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  • Cities

    The City below the Sea - Jericho

    Jericho is the oldest continously inhabited city in existence - the first ancient city was established in approximately 8,000 BC.   Today Jericho is a popular winter resort, where people enjoy themselves at a get-away where the winter climate is relatively mild.
    Jericho has something for everyone: along the Jerusalem-Jericho raod are a number of historical sites: Bethany, Al-Khan Al-Ahmar, Wadi Qelt, Maqam Nabi Musa, Maqam Hasan Al-ra'l and Maqam Aisha, Herod's Palace, Old Jericho (Tell Al-Sultan), Mount of Temptation, The Sugar Mills, Hisham's Palace, Qumran, the Dead Sea and the River Jordan. Jericho also has an abundance of Part Restaurants for an enjoyable family outing.


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    The city of Gaza

    Gaza was the first Palestinian City to enter the historical records. It was mentioned in the ancient Egyptian texts. The meaning of the name "Gaza" is multiple: some attribute it to the Canaanites and interpret it to mean "strength". Others say that the Persians called it "Hazatote", meaning "treasure" because they believed a treasure was buried there. The Arabs named it "Ghazzat Hashem" after the Prophet Muhammad's great grandfather, who is said to have died here during one of his trade trips.

    Driving through the northern suburbs of Gaza, crumbling brown maze of low buildings give the visitor an impression of overcrowding and poverty. The new high-risers, known locally as "Abraj" or towers, stand witness to more recent political and economic developments more prominently displayed in Gaza than the West Bank. The historic part of the city is compact and extends no further than a 5- minute walk from the Palestine Square in the heart of the city. The most important street is Omar al Mukhtar street, which runs east to west from Al Shuja'iyya quarter to the sea.
     
    The old city of Gaza was built on a "Tell" (hill) rising 45 meters above sea level. It had an area of one square kilometer and was surrounded by a great wall with gates. As it grew, the city spread to the north, south and east. Gaza City is divided into quarters both out of and within the old city limits.
     
    Places of interest to the visitor are the Great Omari mosque, the Mosque of Al Ssayed Hashem, the Mosque if Ibn Othman, the Mosque of Ibn Marwan, The Sheikh Abul Azm sanctuary, the Sheikh Ajlin sanctuary, Tell al Mintar, Napoleon's fort (Al Radwan Castle), and the Church of St. Porphyrius. The city also has many new resorts where tourists and local people can swim and relax by the beach or swimming pools.


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    Jenin

    The city of Jenin, believed to be ancient Eingannin or Gannim, is 43 kms north of Nablus. It is situated at 120 - 250m above sea level, and enjoys a strategic position on the crossroads between the central Palestinian mountains and Marj Bin Amer (Esdraelon or Jezreel plain). Jenin is mentioned in the Bible by the name of Einganim and is described as a beautiful city with abundant water supplies, springs and gardens. During the Roman period, Jenin was a small village named Jinai in the Sebastia district. Jesus is said to have passed by the city several times on his way to Jerusalem from Nazareth. A church was built in the city during the 6 century AD, its remains were uncovered near the present grand mosque. During the Crusader period, Jenin was a small, but important village, which the Crusaders fortified by a wall and built a fortress inside. Salaheddin took over the city following the famous battle of Hittin in 1187 and spent a night in the city on his way to Jerusalem.

    Jenin became an important town during the 13 century because the Mamluks, who feared more Crusader invasions, destroyed the coastal Palestinian towns and fortified several inland cities including Jenin. The Mamluk prince Tajar al-Dawadar built a khan or inn and a Sabil or water spring and several public baths in the city. Princess Khatun built the grand mosque on the foundations of an earlier Crusader church. During the 2 World War the Germans built an airport runway in Jenin to help the Turks. On the western edge of the town there is a memorial to the pilots who died during the war. At the southern entrance of the city is another memorial for Iraqi soldiers who fell during the 1948 war.
    The ancient city of Jenin was situated on the Tell right in the middle of the present city, next to the bus station.

    Jenin's geographic location close to the Jordan valley to the east, the Mediterranean to the west, and right in the center of the most fertile plain in Palestine, Marj Bin Amer, makes it an ideal site for growing fruit trees and vegetables. Citrus trees are abundant, and its vegetable market is a shopper's pilgrimage for the residents of nearby cities and villages. In Spring, the road to Jenin, whether the official Nablus-Jenin road heading north-west, or the less trodden road through Tubas (south-east and then heading north), or the trip southward from Nazareth, the hills and mountains on the way are covered with wild yellow and purple flowers growing amidst the green grass. Wheat fields are abundant, as well as olive and almond trees. A hike and picnic along the way in the middle of what seems to be nowhere is recommended in May, before the summer heat creeps in.

    Source of historic information: The PACE tour guide of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 1999.

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    Bethlehem City
     
    Bethlehem is thought to have been inhabited since the Stone Age, though its origins have been lost in history. The first historical reference to
    it is in Al Amarneh letters of the 14th century. It did not however gain the importance it holds today until the Edict of Milan of AD 313 by which the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity. During the Byzantine period, Bethlehem was a walled city with two towers: it figures in the famous map of Madeb, a 6th century Byzantine map in mosaics representing the Holy Land, and in the accounts of early pilgrims. By AD 600, many monasteries and churches had been erected in the then flourishing town.
    During the Moslem period, the sites revered by Jews and Christians were protected. In 683, Omar Ibn al Khattab prayed in the southern apse of the Church of the Nativity: the mosque of Omar with its fine minaret opposite the Church commemorates this gesture. With the Crusader invasion of 1099, Bethlehem was captured by Tancred. It became the site for the crowning of Crusader kings and enjoyed royal favor. Salah al Din's forces recaptured Bethlehem in 1187, but the Ayubid Sultan Al Kamil surrendered Bethlehem to the Crusaders in 1229, and they held it until they were finally ousted from the country in 1291.
     
