Faith led couple to Israel: ; Local husband and wife journey to Haifa on Baha'i pilgrimage
A Charleston couple found serenity on a recent Baha'i pilgrimage to Israel.
"It was a leap of faith," said Dr. Azita Misaghi. "It was truly a spiritual journey."
She and her husband, Dr. Faredoon Misaghi, traveled to Haifa, Israel, the center of the Baha'i Faith. She is a dentist and he is a family physician. They are also the parents of three children between the ages of 5 and 10.
Because of their recent turmoil, they hesitated for a while, but then plunged ahead with the April 15-23 journey to seei holy sites and enjoy the majestic garden terraces on Mount Carmel.
"We did a lot of soul searching and praying and were in touch with the Baha'i World Center," Azita said. "Because there are so many Baha'is all through the world who want to go, you can't just go. You have to ask permission for a time."
The waiting list is six to seven years and such a pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Baha'is who can afford the trip. The Misaghis were on a waiting list for six and a half years.
"Last year they said, 'Next year is your turn,'" Azita said. "We picked April thinking spring would be a good time of year. We didn't expect such a heightened problem in what the country is going through. It seems this country is always in a sense of chaos. Many Baha'is have gone during troubled times."
Officials at the Baha'i World Center said the atmosphere was calm in Haifa, but recommended they check their local travel advisory. The U.S. State Department warned against traveling to Israel.
"We thought if we cancel we will be back on a waiting list," Azita said. "We bit the bullet and went for it. If you belong to any faith group and are devoted to any degree, there comes a point when you have to confirm your faith in God. You put your trust in his hands."
What they found in Haifa was a sense of peace far removed from the war-torn areas of the country. They spent much time in prayer and meditation, visited holy sites, and had fellowship time with Baha'is from several countries.
The Baha'i faith was founded by Baha'u'llah, who wrote more than 100 manuscripts addressing topics ranging from the equality of men and women to the elimination of poverty and prejudice. Baha'is believe there is one God who progressively reveals his will to humanity through various messengers.
The Bab, which is Arabic for gate, prepared the way for the coming of Baha'u'llah (Glory of God). He was born in Persia (now Iran) in 1817 to a wealthy family, but gave up a life of luxury to help the poor.
During his life, he experienced support as well as conflict as he proclaimed God had entrusted him with a revelation addressing humanity's current needs. The government suppressed him and he was banished from Persia to Iraq. He was later held in a prison in Akka, Israel. He died in 1892 leaving behind an abundance of writings that are treasured as scriptures.
The Misaghis visited the Shrine of the Bab and the beautifully landscaped terrace gardens surrounding it. There are 18 terraces from the foot to the crest of Mount Carmel. A sophisticated irrigation system keeps the gardens beautiful while conserving water. The gardens attract wildlife and provide a calm in the midst of a bustling city. A variety of flowers bloom throughout the year. In the evening, lights outline the terraces while focusing on the Shrine of the Bab.
On Mount Carmel above the Shrine of the Bab is the Universal House of Justice, the highest governing body of the religion, with a volunteer staff representing 55 countries. Other buildings in the administrative center are International Baha'i Archives, International Teaching Center and The Study of the Text.
The main principles of the religion are oneness of God, oneness of religion and oneness of humankind. The Baha'i Faith promotes unity of humankind and establishment of world peace. More information on the religion can be found on the Web at www.bahai.org.
The trip offered a feeling of serenity and oneness as the couple visited holy sites with others from throughout the world. For safety reasons, they were warned to stay off crowded buses and out of busy restaurants. But they never felt threatened.
In fact, focusing on spirituality has left a lingering sense of peace.
"You get into a different phase and become a spiritual being," she said. "It took going to another part of the world to feel that way. It is a wonderful feeling. You come back to reality and it is almost like cold water in your face. Our challenge now is to walk the practical life with spiritual feet. I'm really trying to hang onto that thread of serenity."
Writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith can be reached at 348-1246 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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