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List of Palestinian Cultural & Archeological Sites


  • Jerusalem
  • The Wall of Jerusalem - Jerusalem Old City
  • Damascus Gate (Bab Al-Amoud) - Jerusalem Old City
  • The Dome of the Rock - Jerusalem Old City
  • Al Qattanin Market - Jerusalem Old City
  • The church of the Virgin Mary - Jerusalem
  • The Mauristan - Jerusalem Old City
  • The Islamic Museum - Jerusalem Old City
  • The Church of Bethany or Lazarus - Jerusalem
  • The pool and tunnel of Silwan - Jerusalem
  • Historical Hotel Monuments in Palestine - The New Imperial Hotel - Jerusalem Old City
  • Al Jib village - Jerusalem
  • Nabi Samuel - Jerusalem
  • The Mount of Olives - Jerusalem
  • Cremisan Monastery - Jerusalem & Beit Jala
  • The Armenian Quarter - Jerusalem Old City
  • Solomon's Cave - Jerusalem
  • The Dormition Abbey - Jerusalem
  • Salaheddine Street - Jerusalem
  • Bethlehem
  • Solomon' Pools - Bethlehem
  • Mar Elias Monastery - Bethlehem
  • Mar Saba's Monastery - Bethlehem
  • Al Khader village - Bethlehem
  • Beit Jala Village - Bethlehem
  • Taqou' village - Bethlehem
  • Artas Valley - Bethlehem
  • The Church of the Milk Grotto - Bethlehem
  • Star Street - The Bethlehem Christmas Market - Bethlehem
  • Rachel's Tomb - Bethlehem
  • Khreitoun Valley - Bethlehem
  • The Bethlehem Folklore Museum - "Baituna at Talhami" - Bethlehem
  • Jacir Palace: Inter-Continental Hotel - Bethlehem
  • Beit Sahour
  • Herodion - Beit Sahour
  • Shepherd's Fields - Beit Sahour
  • Saint Theodosius' Convent - Beit Sahour
  • Jericho
  • Jericho
  • Jordan Valley
  • Monasticism in the Judean Desert - Jordan Valley

  • Jerusalem

    The Wall of Jerusalem - Jerusalem Old City

     
    Jerusalem is surrounded by a wall on all four sides, the purpose of which was to protect the city from inva sion. The earliest was built by the Yabbousites and remnants of the wall are still surrounding the city. Yabous was discovered during the arachaeological digs hgeld in 1960. During Salah Eddin's time, a wall was built and a moat was dug surrounding it to increase the city's defense. In 616H/1210 AD, the great king Issa destroyed the wall so that the crusaders would not be able to take hold of the city. It was renovated several rimes during the mamluki period. The present wall dates back to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent's period. Its renovation took four years. The wall has several open gates.

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    Damascus Gate (Bab Al-Amoud) - Jerusalem Old City
     
    Literally translated as the Door of the pillar, Bab Al Amoud is the most important and the largest gate in Jerusalem. It is also called Damascus gate and Nablus gate, as it was the entrance for caravans coming from or departing to these cities. In 70 AD, Titus destroyed Jerusalem and between 133- 137 AD, Hadrian (Adriamus) rebuilt the city under the name of Elia Capitolina. In commemoration of rebuilding the city, a black granite pillar fourteen meters high carrying a statue of Adrianus was erected in the inner courtyard of the gate. The pillar is depicted in the Madaba mosaic, which was discovered in a Byzantine church. The gate in its present form dates back to the Mamluki and Ottoman periods. The ottoman Sultan Suleiman made the latest renovations the magnificent in 1538. It consists of a large arch placed on two carved stone pillars, above which there is a small stone tower which is inscribed with the name of Sultan Suleiman the magnificent and the date of the renovation.


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    The Dome of the Rock - Jerusalem Old City

    The walled city of Jerusalem, the so-called Old City, is a tightly woven tissue of narrow, sometimes tortuous streets and buildings, with private houses and shops for the most part, but also religious and secular monuments . One building dominates the view of the Old City, "The Dome of the Rock". It does so primarily because of its height, but also because it appears to be independent of everything else around it because in this city of stones it alone is roofed with what looks like gold while its walls shine with tiles of many colors. Because of its location as well as its dimensions, it strikes a posture of visual control over much of the city and the surrounding valleys and hills. Although frequently repaired and restored the Dome of the Rock is today strikingly similar to what it must have been when first built in the last decade of the seventh century.

     
    The Dome of the Rock is a great monument of world architecture. It occupies the center of a 1.5 million-square-foot esplanade in the Old City. Built in 692 AD/ 72 AH, this outstanding building enshrines the Sacred Rock - one of the several ridges around which the city of Jerusalem developed nearly 3000 years ago. The mosque has reflected and represented Islam through most of its 1300 year history, but it is also associated with sacred events in the lives of Christ, the Virgin and Christian Saints, and Jewish historical traditions and memories. Its specific importance to Islam is that it commemorates one of the richest and most complicated moments in the life of the Prophet Mohammad - his Night Journey (The Isra' or flight from Mecca to Jerusalem) and his Ascension (Mi'raj) into heaven.
     
    Today, the Dome and its area are used primarily in two ways. The first of these is private devotions through prayer, commemorative meditation, and gatherings for listening to formal sermons or sacred stories. The second function of the area is as a place of pilgrimage to which faithful Muslims have come more or less continuously since the tenth century, either as part of the canonical obligation to visit the three holy places of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem at lease once in one's lifetime, or as a regional center for more limited visitations on specific occasions.
    For a more detailed description and information see: Nusseibeh, Said and Grabar, Oleg. The Dome of theRock. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996.


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    Al Qattanin Market - Jerusalem Old City
     
    Al-Qattanin market is a fifteen meter long commercial center containing 50 shops on each side. It originally had all kinds of cloth in the market, but now is a basic "suk". The Suk extends from Al Qatanin Door (one of the western Doors of the Dome of the Rock) joining Al-Wad street to the west. The suk also contains "Hammam Al-Ein" or "Al-Ein public bath" which is situated at the southern end of the market.
     
    To the east there is "Khan Tankaz" which is now used as offices for the Islamic Waqf department. Opposite the Khan Tankaz there is another Khan called Al-Ghadiriyyeh which was used during the Maluk and Ottoman times as a Khan and now hosts a youth club. At the end of the market, towards the Dome of the Rock, there is another public bath called "Hammam Al-Shifa". Prince Seif Uldin Tankaz, governor of Damascus rebuilt the market during the reign of Sultan Al-Naser Muhammad. There are two inscriptions to verify this, the first is on the doors of the market, which are covered with bronze plaques. The inscription states the name of the founder and the date, 1336. The second inscription is on a store situated above the Khan Tankaz entrance. The suk has been neglected for a very long period. The Doors were renovated in 1890, but the suk remained derelict until 1974 when it was renovated and let by the Jerusalem Waqf Department.