    The name of the city means house of meat in Arabic, and the house of bread in Hebrew. In ancient Cananite the name probably designated the god of war or of food, Lechmu. Bethlehem was also called Ephrath, meaning fertile in Aramic.
    Bethlehem is currently one of three designated cities by the Pope for the official millenium celebrations. Together with Nazareth and Rome, Bethlehem will be a focal point for the 17-month celebrations starting November 28th 1999 until Easter 2001. The city is currently undergoing major infrastructure work and renovation, hoping that by the end of this year it will be ready to receive the influx of tourists for the last Christmas of the second millenium.
    Source: PACE tour of Bethlehem
     

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    Villages
     
    The Village and tower of Jifna - Ramallah

    Jifna village lies on a green hill overlooking a fertile valley, 23 kms north of Jerusalem, to the west of the Jerusalem-Nablus-Nazareth road. To the West of the village lies Birzeit, and to the south the Jalazoun refugee camp. There are three roads leading to Jifna: the first is the main Jerusalem-Ramallah-Nablus road, the second is through the Jalazoun refugee camp, and the third through Birzeit village.
    Jifna lies on the old Roman road connecting Jerualem to Nablus, and it was considered at the time the second most important city after Jerusalem. The village had a governor which is demonstrated by the existence of a big castle in the village. Jesus Christ is said to have passed through the village at least once in his lifetime, as did the Virgin Mary on her way from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

    As you enter the village the most prominent building is the Latin church built in 1859 , opposite an old Byzantine church called St. George's church, which has not been excavated so far but only cleaned in 1970. The crusaders rebuilt this Byzantine church but it was destroyed several times in the following years, and its stones were used to build some of the village houses. Another church was also found in the southern end of the village with mosaic flooring dating back to the Byzantine era also. The second active church is the Greek Orthodox Church built in 1858. A winery was also found in the eastern border of the village.

    There are two small citadels in the village whose origins are attributed to the crusaders, even though Father Bagatti attributes them to the Muslim period following the crusaders. The site also contains the remains of a Byzantine wall.

    The citadels lie on the western side of the village, with the doors of all the rooms opening into the internal yard.

    There are very few external windows on the east, which means that these citadels were used as a fortress. Even though Jifna was, and still is, essentially a Christian village, the relationship between the crusaders and the locals was not friendly to say the least. The site of the citadel was renovated and reopened for public use in the end of April of this year. This project was initiated by the youth in the village supported by local and international organizations and sponsors. The site, called "Burj Jifna" or the Jifna tower, currently contains a popular restaurant, a modern café, a multipurpose hall, headquarters for the village youth club, a cultural activity hall, and a center for the exhibit andsale of traditional handicrafts. The second phase of the project is planned to include bed and breakfastfacilities. For a taste of traditional Palestinian food and life style in a historical setting, Burj Jifna is definitely the place to go.

    For more information contact the PalestinianYouth Union at (02)2981313/4 or fax (02)2957810, email: palyouum@p-ol.com



    The village of Sinjel - Ramallah

    This Palestinian village lies on top of a high hill overlooking the road between Ramallah and Nablus, about 30 kms away from Jerusalem. Its location separates the north and the south of Palestine, and it overlooks the plain on which lies the village of Turmos Ayya. It was named during the big crusade as St. Gilles and was later transformed into Sinjil according to the Arabic dialect.

     
    The French Count Raymond built a castle in the village to protect the passage of travelling caravans. Other historical sites in the village are the old well of Prophet Joseph and a memorial holy site for the Prophet Jacob. It also contains a shrine for a holy man, Abu Ouf, from the time of the Caliph Omar Ibn al Khattab. The residents, as in most Palestinian villages, are primarily farmers, and the village is well known for its grapes, figs and olive produce which is exported to Jordan and other areas. As one of the oldest villages in Palestine, Sinjil is well worth a visit, particularly as its residents are very hospitable and welcome visitors from all parts of the world.


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    Beitin - Ramallah

    Human settlement in Beitin dates back t o t h e prehistoricperiod . Archaeological excavations in the 1950s discovered flint tools, pottery, and animal bones dating from the Chalcolithic period (5 millennium BC). At this time the area of the springs at the foot of the Tel was a meeting place for nomadic groups. Only in the Early Bronze Age (about 3200 BC) did these groups form a settled culture. Archaeologists discovered a Canaanite temple dating to this period at the top of the Tel. Traces of blood and animal bones were found there which indicate the offering of sacrifices. Also discovered were human skulls and tombs of the Early Bronze Age as well as pottery, including storage jars and cooking pots of the Early and Middle Bronze Ages. Other Canaanite tombs were found south-east of the village. In the Middle Bronze Age (about 1750 BC) Beitin increased in size from the status of a village to a fortified town. Walls 3.5 meters thick were uncovered by excavations of a section of the defenses. Another temple was built on top of the Tel during this period. This appears to have been destroyed in an earthquake. Two city gates have been excavated, one in the north-east, the other in the north-west of the city wall. Archaeologists think that the town had two other gates, to the west and to the east. The main gate is the one to the north-west which was built on the ruins of the temple on top of the site. The walls of the entrance are 1.5 meters thick. Inside the site itself another temple was excavated and it is one of the finest monuments of the Middle Bronze Age in Palestine. In this temple a large amount of animal bones was found along with utensils made of clay, decorated storage jars and a column bearing the head of the Egyptian goddess Hathor. The site was occupied by the Egyptians about 1550 BC after the liberation of Egypt from the Hyksos. It was then abandoned until the

