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JEREMY SHARON \
Gov't renews tax-exempt status of Bahai Center
The Shrine of the Bab, Baha'i 311.
(photo credit:The World Baha’i Center)
The Justice Ministry announced on Monday that it has renewed a deal with the
Bahai World Center in Israel exempting it from indirect taxes for another
five-year term.The announcement comes ahead of the holiday of Naw-Ruz,
the Bahai New Year that takes place on Wednesday. The tax arrangement was
originally agreed upon between the state and the Bahai movement in
1987.Representatives of the Bahai faith, headed by Albert Lincoln, the
secretary-general of the center, welcomed the signing of the agreement, which he
said benefits both Israel and the Bahai community.The Bahai religion was
founded in Iran in 1844 as a universalist monotheistic faith and claims more
than five million followers worldwide.Persecuted in Iran for beliefs
heretical to Islam, one of the early leaders of the religion by the name of
Mizra Husayn Ali, or the Baha’ullah as he became known, was exiled from Iran and
with his followers eventually reached Acre in 1868, where he settled for the
rest of his life, wrote the holy scriptures of the Bahai faith and was
buried.The Shrine of the Bab and the Bahai Gardens in Haifa are the
resting place of the remains of the founder of the Bahai faith, Siyyid Ali
Muhammad Shirázi, also known as the Bab, who was executed in Iran in 1850. His
remains were brought to Mount Carmel and interred in a shrine there in
1909.The implementation of the agreement is supervised by an
interministerial committee, headed by the director of the Justice Ministry, Dr.
Guy Rotkoff, who approved the continuation of the arrangement.The Bahai
have been a recognized religious community in Israel since 1971.The main
activities of the World Bahai Center are the development and maintenance of the
community’s holy sites in Haifa and the Galilee, as well as increasing tourism
and investment in them.The Bahai Gardens in Haifa, along with other
Bahai sites in the country, attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year
– including those of the Bahai faith as well as foreign tourists and the general
public – and are among the most visited sites in the country.The Justice
Ministry said that the government views the Bahai holy places as among the most
important tourist sites in the whole country.The government will
transfer funds equivalent to any indirect outlays incurred by the World Bahai
Center or any of its associated non-profit organizations for activities it
carries out in operating and developing the sites.Rotkoff underlined the
importance of the relationship with the Bahai center, especially for the
activities that it has done to help develop the Galilee region.
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