|Roger Reini's Bahá'í Pilgrimage Journal|
Prelude to Departure
Departure for the Holy Land
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|Prelude to Departure
August 29, 2007
I did not go on pilgrimage in December 2002. My sister and her family were living in Saudi Arabia then, and I did not want to foreclose any possibility of visiting them there. A trip to Israel would have done that, so I declined the invitation and asked to be put at the bottom of the waiting list. Then in 2006, I received another opportunity to select pilgrimage dates. I selected the dates December 24 to January 2 2007/8.
Two days ago, I made my flight reservations. I’ll connect through Frankfurt. Lufthansa to Frankfurt, El Al to Tel Aviv. The flight arrives at 7:40 pm, meaning I could arrive in Haifa after 9 that night. I had considering visiting my sister and her family in Uganda the week before, but the only connections I was offered had me going through Cairo and Amman. Didn’t think I should be going through either place. So Uganda will have to wait. Looking at hotel reservations again -- I’m considering the Dan hotels -- Carmel, Panorama, Gardens. Dan website not working tonight.
Last year, I recall that John and Christa Suggs were on pilgrimage during a period of bombardment in Haifa. Much of their pilgrimage was spent in bomb shelters. Based on their experience, I am vowing to complete my pilgrimage this time. Let us hope and pray that this is the year! Let us also hope and pray that my health will hold up.
I would like to memorize the Tablet of Visitation for Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb before I go. I recited it earlier, and I once again felt its power and majesty. I may not be the most observant Bahá’í, but my belief that Bahá’u’lláh is who He claims to be is firm and unshaking.
August 30, 2007
This afternoon, I went to the Fed Ex office near Detroit’s airport and picked up my plane ticket. I was not home for the delivery attempt yesterday, nor would I be home for any future attempts. So I arranged to have it held at the local office for me to pick up. I did so on the way home from work.
I also made my hotel reservations for Haifa. I will be staying at the Dan Panorama in a room that should have a view of Haifa Bay. $135 a night for 10 nights. Dan Carmel was higher, Dan Gardens was lower, but it was a bit farther away. I had to make the reservation from work at lunch -- website didn’t work well on my Mac Powerbook at home. Turned out to be an Internet Explorer thing -- seems the hotel site needed it for full site access. Bad design decision!
So now my important transportation and lodging decisions have been made. I can’t make arrangements for internal Israeli travel yet; it’s way too soon. I can research them, though. I want to visit the House of Worship before I leave.
November 24, 2007
One month from today is the start of my pilgrimage. I pray that nothing will affect this trip. I’m getting over my second cold in 2 months; I have no wish to have another in a month’s time. I have obtained a 2 GB memory card for my camera to go along with the 1 GB card I have -- more room for pictures. There’s room for a few minutes of video, too. I still don’t plan to take the video camera due to import laws. I will probably leave the Powerbook at home, too, for the same reason.
December 12, 2007
It is 10 days before I leave on pilgrimage. I note that my pilgrimage starts just after the Islamic hajj concludes. Our pilgrimages are not confined to a specific date, as is the hajj. That will reduce the traffic at the holy sites -- no millions of people attempting to circumambulate the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh!
This pilgrimage is not the “official” pilgrimage as prescribed by Bahá’u’lláh. He specified rites to be performed at either the House of the Báb in Shiráz or the House of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdad. But those rites cannot be performed at this time. Both Houses are in the hands of those who are hostile to the Faith. In fact, the House of the Báb was destroyed by the Iranian government after the Islamic Revolution. I think it’s a parking lot now. In the future, God willing, it will be rebuilt. So this pilgrimage will be and is the only one that can be performed at this time.
It was around this time in 2001 that I cancelled my first pilgrimage attempt. But I think I’ve passed that time, in fact. I believe this will go forward. And I want it to go forward! I admit to some apprehension about arriving and getting from the Tel Aviv airport to Haifa, for I’ve never done it before.
December 15, 2007
It is now one week before I depart Detroit. It is snowing in Detroit this evening, and a major winter storm is expected tomorrow. I hope no such storm plays havoc with my departure next week, or with my connections in Frankfurt.
I must now begin to step up my preparations for the trip. I must reconfirm my flights. I must pack. I must pay the bills that need to be paid.
