The Baha'i World Centre - "Starting to look a bit tacky"

Pilgrims to the Baha'i Shrines in Haifa, are reporting that the gardens and buildings at the Baha'i World Centre are not looking their best. One pilgrim even described them as "tacky".

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"We've had some difficulty attracting suitable volunteers to take up key positions", said Faith Lensing, a spokesperson for the Baha'i World Centre. "Also, the cost of garden and building maintenance has been higher than anticipated."

Ms Lensing made an assurance that urgent maintenance was being carried out. A photographer despatched to the gardens confirmed her story. A major makeover appears to be underway.

The pilgrims also comment on how "tiny" the country of Israel is. Israel's Tourism Minister, Tamid To'eba, had time for a quick comment before dashing off to open the country's souvenir shop, "We are a small country, surrounded by our enemies. But tourists can be assured that they are perfectly safe and that all the country's attractions are within easy walking distance. Sorry, I mean driving distance."

To'eba's slip of the tongue is quite telling.

{josquote}...there's a growing public realisation that the Baha'i World Centre is much smaller than it was thought to be.{/josquote}

Baha'i officials have banned cameras from the Baha'i properties, ostensibly for religious reasons, and Israeli authorities have banned cameras from most public areas for security reasons. As a result, nearly all still and moving images have come from official sources, and those posed PR images have reinforced an impression that Israel is a small but vibrant country. Now that digital and video cameras have become ubiquitous -- with many cellphones having video capabilities -- these bans have become impossible to enforce. 'Raw' footage of scenes from within Israel are starting to appear on the Internet and elsewhere, and there's a growing public realisation that the Baha'i World Centre, and indeed the whole of Israel, is so much less than than the image-makers have made it out to be. "Small and vibrant" Israel is starting to look like nothing more than a tacky Middle Eastern theme park with nukes.

The Russian pilgrim who shot the following low-quality video on her $100 digital camera commented that she "arrived for a nine-day pilgrimage but was completed" within a few minutes. She had "finished the rest of Israel off" in a morning, and had to spend the next eight-and-a-half days at Sharm El Sheikh, in Egypt, waiting for her return flight to Moscow. "I won't be back to Mini-Israel", she said, "Lenin's tomb is bigger, closer, and more lively."

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