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Minority Communities in Israel: The Baha’i

The Baha'i faith was founded in Iran in 1863 by Mirza Husayn ali Nuri (1817-92), known as Bahaullah or Baha Allah (Arabic for "splendor of God). This religion's name comes from the Arabic word for splendor.

Baha'i International Center, Haifa

Baha Allah was imprisoned or exiled from 1852 to 1877. During that time he wrote the Kitab al-aqdas (Arabic for "The Most Holy Book"). After his death, his son, Abbas Effendi (1844-1921) or Abd al-Baha, was named the leader of the community and given the power to interpret his father's work. At the time of his father's death, the Baha'i were based in Iran and Acre in Palestine. Through Effendi's travels, he spread spread the faith around the world.

Since 1962, the Baha'i have been administered by the Universal House of Justice, which is elected every five years, and based in Haifa. Bahá'í sources usually estimate the worldwide Bahá'í population to be above 5 million. Encyclopedias and similar sources estimate from 2 to 8 million Bahá'ís in the world in the early twenty-first century, with most estimates between 5 and 6 million. While their world headquarters is based in Israel, few Baha'is live there. In Iran, the Baha'is were the country's largest minority population and were treated with relative tolerance by the Shah's regime. Since the revolution, however, the Islamic government has persecuted them.

The Baha'i have no public or private rituals. Adherents gather at the end of every Baha'i month, which consists of 19 months with 19 days in each month, to pray and discuss events and issues in the community. The Baha'i believe that each age requires a new message. While the work of each "manifestation" of the revelation of God has been successful and complete, the ongoing task of revelation will never achieve its final "seal"; even Baha Allah is not the Last. According to the Kitab al-aqdas, Baha'i itself will be superceded, though not for "a thousand years."

The gold-domed Shrine of the Bab in Haifa was build in 1953 to contain the tomb of Siyyad Ali Muhammed – the Bab – a Muslim in Persia who proclaimed the coming of a "Promised One" in 1844. He was executed in 1850 in Tabriz, Iran, at the age of 31 for heresy. His disciples who consider him to be a Martyr brought his remains to Haifa in 1909. The man the Bahais believe was the "Promised One" – Baha Allah – is buried near Akko where he died in 1892.

Sources: Jonathan Smith, ed., The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion, (CA: HarperCollins, 1995), Israeli Foreign Ministry , Wikipedia and The Baha''is