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    The church of the Virgin Mary - Jerusalem
     
    At the bottom of the valley, as one descends the Mount of Olives towards Gethsemane, there is a church that dates back to the early 5th century, which is said to contain the Tomb of the Virgin Mary. The present entrance and façade is from the 12 century.
    The Tomb is a chamber in the middle of the church and is carved into a rock. The most important feast celebrated in this church is the assumption of Mary in the month of August. Next to this ancient sanctuary, in the same valley, is the Church of Agony where Christ prayed for the last time on a rock.


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    The Mauristan - Jerusalem Old City
     
    Immediately south of the Holy Sepulchre is the area known as the Mauristan . The area gets its name - Mauristan is Persian for hospital or hospice- from the fact that it was once crowded with lodging houses for pilgrims and travelers. Today you will find a number of churches and other religious institutions, and in the Greek bazaar known as Souq Aftimos to its south shops selling leather goods in particular.
     
    Charlemagne founded the area in the early ninth century, and although it was damaged in 1009, many of the buildings were restored by a group of merchants from Amalfi in Italy in the eleventh century. The oldest church in the area is that of St. John the Baptist in the southwest corner of the square. This church dates from the fifth century, and is one of the buildings extensively rebuilt by merchants, with the two small bell towers framing a blue-domed roof as later additions. The Crusader order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (also known as the Knights Hospitallers) was founded here. German Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, who bought the site during a visit in 1869, commissioned the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the northeast corner of the square to be built over St. Mary La Latine church. Traces of the original church remain in the medieval northern gate, decorated with the signs of the Zodiac and the symbols of the months. Opposite the Lutheran Church, the Alexander Hospice houses the church of Jerusalem's Russian Orthodox community. On the west side of the square overlooking the Mauristan Fountain is St. John's Hospice, occupied since April 1990 by Jewish settlers who have an Israeli flag hanging from an upper window. In the northwest of the square facing onto Souq ad Dabbagha the Mosque of Omar commemorates Caliph Omar's prayers in the courtyard of the Holy Sepulchre in 638 AD.


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    The Islamic Museum - Jerusalem Old City

    To the west of Al Aqsa mosque, within the same compound, you will find the oldest museum in Jerusalem, the Islamic museum established in 1923. The museum is housed in two historic buildings - one Ayyubid, and the other Crusader. The museum houses many Islamic artefacts and historical objects, and exhibits a variety of items ranging from tiny flasks for kohl eye make-up to giant architectural elements from mosques. The smaller objects are displayed in the first building (the Ayyubid construction) and include porcelain cups from the Far and Near East, inscribed brass mosque seals, glassware and incense burners, among other things. There are also exquisite thirteenth century gilded and enameled mosque lamps from the Hebron area, a large jewel- encrusted Hand of Fatima, and a collection of decorated guns, swords, and daggers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The manuscript section has some rare medieval and Ottoman copies of the Koran, including an eighth century version ascribed to the prophet's great grandson.

     
    The exhibits in the second building are much larger and include the burnt remains of the great cedar wood, ivory and mother-of-pearl minbar given to the Al Aqsa mosque by Salaheddin in 1187. You will also find exceptionally rich religious vestments of silk and gold, fragments of Al Aqsa's seventeenth century prayer rug and decorative cypress wood panels from the original eighth century mosque. From the Dome of the Rock itself, there is the magnificent Crusader wrought-iron screen that surrounded the Holy Rock from the twelfth to the twentieth century, and remains of mosaic and ceramic walls. Displayed also is the cannon that was fired to mark the start of the fast during Ramadan.


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    The Church of Bethany or Lazarus - Jerusalem
     
    Located 4 kms east of Jerusalem in the Palestinian village of Azaria, along the Jericho road. The Arabic name of the village is a derivation of the earlier Greek name. Remains of a Crusader Church which replaced a 4th century chapel on top of Lazarus' grave were found here.  The church was later converted into a mosque and again, in the 17th century into a church. The present church was built in the 1950s by the Roman Catholics. The blue domed church nearby is a Greek Orthodox church. It was built over the Tomb of Lazarus, renowned for being the place where Jesus raised the man from the dead (John 11: 1- 44).


    The pool and tunnel of Silwan - Jerusalem
     
    In the village of Silwan, just outside the walled city from the East, lies the pool and tunnel of Silwan which were probably built by Hezekiah, king of Jerusalem in 700 BC. The cut rock tunnel was dug to protect the water supply of the city from the invading Assyrians. The pool at the southern end of the tunnel was used as a reservoir for water coming from the Gihon Spring through the tunnel. The pool is sacred to Christians because Jesus sent the blind man to wash the clay from his eyes here, and he got his sight back. (John 9).


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    Historical Hotel Monuments in Palestine - The New Imperial Hotel - Jerusalem Old City

    One of the oldest hotels in Palestine the New Imperial Hotel is attractively located in front of the Cita- del as you enter the Old City of Jerusalem from its northern Jaffa Gate. This is one of the busiest en- trances to the Old City. The Arabic name for it is Bab el Khalil (Gate of the Friend) in reference to Abraham, forefather of both Jews and Moslems and "the Friend of God" (Isa. 41:8).

     
    The wall bears the following inscription in Arabic: "there is no God but Allah and Abraham is the Friend of Allah." The Moslem Caliph Omar Ibn Al Khattab entered Jerusalem from this gate after its capture in AD 638. Also, this is the gate used by General Allenby, commander of the British forces which cap- tured Jerusalem during World War One, to enter Jerusalem heading a victory parade in December 1917.
    In the area where you now find the New Imperial Hotel and beyond it there were fields where wheat grew in the winter. In the summer, the empty fields became dumping grounds for carcasses of donkeys, camels and horses. The Turkish authorities moved this "cemetery" outside the wall and the Grand New Hotel was built in its place in 1884. Travelers began to write of the new hotel with grand facilities inside Jaffa Gate when it first opened. The walls are of a light red variation of the Jerusalem Stone. The Greek Orthodox Church owns the build- ing.
    When it was under construction, a pool known as Bathsheba was discovered. Its name was given based on the assumption that Uriah's wife was bathing here when seen by David. It is now a cistern underneath the hotel. Roman tiles of the Tenth Legion and part of the shaft of a column bearing a votive inscription in honor of the Augustan Legate, Marcus Julius Maximus, erected by the Tenth Legion were also discovered. The column now forms the pedestal of a street lamp; a bomb scalped it in 1948. In the late 1940s it became known as Morcos Hotel.
    Kaiser Wilhelm II stayed here when he visited Palestine in 1898. The wall between the gate and the Citadel was torn down and the moat filled by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II in order to permit the Kaiser and his suite to ride into the city. In the 1950s and 60s it had an elegant ballroom in which many wed- dings were held. Sitting on the hotel's balcony overlooking Omar Ibn Al Khattab Square one observes below an ever-changing mosaic of people, images, colors, and sounds.
     
