Presently, for Bahá’ís, pilgrimage means visiting the Holy Shrines in Israel. The nine-day pilgrimage is a formal programme with a full schedule in which the believers visit the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, the Shrine of the Báb and have guided visits to other Bahá’í Holy Places located in the ‘Akká/Haifa area. The pilgrims also meet with the Universal House of Justice and the International Teaching Centre. At present, pilgrimages are scheduled from October through the following July of every year; there are no pilgrimages in August or September.
You may submit a request by filling out the online form or by sending your name, address and other pertinent information to the Department of Pilgrimage by email, post, or fax. Applicants are asked to communicate in writing only, as telephoned requests for pilgrimage cannot be accepted. Please note that only Bahá’ís in good standing who are 18 years of age or older may submit an application for pilgrimage. Bahá’ís may submit a request to come for another pilgrimage at any time after they have completed pilgrimage; however, three years must elapse between the end of one pilgrimage and the start of another. For your information, dates are currently being offered twelve to fifteen months in advance.
Currently the waiting period is estimated to be a few months from the time your request is received in the Department of Pilgrimage until your name reaches the top of the list. During the waiting period, it is essential that you inform the Department of Pilgrimage of any change in your name, your contact details or your marital status, if pertinent.
At the time your name reaches the top of the list, you will be sent a range of 12 dates, twelve to fifteen months in the future, to prioritize and return to our Department, along with some other forms. Once your forms are received at the Bahá’í World Centre, a pilgrimage invitation will be offered for one of those 12 dates.
If none of the dates offered are suitable for you, you may refuse the entire list, and you will receive a new range of dates to prioritize. If you decline the offer of dates twice in succession, however, your application will be placed on hold for one year. Should your circumstances change during this period, please inform us so that we can process your existing application and offer you a range of new dates. If we have not heard from you by the end of the one-year period, your current application will be automatically removed. You may of course reapply for pilgrimage by completing a new application at any time after that.
It could be that the pilgrimage group on the date you preferred was already full. There are a number of factors which must be considered when making pilgrimage assignments, including the number of children, language needs, helpers and other special issues.
If you gave insufficient information when you previously applied, we may have been unable to send you an acknowledgement. In order to process a request for pilgrimage, the names, dates of birth and family relationships of the persons requesting pilgrimage must be provided in addition to a postal mailing address. In cases where a postal address was provided but no personal details given, a letter would have been sent requesting the personal information, and only when all the pertinent information was provided would an acknowledgement letter with a request number be sent to you.
The practice of filling last-minute vacancies by issuing invitations to applicants who had indicated that they could come on short notice is no longer followed.
It is not possible to postpone pilgrimage to a specific time. However, you may ask to have your request placed at the bottom of the waiting list.
Please note that pilgrims should not come to the ‘Akká/Haifa area before 8:30 p.m. on the evening before their pilgrimage begins and should leave by sunset on the day following the end of their pilgrimage. If the scheduled arrival and departure of your flights require you to be in Israel before or after the dates of your pilgrimage, you are advised to keep the additional time as short as possible and to spend it in Tel Aviv or in a locality in the coastal area between Tel Aviv and Nahariya, but excluding the ‘Akká/Haifa area. You may, of course, pass through the ‘Akká/Haifa area in the event that you stay in Nahariya.
You may include on an existing request a total of 15 family members, whether Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í, to whom you are closely related: fiancé(e)s, spouses, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, and similar categories of relations formed by legal bonds such as marriage or adoption.
For each family member, three years must elapse between the end of one pilgrimage and the start of another. For your information, dates are currently being offered twelve to fifteen months in advance.
Requests to add family members can be submitted online or by completing the form found in the leaflet entitled “Request to Add Family Members”.
Although children are permitted to accompany their parents on pilgrimage, parents are discouraged from bringing children who are under ten years of age. If their child/children were not included in the original application, parents may request to have their children added to their application by completing the online form or the form found in the leaflet entitled “Request to Add Family Members or Request to Bring Children in the Care of a Babysitter”. Babysitters and the children in their care are not considered pilgrims, and they may not participate in the guided portions of the pilgrimage programme or attend the receptions with the Universal House of Justice and the International Teaching Centre. Children who will be participating in the pilgrimage and who will not be under the care of a designated babysitter must be named in their family's invitation. Please note that children are not permitted to visit the International Archives Building unless they have passed their ninth birthday. It will be necessary for parents to make their own arrangements for child care. Parents may not call upon World Centre staff for babysitting services. Parents are responsible for the behavior of their children throughout the pilgrimage and may be asked to take their children out if they are in any way disturbing others or in danger of damaging property.