    14 century BC. The Canaanite city of Beitin prospered remarkaby at the end of the Late Bronze Age as is shown by the material remains of this period. Among the beautiful duildings of this Age were an olive press, found almost complete with the preserved remains of crushed olives, and large luxurious houses with floors paved with well- fashioned flagstones. The most ancient site in the region is Tel Al Tel which lies 2.5 kms east of Beitin near the village of Deir Dibwan. Today, Beitin is a small village of no more than 2000 inhabitants famous for its olive, almond, fig and plum trees. The village owes its situation to the proximity of its water springs and fertile agricultural land and to its position near important commercial r o u t s , particularly the route connecting Jericho to the Mediterranean coast and the mountain route connecting the north and south of Palestine. Beitin is 17kms north of Jerusalem, on the Nablus road. Shortly after exiting Al-Bireh one must turn right at the Beit-El roundabout, in the direction of the new Nablus road. The first exit to the left takes you to the old Jericho road, where the first exit to the right (1.5 kms from the first exit) leads you to Beitin.

    Source: PACEvisitor's guide to Beitin


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    The Village of Taybeh - Ramallah

    Taybeh is a small all - Christian village with a population of about 1200 residents located 20 miles north to Jerusalem on the very slope of mount Asur, the highest mountain in Biblical Judea and Samiria. There are many reasons to visit the ancient village of Taybeh known as Ephraim in the Old Testament.

    One is the Ancient Palestinian Old House arranged in 1974 located near the new Latin Church which was inaugurated in 1971 dedicated to "The Last Retreat of Jesus".  Visitors can see objects which are no longer used today but were very common in the time of Christ depicting the local peasant scene. The house consists of two levels, one on the ground for the animals and the upper level for the family. In such a similar humble setting Christ was born 2000 years ago.

    The other important site in modern Taybeh is the Taybeh brewing company with state of the art equipment producing what they call "the finest beer in the Middle East". This brewery was established in 1994 following the historic signing of the Oslo agreement in the efforts of one Palestinian family to return home to their roots and invest in Palestine. Taybeh beer is the first microbrewery i nthe Middle East and the only one in Palestine.

    Not bad for a small village where Jesus and his disciples came after the decision was taken by the Sanhedrin tp prosecute him. "Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim...(John 11:54).

    On a clear day in Taybeh you can see the Holly Land in its full splendor: the magnificant Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley, the mountains of Samaria, the mountainous desert of Judea and even Jerusalem.
     contributed by: Maria C. Khoury, Ed.D.

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    Ein Qinya (The Spring of Qinya) - Ramallah
     
    Ein Qinya is a spring in a valley located north west of Ramallah near the village carrying the same name. Seven Kilometers away from Ramallah, the spring can be reached on foot through the valleys (a 2 - hours brisk walks) or by regular transportation. The area contains olive trees and a combination of stream and mountain wide life. The area is at its best in the Spring and Autumn, and the water of the Spring is most abundant in the winter time.
     
    Ein Qinya village existed since the time of the Romans. In 1917 the British mandate troops evicted its residents to Beitounia and Beit Yalo villages after suspecting one of the residents with killing British officer. In 1984, many Palestinians emigrated to Ein Qinya and resided there.
    The are is well-known and as wild picnic area (i.e. there are no facilities whatsoever), and ideal for nature lovers and mountain climbers.


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    Ijnisinya Village - Nablus

    Four hundred residents, primarily farmers, live in Ijnisinya village, north of Nablus, totally oblivious of the treasure of historical evidence lying just under their feet. Originally, the Roman queen Helena who lived in Sebastiya used to swim here with her maids. The area at the time was a small lake surrounded by beautiful gardens. Queen Helena forbade men from entering the area in order to give herself and her maids total freedom. This is where the name Ijnisinya came from meaning "the Eden of women". There are two other stories connected to the name.

    The first is that it is an Aramaic word meaning "ethnicity" in reference to the Jews who hid in the area from Nebukhadnassar to preserve the Jewish "race". The second story is that Ijnisinya is derived from the name of Emperor Justinian who escaped the destruction  of Sebastiya to this area, and some say he wasdeported.
     
    The village mosque dates back to the days of Omar bin al Khattab, which is currently part of the village school. Beneath the mosque is a wide Roman reservoir for underground water which, until recently, was still used by the villagers as a water source. Queen Helena built an aqueduct to carry water from Ijnisinya to Sebastya when the latter was hit by a drought. The Aqueduct is named after her, and it starts from Nablus through Ein Beit el Ma, Ijnisinya, and then to Sebastiya.
     
    Another Roman building called Sheikh Shu'la lies on the top of a hill south of the village and overlooks three villages: Ijnisinya, Sebastiya, and An Naqura. It is said to be a Roman monastery built in this area for quiet and solitude. The monastery was originally seven storeys high, but now there are only remains: stone closets, a prison, galleys, secret passageways, and a lot of wells. Its name, "Shu'leh", comes from the time of Saleheddin who used this building and similar buildings to transmit messages using fire (Shu'leh in Arabic.)
     