    Its top offers an enchanting panoramic view of Jerusalem. If you step onto the hotel's roof, you will see important sites such as Mount Scopus, Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, Dome of the Rock, dome of the Church of the holy Sepulchre, the Hebrew University, the bell tower of the Church of the Redeemer, King David Hotel, and the garden of King David Citadel.
    Source: Dr. Mohammad Dajani, PECDAR
     

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    Al Jib village - Jerusalem

    A Canaanite city, Al Jib village is located approximately 10 kms north west of Jerusalem. Canaanite Gibeon, Al Jib is a historically important village built beside and on top of parts of the archaeological site known by the Canaanite name Gibeon. The archaeological site and the traditional village are located on a hill dominating the surrounding valley cultivated with grain crops and vegetables. From this high location the site has a beautiful view of Jerusalem and the surrounding hills. While the village and the archaeological site are quite well preserved, the traditional houses in the heart of the village are abandoned and slowly disintegrating. The archaeological site was excavated in 1956, 1959-60 and 1962 by Dr. J.B.Pritchard from the University of Pennsylvania.

    Gibeon is one of the most important ancient Canaanite sites. According to the excavations, the site was occupied in the Middle Bronze period. Many tombs rich with Middle Bronze materials have been found on the site. These materials indicate that the site was coming to its end before the Late Bronze period.

    The earliest town wall was erected in the 12th century BC. In this period, Gibeon was prosperous and one of the most important cities and sanctuaries in the region, much more important than Jerusalem. The most important discovery was the water tunnel which belongs to the Iron Age. This water system is a shaft of cut rocks with steps circling down its wall.

    This water shaft was made to reach the water source (spring) in the eastern slope of the hill. Near the upper entrance of the tunnel, there is a big water cistern used as a reservoir for collecting rain-or spring-water. The cistern also shows spiral stairs of 79 steps, carved in the rock and leading down to the bottom, when the water level has gone down. Source: Endangered Cultural Heritage Sites in the West Bank Governorates, MOPIC, February 1999

     
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    Nabi Samuel - Jerusalem
     
    The skyline north from Jerusalem on the Nablus road is dominated by a beautiful mosque on the top of the hill of Nabi Samuel, with its high minaret. This is the traditional tomb of Prophet Samuel. From the roof of the mosque one can have a magnificent panoramic view of Jerusalem with the cities of Ramallah and Al Bireh and their many historic villages in the foreground. On a clear day, both the Mediterranean and the mountains of Jordan can be visible. The Crusaders called the spot "Mount of Joy." From there their armies in 1099 got their first glimpse of the Holy City.
    The Premonstratenians built a church here in 1157, but it was abandoned when the Crusaders retreated to Akka after the battle of Hittin in 1187. Richard the Lionheart spent a few hours here in 1192. It was his only glimpse of the city he had come so far to conquer: he was forced to abandon his plan to attack Jerusalem when expected support did not arrive. The site was a place of pilgrimage for Jews until the 16th century AD when a mosque replaced the church. The mosque follows the lines of the medieval church.
     
    The place was badly damaged by Turkish shells in 1917, but the edifice was restored during the British Mandate. The mosque can be visited all day except during times of prayer. From the annex along the north side, steps lead down to a crypt which is a rock-cut tomb. This tomb may have been at the origin of the tradition of Samuel's burial. It must have been transformed into a crypt in the Byzantine period, a role it retained in the Crusader church.
     
    Source: PACE tour guide to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip

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    The Mount of Olives - Jerusalem

    The Mount of Olives is the mountain that Jesus visited regularly for meditation and worship. Rising about 100 meters above the Old City in the east, it offers a magnificent view of the city. The Mount is associated with several events related to Christ, which explains the presence of several churches. The church of Pater Noster was built on the place where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's prayer. The prayer is written on the walls of the church in 62 languages. The Chapel of the Ascension is on top of the mountain not far from the church of Pater Noster. From here Jesus ascended to heaven after blessing his disciples. The church of Domnius Flevit is situated at the beginning of the de- scent towards Kidron valley. It was built in 1890 to commemorate Christ's weeping over Jerusalem. The church was designed to resemble a tear shaped shrine. The Russian church of Saint Mary Magdalene is a little further down the hill, and was built by Czar Alexander III in 1888. With its seven golden onion-shaped spires, it is one of the most attractive churches in Jerusalem. The Church of the Virgin Mary, in the Kidron valley, marks the traditional place of her Assumption. The Crusaders built this church in the 12th century because, according to tradition, Mary was buried here. It replaced an earlier Byzantine Basilica.

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    Cremisan Monastery - Jerusalem & Beit Jala
     
    Cremisan monastery is on the border between Beit Jala and Jerusalem, with the main building officially in Jerusalem and the storeroom on the other side of the parking lot in Beit Jala. The monastery can be reached through a long winding road from the city of Beit Jala. The road leading to the monastery reflects a clear image of the political situation of the times: on the left hand side there are Palestinian houses, some of them modern-looking others more ancient and some of them shabby, while on the right hand side rise the modern apartment houses of Gilo, the Israeli settlement bor- dering Beit Jala.
     
    As you enter Cremisan, the outside world is immediately forgotten and the visitor is lost to the natural beauty of the place and serenity which characterizes it. For the 37 theological students from around the world, including Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, who study there along with a dozen or so teachers, Cremisan is an island of tranquility. The main monastery building which dates from the last century has stone floors and high arched ceilings. The walls are several meters thick. Prominently pictured on walls throughout are Pope John Paul II and Don Bosco, founder of the Salesian order to which the monastery belongs. The main attraction for the regular visitor is the wine cellar and adjoining shop which is located a few hundred meters beyond the monastery building.
     
