The Little Religion that Persists
TIME Magazine / Karl Vick

The story is of the Baha'i faith, which started in Iran in the early 1800s and ended up with its spiritual locus, by an accident of empire, here in what is today Israel. The shrine in Haifa marks the resting place of the "Bab," or "Gate," the name given to Siyyid Ali-Muhammad in his role as prophet. Born in the garden-rich city of Shiraz, in southwestern Iran, he both announced that a greater messenger was coming after him and laid down some of the precepts of the new faith, such as equality for women and renouncing violence. Executed by Iranian clerics as a heretic, his remains were recovered by followers and moved covertly from place to place for decades

"The Iranians like to say we're spies for Israel and Zionists and all that," says Weinberg. "But we were here 80 years before Israel. It's historical coincidence that this is in Haifa." In other ways, though, it's a good fit. With its hillside coastal setting that evokes San Francsico, and the apparent ease with which the city's Arab minority and Jewish population relate, Haifa is certainly one of the more cosmopolitan among Israel's major cities. "The shrine affects the whole set up of Haifa," mayor Yona Yahav said in April, when the brown sack that had covered the dome for two years was pulled off, and the hillside again shone gold. "It is the core and symbol of this tolerant and multi-cultural city."

recommended by Ali Najafi