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
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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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
Source of historic information: The PACE tour guide
of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 1999.
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Bethlehem is thought to have been inhabited since the
Stone Age, though its origins have been lost in history. The first historical
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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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: email@example.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
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
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
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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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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
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(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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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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
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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(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
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
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
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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: email@example.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
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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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 (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
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The Seashore of Gaza
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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
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
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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.