    The wine production of the monastery is a modest 700,000 liters a year. The grapes come from the order's own vineyards and Beit Jammal and Rifaat as well as from Beit Jala and Hebron areas. Only 2% of the grapes come from the vineyards at Cremisan. The wine cellar with its high arched ceilings is full of casks of aging wine and brandy. Prices range from NIS 12 - 24 for the Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine shop is open daily except Sunday, from 08:00 - 12:00 and 13:30 - 16:30. Organized groups are welcome to picnic in the extensive green areas surrounding the monastery provided they make advance arrangements.


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    The Armenian Quarter - Jerusalem Old City
     
    The Armenian Quarter is the smallest quarter of the Old City. It occupies the southwestern side of the city and is dominated by the great compound of the Armenian monastery and the Citadel with its minaret and towers. The Armenian compound is in fact a city within a city. It has its own schools, library, seminary, and residential quarters, all arranged around the 12th century Orthodox Cathedral of St. James, just south of the citadel. Much of the quarter, and especially the area of the citadel, was once occupied by the palace of Herod the Great. The Citadel is known today as the "Tower of David", an identification that was given to the site by the Byzantines.
     
    The fortifications of the Citadel were built by the Mamluks during the 14t century. Suleiman the Magnificent contributed the monu mental entrance and the platform for cannons. The minaret was built in 1655. The Citadel now contains the city museum on the history of Jerusalem: a multi-screen show as well as a sound and light show can be seen there. The Armenian quarter can be reached from the Jaffa Gate. The small Armenian community of the Old City boasts an extensive and exquisite array of ceramics and pottery which can be found in many shops in that Quarter. Furthermore, restaurants offering Armenian pizza and other specialties are abundant, with a homely atmosphere and excellent food.


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    Nabi Samuel - Jerusalem
     
    The skyline north from Jerusalem on the Nablus road is dominated by a beautiful mosque on the top of the hill of Nabi Samuel, with its high minaret. This is the traditional tomb of Prophet Samuel. From the roof of the mosque one can have a magnificent panoramic view of Jerusalem with the cities of Ramallah and Al Bireh and their many historic villages in the foreground. On a clear day, both the Mediterranean and the mountains of Jordan can be visible. The Crusaders called the spot "Mount of Joy." From there their armies in 1099 got their first glimpse of the Holy City.
    The Premonstratenians built a church here in 1157, but it was abandoned when the Crusaders retreated to Akka after the battle of Hittin in 1187. Richard the Lionheart spent a few hours here in 1192. It was his only glimpse of the city he had come so far to conquer: he was forced to abandon his plan to attack Jerusalem when expected support did not arrive. The site was a place of pilgrimage for Jews until the 16th century AD when a mosque replaced the church. The mosque follows the lines of the medieval church.
     
    The place was badly damaged by Turkish shells in 1917, but the edifice was restored during the British Mandate. The mosque can be visited all day except during times of prayer. From the annex along the north side, steps lead down to a crypt which is a rock-cut tomb. This tomb may have been at the origin of the tradition of Samuel's burial. It must have been transformed into a crypt in the Byzantine period, a role it retained in the Crusader church.
     
    Source: PACE tour guide to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip


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    The Mount of Olives - Jerusalem

    The Mount of Olives is the mountain that Jesus visited regularly for meditation and worship. Rising about 100 meters above the Old City in the east, it offers a magnificent view of the city. The Mount is associated with several events related to Christ, which explains the presence of several churches. The church of Pater Noster was built on the place where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's prayer. The prayer is written on the walls of the church in 62 languages. The Chapel of the Ascension is on top of the mountain not far from the church of Pater Noster. From here Jesus ascended to heaven after blessing his disciples. The church of Domnius Flevit is situated at the beginning of the de- scent towards Kidron valley. It was built in 1890 to commemorate Christ's weeping over Jerusalem. The church was designed to resemble a tear shaped shrine. The Russian church of Saint Mary Magdalene is a little further down the hill, and was built by Czar Alexander III in 1888. With its seven golden onion-shaped spires, it is one of the most attractive churches in Jerusalem. The Church of the Virgin Mary, in the Kidron valley, marks the traditional place of her Assumption. The Crusaders built this church in the 12th century because, according to tradition, Mary was buried here. It replaced an earlier Byzantine Basilica.

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    Cremisan Monastery - Jerusalem & Beit Jala
     
    Cremisan monastery is on the border between Beit Jala and Jerusalem, with the main building officially in Jerusalem and the storeroom on the other side of the parking lot in Beit Jala. The monastery can be reached through a long winding road from the city of Beit Jala. The road leading to the monastery reflects a clear image of the political situation of the times: on the left hand side there are Palestinian houses, some of them modern-looking others more ancient and some of them shabby, while on the right hand side rise the modern apartment houses of Gilo, the Israeli settlement bor- dering Beit Jala.
     
    As you enter Cremisan, the outside world is immediately forgotten and the visitor is lost to the natural beauty of the place and serenity which characterizes it. For the 37 theological students from around the world, including Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, who study there along with a dozen or so teachers, Cremisan is an island of tranquility. The main monastery building which dates from the last century has stone floors and high arched ceilings. The walls are several meters thick. Prominently pictured on walls throughout are Pope John Paul II and Don Bosco, founder of the Salesian order to which the monastery belongs. The main attraction for the regular visitor is the wine cellar and adjoining shop which is located a few hundred meters beyond the monastery building.
     
    The wine production of the monastery is a modest 700,000 liters a year. The grapes come from the order's own vineyards and Beit Jammal and Rifaat as well as from Beit Jala and Hebron areas. Only 2% of the grapes come from the vineyards at Cremisan. The wine cellar with its high arched ceilings is full of casks of aging wine and brandy. Prices range from NIS 12 - 24 for the Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine shop is open daily except Sunday, from 08:00 - 12:00 and 13:30 - 16:30. Organized groups are welcome to picnic in the extensive green areas surrounding the monastery provided they make advance arrangements.


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    The Armenian Quarter - Jerusalem Old City
     
    The Armenian Quarter is the smallest quarter of the Old City. It occupies the southwestern side of the city and is dominated by the great compound of the Armenian monastery and the Citadel with its minaret and towers. The Armenian compound is in fact a city within a city. It has its own schools, library, seminary, and residential quarters, all arranged around the 12th century Orthodox Cathedral of St. James, just south of the citadel. Much of the quarter, and especially the area of the citadel, was once occupied by the palace of Herod the Great. The Citadel is known today as the "Tower of David", an identification that was given to the site by the Byzantines.
     