    Some of the village lands were used as a cemetery for the Romans, especially after the Roman Empire became Christian. It is popular belief that these graves contain treasures. These graves are generally referred to as "Christian graves", or "Khallet Issa". Many of the village residents were Christian, but following disagreements with other residents they eventually emigrated to other villages such as Zababdeh near Jenin and Birzeit.


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    Beit 'Einun - Hebron
     
    Beit 'Einun is located approximately 5 kms northeast of Hebron city. It is situated at the foot of a hill which forms the beginning of a very fertile plain cultivated with vines and grains. On the higher slopes of the hills there are terraces to prevent erosion. These small separate fields are planted with vines, plums and almonds. Houses were built in different locations on the hill and in the valley. Small roads have been paved to reach the new urban area and cut the southern and northern parts of the site.
    The site contains a large Byzantine church. Information about this church is limited. The site is built of massive, well-dressed stone pillars. The wall construction indicates rebuilding of the church in the crusader period. Excavations have revealed a fine mosaic floor in the main hall of the church from the Byzantine period. The apse of the church was paved with flagstones. The church is part of a complex building in which living quarters and storage rooms were found. Water cisterns were also revealed.
    Below the exterior side of the western wall there was a tomb shaft where a corpse in a wooden box (sarcophagus) was found. The burial was associated with many lamps and pottery offerings. Large amounts of Roman Byzantine pottery were also found.
    Beit 'Einun is mentioned in the Waqf dedication given by Prophet Mohammad to Tamim al Dari. Many Moslem stone structures can also be found at the site.
    Source: Endangered Cultural Heritage Sites in the West Bank Governorates, MOPIC, February 1999


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    Religious Sites
    • Islamic Holy Sites
    Al-Haram Ash-Sharif - Jerusalem Old City

    The 14.4 hectare (35 -acre) Haram Ash-Sharif or "Noble Sancturary", the third holiest site in Islam, encloses nearly one-sixth of the Old City of Jerusalem with foutains, gardens, mosques, buildings and other structures.

    The Masjid Al-Aqsa (or farthest Mosque) is the site where, it is said, Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven, and for the first 16 months of Islam was the Qibleh (the director Moslems face during prayers)until God commanded that Mecca be the Qibleh.

    Unquestionably the most impressive site in the busy city of Jerusalem, the Noble Sanctuary, with its peaceful gardens and impressive architecture is truly extraordinary.

    The entire site is considered a Mosque, and in the past all visitors were obliged to take off their shoes at the entrance to the Sanctuary, but now shoes must be taken off only at the entrances of the enclosed "Dome of the Rock" and "Al-Aqsa Mosque".

    No trip to Jerusalem would be complete without visiting Al-Haram Ash-Sharif.

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    Ibrahimi Mosque (al-Haram al-Ibrahimi) - Hebron

    Constructed by King Herod, added to by the Crusaders and the Mamluks, it is one of the most imposing of ancient Palestinian monuments. The mosque covers the Cave of al-Anbia (Cave of the Prophets) containing the graves of six prophets and their wives – Moslems believe it is too sacred to descend into and have never entered.

     
    Oak of Ibrahim (Oak of Mamre)
    Two km's west of Hebron is an ancient Oak tree where Moses pitched his tent and greeted three angels (said to be the source of the Christian trinity) who told him his wife Sarah would bear a son.
    Old City of Hebron
    One of the oldest Palestinian towns – inhabited as is for centuries, with its hawkers, stalls, shops, vegetable market, and an Archeological Museum (with a collection of artifacts from the Cannanite to the Islamic periods). With its vaulted roofs and mazes of alleys it is a marvel which should not be missed.


    Maqam an Nabi Mousa, (Tomb of the prophet Moses) - Jericho

    The shrine or Maqam (in Arabic it means the place of habitat) - also referred to as "Mazar" (literally meaning place of visitation) or the place that houses the tomb of one of the prophets - is a splendid example of early Islamic architecture set in an awe-inspiring landscape. It lies in the heart of the Judean desert, about 30 kms east of Jerusalem and 8 kms southwest of Jericho. A narrow road to the right of the main Jerusalem-Jericho road, about 2 kms beyond the sign indicating sea level, leads to this grand domed building which is held to be the burial place of Moses according to the local Moslem tradition. Although, according to the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 34), Moses never entered Palestine, but rather died at Mount Nebo in modern-day Jordan. The shrine is the only Moslem holy place of that stature in the Jerusalem wilderness. However, considered along with the nearby Christian sites, it forms a ring of religious places of stature.

    The Maqam is a huge two-story building topped by a complex of domes. The building consists of a large central open courtyard surrounded by over 120 rooms, usually reserved for the rich families: poorer people slept in tents or out in the open. Against the western wall of the courtyard is the mosque which is divided in two parts (one for men and the other for women). To the right of the main entrance to the mosque, another door leads to a small chamber in the center of which is a tomb covered by a green cloth: the burial place of the Prophet Moses. On the wall, a Mamluk inscription reads: "The construction of this Maqam over the grave of the Prophet who spoke with God, Moses, is ordered by his majesty Sultan Dhaher Abu al Fatah Baybars, in the year 668 Hijri (AD 1269/70)." Baybars was the leader who liberated Palestine from the Crusaders. The construction of the Shrine (668 Hijri or 1269 AD) was a link in a chain of Islamic shrines built by the Ayyubids and the Mamluks to honor and venerate prophets, the companions of Prophet Mohammad, saints, and holy men. Their work included shrines for prophets Saleh, Lot, Rubin, Youssef (Joseph), and other companions and holy men. The roof of the Maqam offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the Jordan valley and the desert hills beyond, as well as Mount Nebo which can be easily discerned in the distance on a clear day.