For those who are not Bahá’ís, they may wonder about the significance of my trip. It’s quite simple, really. I will be visiting places that I and my co-religionists consider some of the holiest places on earth. A Christian would yearn to see and be in the places that Jesus walked -- where He lived, where He taught, where He was imprisoned. Well, as a Bahá’í, I regard Bahá’u’lláh in the same light, the same way as Jesus. I will see the places where Bahá’u’lláh lived, walk where He walked. I will visit and pray at His Shrine, where His body is buried. I will see relics associated with His life -- Tablets of scripture that He wrote or dictated, items that He used. No one knows for sure what Christ looked like (no cameras 2000 years ago, and if anyone ever painted His picture, it’s been lost), yet I and my fellow pilgrims will be able to view a photograph and a painting of Bahá’u’lláh, along with a painting of His predecessor, the Báb. I will also visit the Shrine of the Báb, where His body is buried.
At the time my 2001 pilgrimage was cancelled, I had the feeling in my heart that that was for the best, that I was not meant to go at that time. This time, though, I do not have such a feeling. I feel like I am meant to go this time. Now if I had gone in 2001, I would have had the pleasure and bounty to meet two Hands of the Cause of God, the last two surviving Hands, in fact (Drs. Furután and Varqa). But they have both passed on, and now there are no more Hands still living.
December 16, 2007
I’ve spent the last few hours typing this journal up on my Powerbook. And now I’ll have some more words to type later. I checked over my camera and learned how to operate the self-timer. I reviewed my voltage converter and found that it could not handle the adapter for my iPod or my other chargers. I may need to acquire another set of adapters.
December 19, 2007
It is after 8 pm. 72 hours from now, I should be at the Detroit airport awaiting the first leg of my journey to the Holy Land. At 9:55 -- Lord, Mother Nature and airport staff willing -- the Lufthansa flight should be pushing back from the gate. I saw my doctor yesterday, and he gave me no reason not to go.
I have begun to pack a few things, though my main packing will come on Friday and Saturday, after I’ve done laundry. I have informed my credit union and credit card companies of my travel plans. I’ve made arrangements for taxi service to the airport. I went to Wal-Mart tonight for spare batteries (in case I can’t recharge my rechargeable ones) and for some long-sleeve shirts. I’ve found receipts for my camera and iPod so I don’t get charged duty when coming back to America. I’ve printed my prayer list -- I plan to print another copy as a spare.
This week is the time for Hajj in Islám, and the crowds of pilgrims have gathered in Mecca. I marvel at their rituals and note the lack of rituals in ours. Then again, this is not our official pilgrimage, as I previously mentioned. I believe there are more involved rituals and/or rites in what I’ve heard called “Bahá’í hajj”. However, I won’t be performing them on this trip.
I had mentioned power adapters on the 16th. On the 17th, I went to the Apple Store and found an adapter/converter. Now I just hope it works in Israel.
December 20, 2007
2 days to go until I leave. I have started to pack -- although I wonder how everything is going to fit. I would rather not move up to a larger suitcase, for I would have to get a lockable strap for it. The internal locks are no longer usable, for they are not TSA-compliant. I have time, though.
I’ve identified several Bahá’í books I want to bring with me. I’d like to bring a complete library if I could, but that is not feasible. A prayer book, of course, as well as Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh (for the Tablet of Carmel), Prayers & Meditations and the Hidden Words. Maybe I should bring the large Writings of Bahá’u’lláh volume....
I found a wonderful Flickr site with over 500 photos from a late 2006 pilgrimage. Two of the photos featured a cat that roamed the grounds of the Mansion of Bahjí -- the “Kitty-Aqdas” or Most Holy Cat.
December 21, 2007
I’ve started to use a new pen for this journal, one I bought for this occasion. I didn’t want to lose either of the pens I take to work every day, and so I picked up a 3-pack of pens and a 2-pack of pencils at the Target in Allen Park (some Kleenex too -- Puffs, actually). For a while, I considered getting a compressible bag for squeezing some of my clothes down to make more room in the suitcase. But I decided against it when I realized that my baggage will likely be emptied during inspections, and all my work in squeezing the garments down would be lost.
Now the time for last-minute preparation is at hand. Time to finish packing in earnest. Time to make sure I have everything I want or need with me. Time to shift my mind from the concerns of the automobile industry (my job) and to the blessings that surely await me in the Holy Land.
In some ways, I know what to expect, based on the reading I’ve done, the pictures I’ve seen and the general knowledge I have acquired. But in other ways, I don’t know what to expect. How will I react when I first see the Shrines, the Arc, the Gardens? There is no way for me to know until I go there and find out for myself.
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DISCLAIMER: this is not an official page of any Bahá'í Institution. All comments are my own and derive from my personal understanding of the Bahá'í Teachings. For official information about the Bahá'í Faith, you may wish to visit www.bahai.org or www.bahai.us.
Contents ©2008 Roger W. Reini
by Roger Reini