    The fortifications of the Citadel were built by the Mamluks during the 14t century. Suleiman the Magnificent contributed the monu mental entrance and the platform for cannons. The minaret was built in 1655. The Citadel now contains the city museum on the history of Jerusalem: a multi-screen show as well as a sound and light show can be seen there. The Armenian quarter can be reached from the Jaffa Gate. The small Armenian community of the Old City boasts an extensive and exquisite array of ceramics and pottery which can be found in many shops in that Quarter. Furthermore, restaurants offering Armenian pizza and other specialties are abundant, with a homely atmosphere and excellent food.


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    The Dormition Abbey - Jerusalem

    This white stone building is the traditional site of Mary's death, in a dark crypt decorated with twelve columns and with pictures of famous women from the Old Testament. Built in the style of the large Romanesque churches of the Rhein area, the present basilica stands on the ruins of a Byzantine church whose mosaic floor is kept under a glass cover in the courtyard. The corner stone was laid on the 7th of October 1900. This plot of land was granted to the German emperor Wilhem II by the Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid "for the benefit of German Catholics." Heinrich Renard, the architect for the Diocese of Cologne, was commissioned to draw up the plans for St. Mary's Church on the site where Christians had for centuries commemorated the death of Mary. It was entrusted to the German Benedictines in 1906. Renard succeeded in matching the neo-Romanesque architecture with the oriental environment. This is confirmed by the many bas-reliefs carved by local stone-masons on the out-side walls. In the circular apse, above the altar, shining mosaics represent Mary with the child Jesus. The words "I am the light of the world" are inscribed on the open book that Jesus is holding. Further down are pictured eight prophets who announced the coming of the Messiah, and the mosaics in the two niches below depict the Annunciation. The rotunda of the crypt recalls the Holy Sepulchre and the resurrection of Jesus.

    In its center, surrounded by six pillars, lies the statue of Mary, asleep. This is where, according to ancient Christian tradition, Mary lived and died after her son's resurrection. The church is the home of the Benedictine monks who "wish to live the ideal of the primitive church in the spirit of the rule of St. Benedict." Classical music concerts and organ recitals are a regular event at the Abbey which also houses a cafeteria and a bookshop.

    Down the hill from the church to the right is the Coenaculum - the Room of the Last Supper (open daily from 08:30 to sunset except for Friday afternoons.)

    The room is a Crusader construction with characteristic Gothic arches. It was part of a Franciscan monastery until 1551 when it was turned into a mosque by the Ottomans. The roof reveals a fascinating juxtaposition of church steeples and minarets.
    Directions: The church can be seen on the left hand side on top of the hill on the Jerusalem-Hebron road, across from the Sultan's pool. It can be reached through Zion Gate, or Dung Gate. Another alternative is to walk down from Jaffa gate heading south along the Hebron Road and left up the hill opposite the Sultan's Pool.

    Open daily from 08:00 - noon and 14:00 - 18:00

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    Salaheddine Street - Jerusalem

    The busiest shopping street in East Jerusalem, it starts from Az Zahra gate and continues until just before the American Colony Hotel. It's ideal for window shopping and actual shopping, since it is full of shops offering different kinds of products that are not geared towards tourists but the local population. Before the Israeli-imposed closure of Jerusalem in the face of Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 199 , this street was a haven for shoppers from all over Palestine and the nearby villages and was difficult to set foot in particularly around the major Muslim and Christian feasts which are the major shopping seasons in Palestine. Starting with a variety of clothes shops for men and women, it also contains the best bookshops for Arabic and English books and magazines. Vegetable shops also provide the best looking (and also excellent tasting) vegetables and fruits you can find, though they are on the expensive side. A couple of music shops, as well as a few quick food restaurants selling the traditional Palestinian Shawarma, Hummous, and Falalfel are on the way to satisfy the appetite of hungry shoppers and passers

    by. Jewelry shops (silver and gold) are also found on this street, as are two or three furniture and electric appliance shops. The greatest concentration in this street, however, is for Palestinian tour operators, and money changers. Az Zahra street, an exit to the right at the northern end of Salaheddin street also offers an extension of the shoping experience to more clothes, food, as well as tour operators, and hotels. Some of the best hairdressers in Jerusalem for men and women (no unisex hairdressers are available in East Jerusalem) are also located on this street and usually no a ointment is required. Towards the northern end of the street, there are two Palestinian theatre houses: The Palestinian National Theatre and Al Kasaba theatre, as well as an interesting historic-turned-cultural site known as the Tombs of the Kings (opening hours 08:30 - 17:00) which was once thought to be the burial site of the kings of Judah. Currently it is believed to be the family vault of the royal family of Adiabene, an independent state within the Babylonian Empire whose queen, Helena, along with her son Izates, converted to Judaism. Every summer for the last three years this location has been the site of the Jerusalem Festival for Arabic music organized by Yabous Productions. Even though the site is planned to undergo renovation, the festival of Arabic and World jazz music will still take lace there in the second week of August.
     

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    Bethlehem

    Solomon' Pools - Bethlehem

     
    The pools are three huge rectangular cisterns cut in the rock and masoned locally known as Solomon's pools. They are situated about 3 kms south of Bethlehem. The pools hold about 1160,000 cubic meteers of water. They are constructed in steps, each six meters above the next, to enable to water to be carried as far as Jerusalem by sheer force of gravity. They also supplied Herod's fortress and palace at Herodion. Near the pools are the remains of Qal'at al Burak (fortress of the pools) also known as Qal'at Murad. The fortress was built by the Turkish sultan Murad in the 17th century for the protection of the water soruce and maintained this role throughout the centuries.
     
    Although the construction of the pools is attributed to King Solomon, they probably date from Herod's era, the idea being conceived by Pontius Pilate. History shows that Pilate, not Solomon, built the great aqueduct which supplies water to Jerusalem.
     
    The fortress and the pools are set in a beautiful grove of pine and cypress trees. The site can be accessed from an eastern side road off the main Bethlehem-Hebron road. The system was in use as recently as 1946, and along much of the route from Bethlehem to Jerusalem original terra-cotta piping can still be found lying around.

