Published Tuesday, May 22, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury New
Bahai woman to return to Israel for ceremony
Harriet Wolcott of Santa Cruz is home this morning -- in Haifa, Israel.
She is 96 and one of two dozen or so Americans invited to grand ceremonies on the slopes of Mount Carmel. There, the founder of Wolcott's Bahai faith is interred in a golden-domed shrine that is visible throughout much of the seaside Mediterranean city. There on the mountain, 5 million Bahais have their world headquarters.
And there, today, thousands will celebrate the opening of gardens that span Mount Carmel, a construction project that has taken 10 years. The gardens complete the adornment of a place that's as holy to Bahais as the sacred spots of Jerusalem are to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
It's as if the ancient Gardens of Babylon have returned and Wolcott gets to attend the opening. ``It is a dream for me,'' Wolcott said before her departure. She and her late husband, Charles, lived in Haifa for 26 years, arriving in 1961, toughing it out through two wars, and feeling blessed to be so near the Shrine of the Báb, the Bahai prophet who was martyred in 1850 in Tabriz, Persia, and his body thrown in a moat. Rescued by some of the faithful, his remains were moved to Haifa in the 1890s.
In the 1950s, Charles Wolcott was music director for MGM Studios. ``Nobody leaves MGM,'' Variety said after he announced in 1960 that he would quit and move to Wilmette, Ill. He had been elected to the Bahais' national administrative council, which meets there. A year later, the Wolcotts moved to Haifa after his election to the Universal House of Justice, the Bahais' supreme administrative body, which sits on Mount Carmel.
``Nobody could ask for a better life than working at the world center,'' Harriet Wolcott said in an interview at her Santa Cruz home. She seemed enlivened by the memories: ``I was 56 years old, a housewife, and the mother of two grown girls -- and suddenly I was in this other world. I was close to the holy places and the pilgrims would come and I would guide them to the sites. And Charles and I enjoyed ourselves so; sometimes we went to parties with the mayor.''
Bahais claim about 140,000 followers in the United States, including about 3,000 in the Bay Area. The monotheistic faith teaches that humanity's spiritual faculties have been nurtured by a succession of prophets -- Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad among them. In 1852, two years after the Bab's martyrdom, a Bahai prophet named Baha'u'llah -- meaning ``Glory of God'' in Arabic -- is said to have had a vision while living in Persia.
He started writing the Bahai Scriptures, which encompass about 100 books and tablets, emphasize the essential oneness of humankind, reject racism and promote world peace.
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED
©Copyright 2001, Mercury News