- HAIFA, Israel (BWNS) - Gry
Kvalheim worked behind the scenes on logistical arrangements for the 1984
Los Angeles Olympics and also the 1992 Baha'i World Congress, which brought
some 30,000 Baha'is from around the world to New York.
- She nevertheless counts the inauguration of a series
of majestic garden terraces tomorrow on Mount Carmel as one of the most
complex undertakings she's ever been involved with.
- Among other things, the celebration this week entailed
making travel and hotel arrangements for 3,000 Baha'is from more than 180
countries, the construction of a 4,000-seat temporary amphitheater, and
the coordination of a musical program that brings together a symphony orchestra
from Israel, a choir from Romania, and soloists from around the world.
More than 60 buses have been hired just to shuttle participants around.
- "This is one of the biggest events in Israel this
year, and certainly one of the biggest in Haifa ever," said Ms. Kvalheim,
who is Managing Director of the Inaugural Events Office, which has organized
the celebration. "We've essentially had to book every hotel room in
Haifa and in surrounding cities, from Nahariyya on the other side of Acre
to Zichron Ya'acov in the south."
- Ms. Kvalheim, who has been a Baha'i since 1959, also
feels the assignment is the most significant she has ever undertaken.
- "As a Baha'i, I don't think you can even fathom
the importance of this event, she said, noting that the scriptures of the
Baha'i Faith promise that such structures would one day grace the slope
of Mount Carmel. "For us, it is prophecy fulfilled."
- Built at a cost of some $250 million, the 19 garden terraces
and two nearby administrative buildings are being offered up to the world
this week as a demonstration of how diverse peoples can come together in
peace and harmony.
- The worldwide Baha'i community of some five million people
from virtually every background and nation have sacrificed and labored
in a spirit of love and unity over the last decade to fund and complete
- Today, in celebration of the project's completion, the
3,000 Baha'is gathered here visited the Shrine of Baha,u,llah, the Founder
of the Baha'i Faith. Located in the city of Acre, across the bay from Haifa,
the Shrine of Baha,u,llah is the most holy place in the world for Baha'is.
The program featured prayers and devotional elements designed to spiritually
prepare them for the week ahead.
- On Tuesday, the terraces will be formally inaugurated
with a world premiere concert of two orchestral works composed specifically
for the occasion and the reading of a message from the Universal House
of Justice, the international governing body of the Baha'i Faith. The concert
and ceremonies will be available worldwide by satellite and webcast. Dozens
of representatives of the international media have expressed a desire to
attend and cover the event.
- Making logistical arrangements for the concert and inaugural
ceremonies, which will continue until Friday, has been a huge undertaking,
made more complex because the concert will be held outside, at the base
of Mount Carmel.
- The Inaugural Events Office has arranged for the construction
of a massive 4,000-seat temporary amphitheater around the plaza that forms
the first terrace on the mountainside, at the top of Ben Gurion Avenue.
This has necessitated closing the intersection of Ben Gurion Avenue and
Hagefen Street, one of the city busiest locations, to automobile traffic
for two weeks. The Inaugural Events Office has collaborated closely with
the City of Haifa throughout the project.
- "We consider the gardens a gift to us," said
Moshe Tzur, managing director of the Haifa Tourist Board. "We hope
it will become one of the main tourist attractions in the world. And the
people of Haifa, they understand and are more than happy about it.
- Jack Lenz, music director for the event, said the holding
of such a concert outside, in a temporary amphitheater, entailed numerous
special musical concerns.
- "We're not doing this with the natural acoustics
of a hall, and the challenge is how do you make it sound good outside,"
said Mr. Lenz, who is himself a well-known composer, artist and producer
- One potential problem is excess wind, which could create
unwanted noise. To counter that, wind socks will be put on all microphones.
- "You plan and do what you can do and then you leave
the rest up to God," said Mr. Lenz. "I'm assuming the weather
will be great and the wind will be low."
- As well, said Mr. Lenz, concerts held outside often lack
the fullness of sound that is heard in a concert hall, where the sound
waves are reflected off the walls and ceiling. To compensate, they will
put individual microphones on each instrument in the orchestra, instead
of at just a few locations, and then add reverberation or other effects
at the mixing console.
- Like Ms. Kvalheim, Mr. Lenz feels that an extraordinary
sense of history and importance surrounding the inauguration.
- "This is a unique event in the Baha'i dispensation,"
said Mr. Lenz. "The terraces will be here for hundreds of years. The
mountain itself has been celebrated in the Judeo-Christian religious tradition
for thousands of years. In the Bible, for example, Isaiah talks about songs
of "everlasting joy" on Mount Carmel.
- "More than 75 percent of the program on Tuesday
night is music," added Mr. Lenz. "So that fits in with the whole
prophetic vision of the mountain."
- In addition to the participation of more than 3,000 Baha'is
from around the world, several hundred dignitaries are expected to attend
the concert tomorrow. The list of confirmed attendees includes a number
of government ministers, several Israeli Supreme Court justices, ambassadors
and members of the Israeli Knesset.
- "The project and its completion has provoked an
unexpectedly enthusiastic response within Israel," said Albert Lincoln,
secretary general of the Baha'i International Community.
- Dr. Lincoln said during Passover, for example, the number
of Israeli visitors to the gardens that immediately surround the Shrine
of the Bab, which have long been open to the public, exceeded 12,000 visitors
on one day. Previously, he said, visits to those gardens ran from 1,000
to 2,000 on Jewish holy days.
- "Likewise, the response to the invitations sent
out for the opening ceremonies has been far beyond anything anticipated
by professional events organizers or any previous experience we've had,"
said Dr. Lincoln.
- In anticipation of the thousands more who will want to
visit the terraces, which will be opened to the public on 4 June, a special
computerized reservation system has been set up and a new group of tour
guides have been trained. Ultimately, it is expected that more than a million
people a year will visit the terraces. The tours will be offered at no
- Complete photo gallery http://www.bahaiworldnews.org/terraces/photos.en.html