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    Mar Elias Monastery - Bethlehem
     
    Mar Elias Monastery stands like a fortress on a ridge from which both Jerusalem and Bethlehem can be seen. It was founded in the 6th century BC and in 1160 was rebuilt by the Emperor Manuel Commenus following a disastrous earthquake. The monastery was named after St. Elias the prophet. Legend has it that the building stands on the site where Elias rested on his flight from the vengeance of Jezebel (1 Kings 19). Opposite the monastery is a stone seat placed by Edith, wife of William Homan Hunt, the great pre-Raphaelite artist of religious paintings such as "The Light of the World" and "The Scapegoat". Inscribed on the seat are verses from the Bible in Hebrew, Greek, English, and Arabic. Visiting hours: 8:00 - 11:00 and 13:30 - 17:00


    Mar Saba's Monastery - Bethlehem

    Half way between Bethlehem and Jericho, through the deep valley of Kidron, you will find an old monastery on the southern end of the deep valley, looking like a medieval fortress hugging the mountain.

     
    This monastery was built by St. Saba in 483 AD. He started his life as a hermit in the caves of that prairie, dedicating his days and nights to prayer and fasting. This Saint was born in 439 AD in Turkey. He was an orphan, and remained in his uncle's care until he came to visit the Holy Land and decided to remain there as a hermit. Many monks joined him in the caves of the prairie reaching 2000 in number. He built this monastery to house them. The magnificence of the building is astounding, and it contains many old icons, books, and manuscripts that are invaluable and unique. The gate to the monastery is very small, yet famous for a huge key. There is a guard's tower where monks used to take shifts watching the road for caravans coming from Jordan and other countries of the Fertile Crescent to Jerusalem carrying goods and supplies. The merchants always gave alms to the monastery and its hermits who in return gave assistance and services for all the passers by. At the bottom of the monastery is a cave with a water spring that has an exceptional taste. This spring is the only one in this deserted prairie.
    The monastery follows the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem and still goes by the old system since St. Saba. Time is lunar, and fasting, eating and prayer each have traditions that have remained since the establishment of the monastery. Women are not permitted to enter the monastery, and nearby there is a small convent called "The girls' convent" where women can stay.
     
    When the crusaders left Palestine, their leaders took with them the body of St. Saba to Venice. In 1964, following a Papal visit to the Holy Land, Pope Paul the 6th promised to return the body to its monastery. The Body of St. Saba lies now in a glass coffin in the monastery, and it still retains excellent shape.


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    Al Khader village - Bethlehem

    Three kilometers south of Bethlehem is the village of Al Khader, traditionally famous for its stone-quarries and the church of St. George, a popular center of pilgrimage. The church was established in AD 1600, the present church was built in 1912. Celebrations for the feast of St. George take place in the church on May 5th each year.


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    Beit Jala Village - Bethlehem

    Two kilometers west of Bethlehem is another Palestinian village worth visiting. Beit Jala enjoys a reputation as a summer resort and it is also famous for its delicious apricots, the distinctive brocaded dresses worn by the women, and for its expert stone masons. There are four churches here, the most attractive being the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas with its square tower and glittering silver dome. The view from the summit at the top of the hill is spectacular, with a great part of Jerusalem visible.From here a road descends to the Monastery of Cremisan, renowned for the wine produced by the Salesian monks, who also run a farm. The monastery houses a high school and an impressive library.


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    Taqou' village - Bethlehem
     
    The name of this village, located southeast of Bethlehem, probably means "the place for pitching tents," which reflects its location on the eastern edge of the southern hills where the wilderness begins. According to biblical records, this city was founded by Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the north and by Calebites from Hebron in the south. It seems to have served as an administrative center and was also a fortified city. The Old Testament prophet Amos was from the village of Taqou'.
    Today, there are ruins from a memorial, presumably to Amos, dating back at least to the first century. This memorial consists of a double cave over which stood a square structure ten meters on a side. Nearby stand the ruins of a Byzantine St. Nicholas church with mosaic floors, and a Monophysite monastery was also located here. The village continued to be important until at least the Crusader period. In more recent times, the village has been relocated about two kilometers west of the ancient site. The Christian inhabitants of Taqou' migrated to Bethlehem in the eighteenth century. Today it is a Muslim village, which is well known for its vegetables.
    Source: Mitri Raheb and Fred Strickert, Bethlehem Past and Present. Germany: Palmyra publishing house, 1998.
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    Artas Valley - Bethlehem
     
    The valley is located approximately 5 kms south of Bethlehem, southeast of Al Khadir village. The valley begins at the eastern limits of Solomon's pools and descends eastwards for about 2 kms until the village of Artas. The environment of the site is well preserved. The valley connects the pools with Artas village, which is partly built down in the valley and on the slopes.
    In the first century AD Herod trapped the aqueduct of Solomon's pools and led the water through the valley and village of Artas to his fortress (Herodion or Tell Freidis). The water of this aqueduct still irrigates fruit trees and vegetables planted in the valley. This agriculture makes the valley a very important source of income for the people of Artas and forms a beautiful environment for the site. The name Artas derives from the Latin word Hortus or garden. During the Crusader period it was known as Artasium.
    Next to the forest trees on the slope of the northern mountain, a quarry spoils the homogeneous appearance. Shrubs, many wild weeds, and herbs are growing amongst the rocks, big stones are scattered on the slope of the southern hill. The foot of the hill beside the pools is covered with pine trees.
    On the western side is the entrance to the pools which leads through a part of Artas town reaching the edge of the pool. A belt of trees planted by the British Mandate Authority surrounds the pools.
    The Church of the Milk Grotto - Bethlehem

    Five minutes walk south-east of manger square, along the Milk Grotto street, you can find this small church. One version of the story behind this site is that the Holy Family hid here during the Slaughter of the innocents. Alternatively, they made a hurried stop here during the flight to Egypt, and in the rush Mary let a drop of her milk fall to the ground while she was nursing, turning the rock from red to white. Christians and Moslems alike have since believed that the rock increases nursing mothers' milk and fertility.


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    Star Street - The Bethlehem Christmas Market - Bethlehem
     
    The oldest street in Bethlehem, Star street is the traditional entrance to the old city. Today, it remains the route taken by Patriarchs on Christmas Eve to the Church of Nativity. This one kilometer-long street starts from the Catholic Action Club where recent renovations have constructed a small square with a few steps in the center leading to a narrow platform where a sculpture is planned to sit in the near future. Once a center of economic life, the changing tourist routes in the years following the Israeli occupation brought it to detriment, causing the shops to close down.
    The street has been recently renovated by the Bethlehem 2000 authority supported by the Spanish Cooperation and it is slowly regaining the splendor of the past. On December 15th, the Bethlehem Christmas Market was opened in this street. Merchants from all over Palestine are exhibiting traditional handicrafts, arts, souvenirs, and food in 20 shops along the street. Following the initiative of the Bethlehem 2000 project, many shopkeepers decided to reopen their shops for the incoming tourists. With music and occasional live performances, the Christmas Market which is open until the 6th of January promises life back to this marvelous street in the heart of the Old City of Bethlehem.
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    Rachel's Tomb - Bethlehem

    As the Jerusalem road approaches the northern edge of Bethlehem, it passes the traditional burial place of the Biblical matriarch Rachel, the wife of Jacob. The structure was originally built by the Crusaders, but in subsequent years was altered many times. The simple building housing the tomb was erected by the Ottoman Turks in 1620. The dome was built by Sir Moses Montefiore in 1841. The place is revered by Jews, Moslems, and Christians. From 1948 to the early 1980s, the tomb was the property of the Department of Islamic affairs (Waqf) and was open to worshippers of all faiths.