    The Festival of Nabi Mousa "The Mawsim"

    This festival usually coincides with the Easter celebrations in April, and originally developed in part as a response to the atmosphere of religious fundamentalism engendered during the Crusader period. At that time, Moslems were banned from visiting Jerusalem. Thus, the Nabi Mousa festival was both a Moslem alternative and response to the Crusaders' occupation of Jerusalem. Pilgrimage to the Maqam was encouraged by successive Moslem rulers to counterbalance the influx of Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem during the Holy Easter Week in April. From that time on, thousands of Moslems from all over Palestine made it their habit to come to Jerusalem on Good Friday. They prayed in Al Aqsa mosque and then marched in grand procession, singing religious songs, dancing the traditional Dabkeh, and playing flutes and drums until hey reached the Maqam. Prayers, celebrations, horse racind,a dn games continued for five days around the shrine. This has developed over the years to become one of the most attractive and popular festivals in Palestine.
    This year, the Nabi Moussa festival will begin on April 14th and continue until April 30th.

    For more information on the festival and the site contact: The Committee for the Promotion of Tourism in the Governorate of Jericho tel: (02) 2321241, fax: (02) 2321291, e-mail: musallam@planet.edu

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    Religious Sites
    • Christian Holy Sites
    Basilica of the Nativity - Bethlehem

    The magnificent Basilica of the Nativity is situated on Manger Square in the south-eastern part of the Palestinian City of Bethlehem, eight kilometers south of Jerusalem.

    The Basilica is built above the cave identified as where Jesus was born. When Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem, they could not find room at the inn, so Jesus was born in cave that was used as a stable.

    The church was originally build in the middle of the third century A.D. by Helena mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, it was later destroyed and rebuilt in most of its present shape by the Emperor Justinian in 529 A.D., making it one of the oldest church in existence.

    The Basilica is an imposing structure, with its huge walls it resembles a fortress more than a church, adn its low and narrow entrances protected it from invasion and prevented mounted horsemen from entering the church.

    By descending one of the stairways on either side of the altar in the Basilica, one is able to enter the Grotto of the Nativity, the cave where Jesus is said to have been born. A 14-pointed sliver star is embedded in the white marble floor, with the Latin inscription "Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary".

    Because of is age and fame the Basilica of the Nativity has been the site of constant pilgrimage.

    The site is now under the control of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities. Hours of operatin are daily from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., and conservative attire is required. Entrance to the church during midnight Mass Christmas celebrations is by special entrance tickets available free of charge from the Franciscan Pilgrims office in Jerusalem.

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    Holy Sepulcher (Al-Qiyame) - Jerusalem Old City
     
    The Holy Sepulcher or the sacred Tomb, is called in Arabic "Al-Qiyame", which means the Resurrection. It is no doubt the most important shrine in the Christian world. On the grounds of the Holy Sepulcher it is believed that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and rose from the dead. Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Roman Catholics, Copts, Ethiopians and Syrian Orthodox all share rights to the church. Those rights came as the result of a status quo agreement negotiated at the time of the Ottoman Turks 200 years ago. The agreement governs time and space for the Holy Sepulcher. The different communities conduct their prayers at appointed hours, filling the church with a continuos cycle of prayers. Today the keys to the basilica are in the hands of a prominent Palestinian Moslem family. The doors of the Holy Sepulcher open every morning at 07:00 and close at 20:00. This ceremony is performed in the presence of a Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and Roman Catholic priest. Pilgrims started visiting the Holy Sepulcher about 2000 years ago, on the resurrection day, when May Magdalen and the disciples of Jesus went to the Tomb and found it empty. Emperor Constantine built the original church in the fourth century, after destroying the temple built by Herodion 132-135. Herodion built his temple in an attempt to erase any traces of Christianity and dedicated it to the gods Jupiter, Junon, and Venus. But most of what we see today is the work of the Crusaders, who in the year 1149 built the great basilica over Calvary and the empty Tomb of Jesus.
    The basilica is a collection of chapels clustered around the rock of Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus.
     
    Holy Saturday Celebrations
    The Saturday of Light, or (Sabt el Nour) in Arabic, is the highlight of the Easter celebrations. On April 3rd and April 10th (For the Greek Orthodox) this year, as in every year, thousands of Christians from all over will flock to Jerusalem to take part in the celebration of "The Light". A designated representative of the Christian Community from each city or village takes back "the light" to their city or village on Saturday afternoon where it is greeted by the drums and music of the Scouts groups, both Christian and Moslem. The streets of the Old City of Jerusalem remain filled with young and old until way past midnight.


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    Via Dolorosa - Jerusalem Old City
    The Via Dolorosa is among the holiest sites in Christendom. It is the path taken by Jesus when, bearing his cross on his back, he made his way to the place of his crucifixion. The Via Dolorosa is a street no different from any other street in the northern part of the Old city, except for the nine stations which lie along it to commemorate the dramatic events of Jesus' last journey. It starts not far from Lion's Gate (St. Stephen's Gate) and winds its way westward and winds its way westward towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the route followed by Jesus from the place of his trial- the Praetorium - to the place of crucifixion on Golgotha. The exact route of the Via Dolorosa - as well as the location of the stations along it - is still disputed by scholars. The Way of the Cross was not finally fixed as it is today until the 15th century.
     
    Of the 14 stations of the Via Dolorosa, nine are along the route and five inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The nine stations are the Praetorium, the Chapel of the Condemnation, the place where he fell for the first time, the Church of our Lady of the Spasm, the place where Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry the cross, the house of Veronica who wiped his face with her veil, the place where Jesus fell the second time, the place where he talked to the women of Jerusalem, and the place where he fell for the third time.
     
