In August of 1868, Baha’u’llah and his companions arrived by sea to the prison-city of Akka under an Ottoman edict of perpetual banishment.
Baha’u’llah’s exile resulted in the Holy Land becoming home to the spiritual and administrative heart of the Baha’i world. Those serving at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel have since those earliest days tried to exemplify, through their life and work, a consciousness of the oneness of humanity.
The annual celebration of Naw-Ruz, the Baha’i New Year, has been an occasion when the Baha’i World Centre has brought together in fellowship a diverse range of people from all walks of life. In addition to a commemoration at the Baha’i World Centre itself, a set of receptions are held in Akka and Jerusalem around the same time.
This year, local authorities, religious leaders from the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths, and representatives of civil society, came together on 24 March in old Akka at a historic former residence of Abdu’l-Baha for a Naw-Ruz reception. The 95 guests included mayor of Akka Shimon Lankry, Member of Knesset Zohrair Bahloul, the city’s Chief Rabbi, a prominent Muslim Sheikh, the Greek Orthodox Archimandrite, a Catholic Reverend, and other leaders of religious and civil society organizations in the city.
The participants at the event exchanged good wishes on the occasion of Naw-Ruz and had an opportunity to discuss a well-known passage from Baha’u’llah:
This span of earth is but one homeland and one habitation. It behoveth you to abandon vainglory which causeth alienation and to set your hearts on whatever will ensure harmony. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 67-68.
The reception in Jerusalem brought together an array of guests to commemorate the festive occasion of the new year. Sarah Vader, a representative of the Baha’i International Community, opened the celebration with remarks about the meaning of Naw-Ruz for Baha’is and the significance of coming together to celebrate this holy day.
“To Baha’is, Naw-Ruz is not just a calendar event. Rather it is an opportunity to reinvigorate the powers of the spirit and to re-examine matters of the heart and conscience. It begins with the idea that the renewal in the world of nature is in fact a symbol of spiritual renewal, and an occasion for the individual to explore how to contribute to the material and spiritual welfare of others,” reflected Ms. Vader afterward.
“This annual event is an occasion for the Baha’is to celebrate the new year with governmental, societal, and community leaders and to open a space for people of diverse backgrounds to join in fellowship and celebrate our common heritage as a human family,” she said.
This year, the reception was also an opportunity to recognize the public service and contributions to coexistence of the honorable Salim Joubran, Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, who is retiring this year. Justice Joubran, who grew up and lives close to the Baha’i holy places in Akka and Haifa, served on the Court for fourteen years and championed coexistence and justice during his career.
Introducing Justice Joubran at the event, Joshua Lincoln, Secretary-General of the Baha’i International Community, commented that “the Baha’i concept of justice in its spiritual, personal, and social dimensions holds so exalted a station that it is associated with the name and title of the supreme administrative institution of the Baha’i community, the Universal House of Justice.”