    Today, the tomb is under full Israeli control and is totally segregated. Israeli soldiers are heavily present at the site, and a huge wall has just been erected right in the middle of the road to further isolate the place. During construction work near Rachel's Tomb in 1904, a Roman aqueduct was uncovered. Inscriptions on the stones date the structure to AD 195. Nearby is an even older aqueduct attributed to the time of Pilate. The cemetery in the grounds of the tomb belongs to the Bedouin Taamreh tribe.

    Source: PACE Tour guide to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip

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    Khreitoun Valley - Bethlehem

    Seven kilometers south east of Bethlehem, this valley, named after a monk, is a very attractive and intriguing ancient and natural site. Extending between two mountains south of the Freidees mount (Herodion), Khreitoun valley contains numerous caves many of them used by the Palestinian population up until 40 years ago. In addition to being an extremely interesting hiking area, the valley contains three pre-historic caves: 'Irq al Ahmar, Um Qal'a, and Um Qatfa. To reach these caves you need to walk down in the valley itself. The first cave, 'Irq al Ahmar, is reached after about 1.5 kms walk on the left hand side and requires a short climb. It is a natural cave with evidence of human settlement dating back to 50,000 –2500 BC. If you continue walking on the mountain itself you reach the 'Um Qal'a cave after less than one kilometer. Human settlement there dates back to 4000 BC. 'Um Qatafa is the third cave where prehistoric evidence was found, as well as the first brazier in the Middle East. These caves were excavated between 1929 - 1948.

    The Khreitoun cave, named after a Turkish monk who lived in the area in the 4th century AD, can be reached by walking on the ridge of the mountain on the right hand side, opposite the pre-historic caves. Four kilometers away (about one hours brisk walk) from the beginning of the valley you reach the cave which is more like a tunnel that is said to extend 17 kms inside the mountain. However, the maximum distance at-tempted into the cave so far has been 150 meters. Torch lights are needed, and it requires crawling in some areas. People who suffer claustrophobia or asthma are discouraged to attempt entry into this cave. In the spring, the area is abundant with wild flowers and green patches can be found in the middle of the mountain, ideal for picnics and outings.
     

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    The Bethlehem Folklore Museum - "Baituna at Talhami" - Bethlehem

    Located in the heart of the Bethlehem old city, on Star Street, the street that the patriarchs still use to enter Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and other special religious occasions, "Baituna at Talhami" or "The Old Bethlehem Home" is one of the most famous cultural heritage museums in Palestine. Established by the Arab Women's Union in Bethlehem in 1971, the museum started modestly with a collection of traditional Palestinian household items displayed in an old house dedicated to the project where a living room and a kitchen were reconstructed. The museum was accompanied by a campaign amongst the Bethlehem families to donate their traditional belongings to the museum, and many items were thus saved from withering away in the backyards. In 1983, with the assistance of the French Consul General at the time, Mr. Jean Gueguinou, Mrs. Anne Saurat, a curator working at the time at restoring the Islamic museum in Al Aqsa Mosque, was asked to assist in classifying and organizing the collection. She also published a booklet about the objects and the photographs in the museum. In 1984, the museum was extended to an adjacent old house which had been restored. This new house, according to the president of the Arab Women's Union, Mrs. Julia Dabdoub, "is one of the few authentic old houses left in Bethlehem… similar to the house in which Jesus was born." She herself had in 1992 donated her forty year collection of photographs, furniture, and works of art to furnish the upper room or "Al Illiya" which shows the life of Bethlehem residents between 1900 - 1932.

    The sections of the museum include: Traditional dresses and jewelry, dwelling rooms starting with the Diwan (sitting room), the kitchen, the bedroom, in addition to the ground floor "Al Rawya" where sheep and goats were kept. Adjacent to the museum is the Arab Women's Union embroidery center which displays traditional Palestinian embroidery items for sale.

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    Jacir Palace: Inter-Continental Hotel - Bethlehem

    In the heart of Bethlehem, on the main Jerusalem-SOS- Bethlehem-Hebron road, the old building traditionally known as the Jacir Palace was recently transformed into a 5 star Inter Continental Hotel. The feeling of awe as you walk through the arched entrance is immediately dissipated by the warm atmosphere and the extremely friendly staff both at the reception and in the various coffee shops and terraces of the hotel. The Palace itself dates back to 1910 when it was built by Suleiman Jacir, a rich merchant of Bethlehem. Frescoes on the ceiling of the reception and lobby show a portrait of Suleiman Jacir wearing a Turkish style headdress and caftan. The frescoes themselves have been well kept and cleaned. The tiles of the original mansion have also been reserved. The new furniture was brought in from Turkey to ensure homogeneity between the original house design and the new furniture. The palace was sold to Germans after the war and became a prison house. Later on it was transformed into a boys school and then a girls school. It was a ballot center for the first Palestinian legislative council elections a few years ago. Two years back it was bought by Padico and elaborate plans to transform it into the front façade of a luxurious 5 star hotel, the first of its kind in the area, were finally implemented.

    The hotel was officially o ened early last May and is not completely functional, even though around 30 rooms of the Beit Sahour wing are available, in addition to the Zaitouneh restaurant, the Riwaq courtyard, Al Makan Bar, and the Arisheh terrace. The 1000 capacity ballrooms, Ad Diwan and as Saraya, are also available for various official and social functions. The projected total room capacity is 49 rooms including 4 executive suites and 1 residential suite. Two pools are under construction, as is the business center, fitness center, and shopping arcade.

    The excellent combination between the old and new, the luxurious and the traditional, is a distinct advantage to this hotel that has managed, so far, to adapt to its surroundings.


