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The Olive Harvest Festival celebrated annualy in November by the farmers of the Canaan Fair Trade cooperative was a perfect opportunity to take an excursion to the region of Jenin.
Our itinerary for that day included the cities of Zababdeh, Jenin and Burqin, all of which are situated in the northern portion of the Palestinian Territories, which can be associated with the northern region of the Biblical Samaria. On our way, we passed several Palestinian villages and cities of great historical importance, including Beit Sahour, Ramallah and Nablus.
Zababdeh is a predominantly Christian rural village located around 10 km south of Jenin. Its name is probably derived from the Arabic word ‘zibdeh’ which means butter.
We took a short walk through the village reaching the Latin church of Visitation, which, according to tradition, was built in 1883 on the site where Mary and Elizabeth met. We also saw a grotto located under the church which could have been a resting spot for the Holy Family on their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Some believe that during the time of Christ, Zababdeh was situated on the travel and trade route of that time period, and was probably visited by Jesus himself.
Because of the amount of people gathered for a funeral, we could not visit the church right away. Interestingly, in Bethlehem, mourning families usually serve dark strong coffee without sugar and sweet buns, but in Zababdeh mourners give a plate/ cup of ‘slika’. The person, whom I asked about the name of those sweetened grains, gave me his cup away, so our group could taste it.
In 1884, during the construction of the Latin Convent of the Rosary sisters, located just next to the Visitation Church, ancient Byzantine mosaics were uncovered.
To visit the Latin Parish call (04) 251 05 25 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our next stop was Jenin, a town located on the edge of a level plain known to the locals as Marj Ibn Amer and mentioned in the Bible as Jezreel Valley or the Plain of Esdraelon. Jenin’s fertile surroundings was a perfect place to settle as early as in the times of Canaanites, who called it En Gannim. According to the local tradition, Jenin or Ginaea - as it was called in the times of Christ – was located on the main road between Nazareth and Jerusalem, and thus Jesus probably passed by the village on a number of occasions.
However, our group focused on the city’s Ottoman legacy visible in the impressive governmental buildings around the town. The traditional vegetable market ‘souq’, was unfortunately closed as it was a Friday but we found an opened bakery and enjoyed delicious traditional flat bread ‘taboun’ (which tasted differently than the one I sometimes buy in Bethlehem!). I decided to buy a couple of pieces which the participants of our tour could share together. The owner of the bakery was very hospitable and let us take pictures of the bread making process.
Since Friday is a Moslem holy day, unfortunately, we could not visit the Great Mosque of Jenin; Friday noon is the time for a weekly mosque service and is inappropriate for sightseeing.
The Palestinian town of Burqin, located 4 km west of Jenin, is famous as the location of the Church of Ten Lepers, also known as the Greek Orthodox church of St. George. Among our group we have easily agreed that this very well maintained church was one of the most impressive sites seen during this trip.
Burqin Church dates to the Byzantine times and is considered to be the fifth-oldest Christian holy place and the third-oldest church in the world. The first church was built over a cave which looks like a Roman cistern, where Jesus is said to cure ten lepers, from whom only one came back to thank him.
During the Crusader periord, after the 13th century, the church was rebuilt what can be clearly noticed by looking at the medieval ceiling of the monastery. There also can be seen a very impressive stone iconostasis and ancient stone chair for a priest.
Recent excavations inside the church revealed a burial place for two monks. The belongings found in the tombs are currently exposed – among them parts of a Bible written in Arabic dating at least 400 years.
Canaan Fair Trade Olive Harvest Festival
We arrived the Canaan Fair Trade facility around 2 pm and we were very hungry. Fortunately, the delicious traditional Palestinian dish ‘musahan’ and tea made on bonfire were already waiting for us. Musahan was made of freshly baked taboon bread and piece of chicken spiced with a great amount of a sour ‘summac’, onion and fried almonds.
After some time of rest, we were ready to explore the facility and learn about the process of olive oil pressing and storing it afterwards. We were also able to try all the products of the Caanan – besides the freshly pressed raw olive oil, there were delicious tomato and olive spreads, hand made couscous and various spices like zaatar or summac.
On our return trip back to Bethlehem we enjoyed the many products that we had taken with us from Canaan and began discussing our next off the track adventure.
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Beata Andonia blogs regularly for Travelujah. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.
Bethlehem is my new home since September 2010. This charming town in the Holy Land is definitely worth a visit! Discover Bethlehem with my blog :-) Other places are coming soon...