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    Burqin Church - Jenin
     
    The Fifth holiest Christian place and the third oldest church in the world Located in the village of Burqin, 3 kms west of Jenin lies the Burqin church also known as st. Goerge's church. It is considered the fifth oldest sacred Christian place in the world, and the third oldest church. According to Christian tradition, Jesus Christ passed through Burqin on his way to Jerusalem from Nazareth in the early days of Christianity. As he was passing by the village he heard the cries for help from 10 lepers who were imprisoned as a way of quarantine. He went to them and passed his hand on their faces and they were immediately cured. Since this miracle, the church became a station for many Christian pilgrims.
     
    Excavations show that the church passed through 4 different historical periods. The first church was built over the cave where the miracle is said to have taken place, and which looks like a Roman cistern. The cave has an opening on top and it contains an altar and a stone wall at the entrance. A second construction was added to the church dating to a period between the 5th - 9th century. During the twelfth century, the church was rebuilt after a long period of abandonment whose reasons remain a mystery. After the 13th century the church was rebuilt and used as a school.


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    Shepherds Valley Village - Bethlehem
     
    In the quiet village of Beit Sahour, in the middle of the blissful biblical countryside of southern Palestine, you can find the recently opened tourist village named after the nearby historical Shepherds Fields. The Shepherds Valley Village is built in Bedouin style, with Bedouin tents for "original" accomodation" facilities, hospitality programs, a restaurant, as well as an open-air theatre for outdoor performances of traditional dance and music. This unique tourist attraction aims to create a live experience of "the life of the people of the Bible." In addition to the authentic hospitality, and the smell of firewood under the stars, the tourist is offered a briefing about the area, its history (both ancient and modern), as well a first hand experience of Palestinian life as represented in food, costumes, and traditions. Amulti-faceted experience, the Shepherds Valley Village is a new Palestinian attraction for local and international tourists, containing an "open-air" museum that can be enjoyed as much by day as by night as visitors and locals gather around the fire to listen to stories and drink traditional Arabic coffee.
     
    Tel: 02-2773875; fax:02-2773876; e-mail: majed@beth2000.com


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    The Monastery of Temptation (Deir Quruntol) - Jericho

    Hewed in the mountain, the monastery of temptation consists of a horizontal line of rooms which have been built on the edge of the mountain, with a narrow corridor between the walls of the rooms and the stone cliff. The monastery contains a small church leading to the place of Jesus' temptation. Behind a glass panel is a rock on which Jesus is said to have sat. Further is a balcony providing a spectacular view of the rocky hills, the caves, the deep fall below, and the oasis-like scenery of the city of Jericho. At one point, hundreds of monks lived in this monastery.

    Currently, there are only three. The legendary association of the mountain and of the monastery with the first and third temptations of Christ began only in the 12th century when two churches were built, one in a cave, and the other above the present-day monastery on the summit of the mount. Both edifices were ruined around the 14th century. The present monastery was rebuilt in 1874 - 1904 and contains the medieval cave- church in which, according to the legend, Christ fasted and refused to turn stones into bread. On the summit of the mountain a new church was built in 1874 but only the surrounding wall was completed. The cave of St. Elijah (40 meters below the monastery) was rebuilt between 1949 - 1965. The monastery and the mountain used to be accessible by a narrow winding path. Currently, a new investment project provides cable-car transportation to a station 100 meters away from the monastery, allowing many more tourists who couldn't make it through the walk uphill to visit the monastery.

    The cable car is part of a new complex, Telephrique Ein Sultan tourist center with the lower station at Elisha's spring, opposite Tel Jericho (the old Jericho). The cable car ride offers a magnificent view of Jericho and the surrounding desert and the mountains of Jordan on the other side of the River. The cable car was built by an Austrian-Swiss company which also trained the Palestinian staff who run it. It extends 1,333 meters with 12 cars each with a capacity of 8 passengers. The cable cars are wheel-chair accessible.

    The monastery is open from Monday - Friday from 09:00 - 13:00 and from 15:00 - 16:00 and from 08:00 - 14:00 on Saturdays. Entry is free.

    The cable car is open daily from 08:30 - 18:30. Admission for tourists is $ 8 for adults and $ 5 for children and students. For local residents it is NIS 20 for adults and NIS 15 for children.


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    Church of Annunciation - Nazareth

    The Jewel of the Galilee, Nazareth was to have been part of the Arab State of Palestine under the 1947 Partition Plan. However, it was attacked by the Israeli troops in 1948 and annexed - de facto- to the State of Israel. The city remains predominantly Arab, with the Jewish population residing in the nearby "Nazareth Elite" established in 1957 on a hilltop opposite the old city.

    Known worldwide as the birthplace of Mary, the mother of Christ, Nazareth is full of Christian religious sites including some beautiful churches. The most important of these churches is the Church of Annunciation which is said to be the largest church in the Middle East and is built over the grotto where the angel Gabriel announced the forthcoming birth of Jesus to Mary. The current building dates from 1966 and is the fifth church on this spot. A spectacular structure on two levels adorned inside with murals, the church features stained glass windows and a large collection of artworks from all over the world. The large Bronze doors forming the entrance to the church are engraved with the life of Jesus. Opening hours are daily from 08:30 - 11:45 and 14:00 - 17:00 except for Sundays when it is only open for Mass. The Church lies in the center of the Old City of Nazareth with the old Souk (market) just outside the doors. On the bottom of the hill lies a controversial site that the community has not decided whether it should be the site of a new mosque or a modern piazza. The market has undergone heavy renovation in recent years preparing for the influx of tourists for the "Nazareth 2000" celebrations.

