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Israel's Sacred Baha'i Shrines Join UNESCO List

Via Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Israel's Baha'i Shrines Added To UNESCO World Heritage List

The two most sacred sites for the Baha'i religion, both located in Israel, have been recognized by UNESCO as being part of the cultural heritage of humanity and join 850 sites in Israel and around the world.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, meeting in Quebec City in July for its 32nd session, has determined that two Baha'i shrines in Israel possess "outstanding universal value" and decided to add them to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The decision means that the two most sacred sites for Baha'is - the resting places of the founders of their religion - are considered to be part of the cultural heritage of humanity and join a list of internationally recognized sites such as the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, and Stonehenge. The other UNESCO World Heritage sites in Israel include Masada, the Old City of Jerusalem, the White City of Tel Aviv-Bauhaus, the biblical tels of Hazor, Megiddo and Beer Sheba, the Incense Route and the Nabatean desert cities of Mamshit, Avdat, Shivta and Haluza.

Baha'is believe that both Baha'u'llah and the Bab were messengers of God; their resting places are sites of pilgrimage for a world-wide religious community of some five million believers. The shrine of Baha'u'llah (near Acre, north of Haifa) is the focal point of prayer for Baha'is all over the world, giving it an importance comparable to the Western Wall in Jerusalem for Jews and the Kaaba in Mecca for Muslims.

Prof. Mike Turner, head of the Israeli committee and deputy chairman of the World Heritage Committee, said that recognition of the Baha'i centers as World Heritage sites represents an important achievement in the preservation of the diverse cultures whose histories are connected to Israel.

The Baha'i shrines are noteworthy for the beautiful formal gardens that surround them, consistent with the Baha'i emphasis on aesthetics. The Baha'i faith promotes world peace and the creation of one worldwide community based on justice and equality. In addition to Baha'i pilgrims, they attract hundreds of thousands of visitors and tourists every year.

"We welcome the UNESCO recognition, which highlights the importance of the holy places of a religion that in 150 years has gone from a small group found only in the Middle East to a worldwide community with followers in virtually every country," said Albert Lincoln, secretary-general of the Baha'i International Community. "The Baha'i community is particularly grateful to the government of Israel for putting forward this nomination," he said.

The World Heritage List was established by UNESCO in 1972 to identify, protect, and preserve places of "cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value." More than 850 sites have been recognized, including natural areas, such as East Africa's Serengeti and Australia's Great Barrier Reef.


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