her husband came as volunteers, but now she stays home with the boy. Every Tuesday morning, she and other young mothers meet on a shaded stretch of lawn between our two buildings. They come with their babies and pre-schoolers for a big play date and Mommy get-together. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, they meet in each other’s’ homes.
The morning I met them, there was Renata, who is from Brazil, a young woman from Sri Lanka, one from one of the Caribbean islands, and several from English-speaking countries. These families are all Baha’i volunteers, and I discovered how supportive the community is for them and all people like I had to leave before the singing started, but I must come back soon and stay longer. I wonder if they sing “The Wheels on the Bus”. If so, I’ll join them.
This story was written and coedited with my friend Zelda Dvoretzky. She was born in New Jersey and grew up in New York. She earned degrees from City College of New York and the University of Michigan, after which she wrote copy for the electronic and print media, and worked in public relations, editing and teaching. She retired to Haifa in 1997, is a member of Haifa Writers, Israel, an organization of writers of poetry in English, and the Haifa Chamber Choir. Zelda stays busy learning Hebrew, teaching English, and keeping in touch with grandchildren, family and friends in Texas, California, and, of course, Haifa.