    On the 25 of March the pilgrimage to Nazareth starts from Bethlehem at 06:00 with a Liturgical celebration at 10:00 am at the Cathedral of Annunciation in coordination with Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

    For more information contact the Christian Information Center, Tel: 02 - 6272692, fax: 02- 6286417.

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    Archeological Sites

    Sites in Jericho City

    Monastery of Temptation
    Constructed in the 19th Century to replace the monastery constructed by the crusaders in the 12th century - this site marks the mountain where Jesus fasted and mediated for 40 days withstanding Satan's temptation.

    Nabi Musa
    Eight-KM SW of Jericho, according to loacl tradition, theis Maqam (Tomb) is the site where the Prohphet Moses is buried - and has been a site of pilgrimage since the 12th Century.

    Qumran
    20-Km south fo Jericho lies the site of one of the world's most ancient monasteries "monastery of the Essenes" - the site where the 2,000 year-old Dead Sea scrolls were found.

    Hisham's Palace
    Five-KM north of Jericho are the ruins of the desert palace of UMayyad Caliph Hisham Ibn Abdul Malik destroyed by earthquake before it was completed in 747 AD, containing royal buildings, a mosque, water fountains & spectacular mosaic floors.

    River Jordan
    Eight-KM east of Jericho is the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus -unreachable to tourists because it is a military area, but is used by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church in season.

    Dead Sea
    405 meters below sea level make the Dead Sea the lowest point on earth, which because of its high salt content makes it inhospitable to life - but helpful in treating skin diseases.

    Tel-as-Sultan (ancient Jericho)
    Two-Km NW of Jericho lies Tel-as-Sultan where settlements dating from 9,000 BC. have been uncovered. Including the oldest stairway, wall and a round fortified tower dated to 7,000 BC.


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    Tel Balata (Shechem) - Nablus
     
    The ancient Canaanite City of Shechem is only 1.5 km east of the center of the modern city of Nablus, in the northern area of the West Bank. The ruins of the city occupy a Tell (hill) of about 50 dunums rising some 525 meters above sea level and at about 20 meters above the fertile plateau of Askar.
     
    Shechem, meaning shoulder or high place, was the first name of Nablus. It was given to the city by the Canaanites who lived there in the middle of the 3 millennium BC. The site is also called Tell Balata after the village of Balata (now a suburb of Nablus). The houses of the village occupy about one third of the southern part of the hill.
     
    Archaeological excavations at Tell Balata indicate that the site was first settled during the 5 millennium BC (The Chalcolithic period). The Egyptian records from the reign of the Egyptian pharoah Senworset III indicate that Shechem was an important city state during the Middle Bronze Age (1900 - 1550 BC). This Age is recognized as the age of city-states in the history of Palestine. The city flourished greatly during this period, as can be seen from the great defensive system and the fine temples and palaces that have been excavated at the site. The Tell includes many architectural elements, the most impressive of which are the city walls and the entrance complexes. These are the best examples of Canaanite defense systems in Palestine. The massive wall that we see standing today is the third of 4 succesive walls that were built around the city in different periods. It is a well-preserved structure built of Cyclopean masonry around 1600 BC.
     
    The two visible gates of Shechem are unique. The main entrance is the 17 century northwestern gate. It is triple chambered with two massive towers on each side opening onto the main street of the city. The other entrance is on the East Side of the city wall. It is double chambered and dates back to 1625 - 1575 BC. It is believed that the city had a third gate on the southeastern side of the wall, but this is not visible today.
    The governor's palace is located right inside the northern gate. It includes a small private temple, guardrooms, an assembly, kitchen, and living rooms. The holy temple lies east of the palace and dates from the end of the Middle Bronze Age. The fortress temple on the summit of the hill is the largest and the most impressive surviving Canaanite temple in Palestine. It measures 26.8 meters long and 24.2 meters wide, its walls are about 5 meters thick. Archaeologists believe that it was a two-storey building. It has one entrance to the east, in the middle of which is a column to support a roof, and on each side of the entrance is a massive tower. The eastern tower has a stairway that might have led to the second floor. Inside the main hall are two rows of columns.


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    Wadi Khreitoun (Khreitoun Valley) - Bethlehem

    The Khreitoun Valley starts 7 kms southeast of Bethlehem, 1 km south of mount Herodion. The area was inhabited during the Roman and Byzantine times, and until thirty years ago, it was inhabited by shepherds and Bedouins. The valley is named after a Turkish monkcalled "Khreitoun" who lived in the area in the 4 century AD.

     
    The valley is famous for its three pre-historic caves, and the Khreitoun cave. The first cave which can be found 1.5 kms to the left hand side from the beginning of the valley is Irq al Ahmar (the red vein) which was inhabited mainly between 50,000 BC - 2500 BC. The second is Um Qal'a cave, 1 km away, where remains of the stone-copper age were found (4,000 BC). The last pre-historic cave is Um Qatfa which is the main cave where pre-historic evidence was found in the valley at more than 12 meters-deep excavations. It is in this cave that the first stove in the Middle East was found. These caves were excavated between the years 1929 - 1948.
     