A Bahá’í in good standing may apply for pilgrimage on behalf of a total of 15 family members, whether Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í, to whom he or she is closely related. For each family member, three years must elapse between the end of one pilgrimage and the start of another. For your information, dates are currently being offered twelve to fifteen months in advance.
Children who have reached the age of nine may participate in all portions of the pilgrimage programme. Children under the age of nine may not visit the International Archives Building.
If you wish to come to the Holy Land with your friends, you should submit your applications for pilgrimage at the same time. As your request dates will be the same, it is likely that you will be considered for a pilgrimage in close proximity to each other, and that there will be common pilgrimage dates among the range of 12 dates presented to each of you. When you are ready to prioritize your dates, it will be important for you to consult with your friends. Each of you should first choose the dates you have in common from the range of dates offered and prioritize them in the same order; then prioritize any other dates that are left. You should indicate in the margins of your forms the names of those with whom you wish to come on pilgrimage and submit all your forms in the same envelope.
There is no guarantee that you would be invited together, but if you follow the guidelines above, every effort will be made on your behalf.
Your non-Bahá’í spouse is welcome to participate in all aspects of the pilgrimage programme with you. Requests to add a spouse can be submitted online or by completing the form found in the leaflet entitled “Request to add immediate family members and guidance regarding non-Bahá’í family members”.
You may request to come for another pilgrimage at any time after you have completed pilgrimage; however, three years must elapse between the end of one pilgrimage and the start of another. For your information, dates are currently being offered twelve to fifteen months in advance.
At present, there are English and Persian language groups for each pilgrimage date. There are some pilgrimage dates for which there are language groups in the French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish or Turkish languages. You will be assigned to a pilgrimage group according to the language preference you indicate on your application form. Only persons over the age of 18 who are on the same pilgrimage request may choose different language groups. Please note that children under the age of 18 must be in the same language group as their parent(s).
All pilgrims are sent a list of available accommodations with their pilgrimage invitation. Regrettably, there are no licensed accommodations within close walking distance of the Shrine. However, most of the facilities listed are on streets that have good bus and taxi services.
Pilgrims are encouraged to ask their travel agent for further information about accommodations in Israel.
Friends who have physical disabilities or severe health problems can request to bring a person (Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í) to help them during their pilgrimage. The helper must be 18 years of age or older and physically strong enough to fully assist the pilgrim. Full details, including the justification for such a need, must be provided to the Department of Pilgrimage. If permission is given, the person who will accompany the pilgrim will be expected to devote his full attention to the care of the pilgrim that he is accompanying and, if a Bahá’í, will not be subject to the rule under which he would not be able to come for pilgrimage before the lapse of three years.
Unfortunately, the World Centre is not equipped to provide health services to pilgrims and visitors. Therefore, your attention is drawn to the importance of having medical insurance for the duration of your stay in the Holy Land. The House of Justice has decided that the purchase of a local insurance plan is mandatory for all pilgrims and visitors. Exception to this policy may be granted to those who have documentation showing that their existing insurance from their home countries gives them adequate coverage for the period of their stay in Israel. Experience has shown that most policies from one’s home country require the insured to pay for medical treatments received in Israel and to seek reimbursement upon returning home. By contrast, those who are covered by the Israeli plan do not have to pay for medical treatment. For this reason, those who have insurance covering their stay in Israel may still wish to purchase the local insurance plan. The local insurance may be purchased at the Pilgrim Reception Centre during registration.
In general, you are encouraged to follow any advice issued by your government or other appropriate sources about travel within Israel. Given the current circumstances in the country, Bahá’ís may visit West Jerusalem, but are asked not to enter East Jerusalem. The Old City of Jerusalem may be visited but preferably as part of a group. In addition, you are asked not to visit Gaza or the West Bank—which includes Bethlehem and Jericho. Should it be deemed necessary, further advice will be provided to you upon your arrival in Haifa.
It is recommended that you contact a travel agent or your nearest Israeli embassy or consulate to determine whether you require a visa. If a visa is needed, it is advisable for you to contact the nearest Israeli embassy or consulate three to four months in advance of your scheduled pilgrimage, as the application process may be lengthy. In certain cases, it may be necessary to present your invitation letter and passport, in person, at the embassy or consulate during this process.