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    Beit Sahour

    Herodion - Beit Sahour

     
    The site of Herodion, the fortress and burial place of the Edomite King Herod, lies 10 km east of Bethlehem. It can be reached via the road that passes Beit Sahour to Taqu' village. The mountain rises 758 meters above seal level overlooking Jerusalem and Bethlehem and commanding a view of the Judean Wilderness and the Dead Sea. The mountain and most of the buildings at the site were constructed in the Early Roman period, particularly during the reign of Herod the Great (37 - 4 BC). The work was completed around 20 BC. It is the only work of Herod that bears his name; later on it became his mausoleum. The Arabic name, Jabal AL Freidees, is similar to the name used by some European travelers, Mountain of the Franks. Others interpret the name Freidees to mean paradise derived from the Arabic "Fardous": a name referring to the magnificent garden that was built by Herod at the foot of the hill.
     
    Archaeological excavations at the site have uncovered many buildings belonging to different eras whether on the hill or at its foot. An elaborate water system and 15 meter deep wells were also discovered. There is also a big water basin, to which water was brought on the backs of animals from the foot of the hill. Secret tunnels used for escape in case of danger were also uncovered. Complete bathrooms belonging to the Roman times, churches, buildings, and other archaeological remains of successive eras, particularly the Byzantine, were also found. At the foot of the mountain, Herod built a grand Roman garden 110 X 145 meters square. The center of the garden was occupied by a big pool (70 X 45 meters). It is believed that the pool was used for swimming and sailing of small boats and as a strategic storage of water. Out of the prominent discoveries in these parts are a number of palaces and their annexes most of which are concentrated around the pool. These belonged to Herod's family, his friends, and the employees of his administration.
     
    At the peripheries of this building there is a 350- meter long road. Archaeologists think that it was built especially for the purpose of the funeral ceremony of Herod. However, the tomb itself remains undiscovered.
     
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    Shepherd's Fields - Beit Sahour
     
    Just south east of Bethlehem is the Palestinian village of Beit Sahour, and the scene of terraced fields of olives, known as the Shepherd's Fields. According to tradition this is the place where the angels appeared to the shepherds heard the angels sing "Glory to God in the Highest and on Earth, Peace and good Will to Men". A church was found here dating from AD 4 with a colored mosaic floor, one of the earliest in Palestine. The present Greek Church near the traditional site of the Grotto of the Shepherds replaced a monastery dating from AD 670. The modern, tent-shaped Franciscan Church of the Angels is built over a cave in which the shepherds are supposed to have lived. Nearby are the remains of a watchtower known as the Tower of Edar or Tower of the Flocks. This is believed to be the tower mentioned in Genesis.


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    Saint Theodosius' Convent - Beit Sahour
     
    Leaving Bethlehem by Beit Sahour through pleasant farmland, a road brings us to the imposing monastery of St. Theodosius (or Den Dosi or Den Ibn Abeid), centre of the Abediyah Bedouins. Theodosius joined the convent in 455 and was named as Superior. He fled to Metopa and later to a grotto here in which according to tradition the Magi had spent their first night after the angel had warned them to return to their own country via another road. The monastery was founded in 476. Four hundred monks were under his direction, divided according to their language and rite: Greek, Armenian and Slav. In 492, the Patriarch Sallustius appointed Theodosius head of all cenobites. He died in 529 at the age of 105, having seen 693 monks from the monastery pass away.


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    Jericho
     
    If the heat puts you off by day check out Jericho by night - Endless attractions and exciting thing to do
     
    Jericho might be a winter resort, but in the summer nights it provides vast entertainment option that you can only begin to explore this summer.
    You might want to get a suntan during the day, but at night you can also swim in the warm waters of the swimming pools available in town, and let the warm breeze caress you as you relax by the poolside. For swimming facilities check out The Jericho Resort Village, Ash Shallal, The Papaya Park, and the Amara Park. The last three are usually open until midnight.
    Another option is to take the cable care to the mount of temptation and watch Jericho from the mountaintop.
     
    You can also laze around in one of the many restaurants in the city, with Argeeleh, good food, and excellent music, particularly at the newly opened Spanish Park off Amman Road. Check out live music nights in some of the restaurants in the Ein Sultan road.
    Cycling by night is also a recommended sport, as is taking a stroll in the beautiful streets of the city. There are children's games at the Papaya Park as well as the Spanish Park.
     
    That, and much more, awaits… so don't waste your time planning what to do, be spontaneous and drive down to Jericho and enjoy the warm beautiful summer nights in the oldest city in the world.

    Jordan Valley

    Monasticism in the Judean Desert - Jordan Valley
     

    The Judean desert rolls eastward from Bethlehem to the Jordan rift valley and the Dead Sea. To the early monks who followed in Jesus' foot- steps, the harsh climatic conditions were symbolic of the evil powers which threatened the human spirit and had to be fought. Monasticism in the desert actually predated Jesus. Prophet Elijah who is believed by some to have been the first true monk, wandered in the desert forty days and nights without food. Until the 4th century, the center of Christian monasticism had been in Egypt. The first monks came here from Cappadocia in Central Turkey, Asia Minor, and Armenia in quest of perfection and solitude. They occupied the most remote desert gorges and caves, surviving on roots dug up with trowels. Yet these monks were also active scholars who played a leading role in the development of Christian Liturgy and dogma. Mo- nasticism in the West can be seen as developing from these early desert institutions. On the eve of the Per- sian invasion in AD 614, the Judean desert was a maze of monasteries.
    Only three of them still stand today: St. Theodosius and Mar Saba west of Bethlehem, and St. George's in Wadi Qilt. The monastery of St. Theodosius is about 12 kms east of Bethlehem near the village of Ubaidiyya. Theodosius was a monk from Cappadocia who was staying in Jerusalem when he was divinely directed to seek out a cave where the Three Wise Men from the East had rested after paying homage to Jesus in Bethlehem. Here, in AD 476, he founded a monastery which at one time housed 693 Greek, Georgian, Armenian, and Slavic monks within a fortified compound with four churches. This monastery, along with virtually all the others, was destroyed by the invading Persians in 614. The building that stands today was constructed by the Greek Orthodox Church at the turn of the century on the ruins of the Byzantine complex. The Monastery of Mar Saba is a huge semi circular structure closer to the Dead Sea than to Bethlehem. It is reached by a narrow road passing through the vil- lage of Ubaidiyya. The monastery was founded by St. Saba of Cappadocia in the 5th century. Long a center of theological literature and poetry, the monastery had as many as 5000 monks in residence at one time. Today it is tended by only a few. Women and even female animals are forbidden to enter. Women may, however, look out on the monastery from a special tower to the south of the building.


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