Israeli Government renews Tax-Exempt Status of Bahai CenterPosted: April 11, 2012
By JEREMY SHARON
Tax arrangement was originally agreed upon between the state and the Bahai movement in 1987.
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.