    The most interesting cave for visitors is the Khreitoun cave, 4 kms on the rights hand side from the beginning of the valley (one hour's brisk walk). The cave lies in the middle of the mountain, and is an entrance to a 17km tunnel that extends through the mountains. Archaeologists have managed to walk only 150 meters inside, and visitors can manage a much shorter distance. There is no lighting in the tunnel, and visitors need torches or candles to guide their way. It also requires some crawling to reach deep inside the cave.


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    Tel Dothan  - Jenin
     
    Tel Dothan (Dothan mount) lies to the east of the Nablus-Jenin road, overlooking the Arrabeh plain on the east, one of the most fertile lands in Palestine. It is considered by historians to be the site of a city, particularly due to the regular water source there mentioned in Aramic sources as one of the sites that the Aramians took over. In Greek and Roman sources it is referred to as Dothian. Excavations in the years 1953 1960 showed that the mount was a site for human settlement during the late bronze-stone age, while the remains of a city with a strong and strategic wall was confirmed during the early bronze age.
    One of the most important findings are a series of historic cemeteries where more than 1000 pieces of pottery were found from the late stone and early and middle and late bronze ages in addition to uncovering a number of roads and other archaeological findings. The area of the Tel is estimated at 60 Dunums and it lies at 320 meters above sea level. It is a rocky Tel partially planted with fruit trees. Some historians and researchers believe that there is a close relation between Tel Dothan and the religious story in the Quran and the Torah concerning the prophet Joseph when his brothers threw him down a deep well which is believed to be the "Hafeera" well on the south western side of Tel Dothan. The well still exists nearby the old trade route linking Syria with Egypt which during the Byzantine period became known as the Holy Christian pilgrimage route.
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    The Seashore of Gaza
     
    The historical encounter on the sea- shore of Gaza is as much a surprise to the visitor as are the new high rising buildings which are beginning to characterize the inner city. The ancient sea harbor city of Anthedon, the place of flowers in Greek, is located in the north-west corner of the Beach Refugee camp. Anthedon was the first known sea harbor of Gaza. This port was also called Agrippas after Marcus Agrippa, Augustus' commander-in-chief. The harbor of Gaza is referred to in the work of some Islamic historians as Tida. It is most probably a variation on the name Anthedon. To the south of the seaport of Anthedon lies the Maioumas Harbor which was continuously populated and became, during the Roman period, a flourishing and well-developed port-city known as Maiumas. In AD 335 Constantine the Great rewarded its inhabitants for their unanimous adoption of Christianity by renaming their town "The City of Constantia" and elevated it to the status of a Polis, an independent city with its own Bishop.
     
    In 1965, The Egyptian department of Antiquities excavated a Byzantine mosaic pavement dated by its Greek inscription to the year 569 of the Gaza calendar (AD508/9). The site is approximately 300 m south of the present day harbor. The dimensions of the mosaic indicate that it be- longed to a large building of 30X26 m, most probably a church. The mosaic pavement is made of small cubes of colored stone, marble and glass. It is divided by floral motifs into medallions in which representations of various animals are enclosed. In one of the medallions a Greek inscription commemorates the names of the donors and the date of the mosaic. The excavators noted that the mosaic pavement has a representation of the Orpheus playing a lyre. This image can be seen in several churches of the Byzantine period. A border of geometric patterns surrounds the whole mosaic.
     
    Source: PACE tour guide of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip

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    Tell or Khirbet Balamah (Jenin)

    Situated on a hill 2 kms south of the southern entrance of Jenin, it is believed that this site was first settled in the Early Bronze age (about 3000 BC) and remained in use until the Ottoman period. The site is known in historical records by different names: Ibleam in the Egyptian texts and the Bible, and Belemoth in the Greek sources. It seems that Balamah was an important royal city already during the Bronze and Iron Ages. It is one of the ancient Canaanite cities named in the list of Thutmosis IIIs conquests in the Al Amarneh scripts of the 14 century BC. It maintained its importance during the later periods, especially the Roman and Byzantine periods. In the Crusader and Ayyubid periods the site had a small castle and a small mosque. The mosque, called the Mosque of Sheikh Mansour, is still in use today, and lies on top of the Tell.

    The site dominates the south-western plain of rich agricultural fields and the northern plain which is the southern border of Marj Bin Amer (the most fertile plain in Palestine) before the city of Jenin was built. Nearby is Wadi Balamah which constitutes the main water source. The area is quite green and well kept. The south-eastern mountain is covered with pine trees and separated by the valley from the Jenin-Nablus highway. The summit of the site and its slopes are covered with vineyards, almond and olive groves. Some small fields are cultivated with grain. Several houses are scattered on the eastern slope, and the western edge of the site belongs to the present village by the same name, Balamah. The water tunnel is a massive work hewn in the limestone of the surrounding hills, similar to the water tunnel of nearby Megiddo. Several edifices near the tunnel's lower entrance were recently excavated, most of them dating to the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The tunnel shaft is the most elaborate feature in Balameh. The tunnel was built to ensure safe access to the water source at the foot of the eastern edge of the site. The excavation of the tunnel, which is not yet completed, indicates that it is one of the largest in Palestine. On the eastern slope there are many cisterns and tombs belonging to the Roman Period.

    In 1996/97 the Palestinian department of Antiquities excavated the lower parts of the tunnel of Balamah and the entrance buildings. In 1998, a joint Dutch-Palestinian excavation project was commenced in the area. The first season started in 98, the second in 1999 and the third is currently under way (3 of June - 7 of July.) A joint Palestinian-Dutch team of archaeologists and students are participating aiming to define ancient human settlement nodes in the area extending from Dothan plain until Marj Bin Amer. The tunnel is also undergoing renovation work to become a tourist attraction site in the future.
     

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