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October 3, 2012October 3, 2012  0 comments  Uncategorized

The picturesque village of Taybeh, located 12 km northeast of Ramallah, is home to around 1500 people, and is the only all-Christian Palestinian community in the Holy Land. From its elevated spot, it overlooks the desert wilderness, the Jordan Valley, Jericho, and the Dead Sea. It's prominent reputation includes its notoriety as the only Palestinian city that has its own beer factory, Taybeh beer. And every year it rises to prominence in early October as it hosts the Holy Land's only Oktoberfest. This year it is slated for October 6 and 7, 2012.

Biblical Ephraim

The history of Taybeh goes back 5000 years, well before Oktoberfest. The site was first settled by Canaanites. It is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Joshua 18:23) as a town of Benjamin - Ophrah. However later, the place was renamed Ephraim. Jesus Christ with His disciples visted the village after the Sanhedrin decided to execute 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).

Why the village is called ‘Taybeh’?

Welcome to Taybeh Travelujah

In the late 12th century Islamic ruler Salaheddin entered the Holy Land. The folk story states that one day the leader was invited by the Christians of Ephraim to their village. The Muslim ruler found village’s people very hospitable and generous and called them "Taybeen" ("good and kind" in Arabic). Since that day Biblical Ephraim took the modern name "Taybeh."

Four Churches in Taybeh

People of Taybeh belong to three Christian denominations: the Latin (Roman Catholic), the Greek Orthodox and as well the Melkite (Greek Catholic). Each  denomination has its own church in the village: the Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to "The Last Retreat of Jesus", was inaugurated in l971, the St. George Greek Orthodox Church was rebuilt in l929-1932 and the Melkite Church was built in l964, however the Melkite worship was founded in the village already in 1869.

All the communities celebrate Christmas  according to the Western calendar, on December 25th, and Easter, according to the Eastern calendar.

But there is also a fourth church in the village…

Taybeh Travelujah

Ruins of a Byzantine church known as "El Khader" (Saint George) are situated east of town.  Still standing are two chapels, an entrance portico and stairway, parts of a mosaic floor, and its well-preserved baptistery.  The church was rebuilt by the Crusaders during the 12th century.

Famous Taybeh Oktoberfest – Festival of the Village

Taybeh became very famous for its brewery producing the only Palestinian beer named after the village “Taybeh”. The brewers produce four types of beer - Golden, Amber, Dark and Zero (non-alcoholic) and promote the drink as the “The Finest in the Middle East.”

Taybeh Travelujah

Taybeh Oktoberfest is an annual village festival organized in September/October since 2005. The event aims to promote not only the famous beer, but all the local products produced in the village.

Oktoberfest 2012 will be celebrated on October 6 and October 7 and festivities will include music, dance performances and a wide selection of  local food. The schedule of activities can be found below.

Taybeh Traveluja

Planning your visit:

How to get there?

If you are driving a car from Jerusalem, take  road number 60 and after 20-25 km of driving you will notice a sign saying “Taybeh”, turn right and follow the signs.  For those taking public transportation, take bus 18 from the Arab Bus station next to the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem to Ramallah and then  you'll need to  transfer into a shared taxi (service) to Taybeh.

Abraham Tours is offering a special guided Taybeh tour for 150 shekel including transportation. The company also offers its weekly Saturday tour, the Qasr El Yahud and West Bank tour , which includes Qasr El Yahud, Jericho and Taybeh and is priced at 355 shekel (approximately $90).

Green Olive Tours is providing transportation from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Where to stay in Taybeh:

The village offers couple of options of accomodation:

  • Beit Efram Guest House , 16 rooms, call Fr. Aziz (02) 289 8020
  • Pilgrim’s Hostel next to Latin Church, call sisters (02) 289 9364
  • Pension Al Khader, 6 rooms, (02) 289 9771 or 0599 676 747
  • Khouriya Guest House in Jifna (around 20 km away from Taybeh), (02) 281 1485 or 0599587476, E-mail: rkhouriya@yahoo.com
  • And there is also coming soon Taybeh Golden Hotel with at least 80 rooms, which will be a theme hotel centred around “The Finest (beer) in the Middle East.” The place is still under construction.

Where to eat in Taybeh:

If you plan to eat in Taybeh, and its not during  festival days, you will need to make reservations at least 24-hours in advance. Recommended restaurants are:

  • Taybeh Zamaan Park (Tel: 0599 774 092 or (02) 289 9411)
  • Peter’s Place - www.hoshbutros.webs.com. Tel: 054 983 8349  or (02) 289 8054) 

Travelujah tips:

  • To learnmore about Taybeh check the website of its municpality:  www.taybehmunicipality.org
  • Taybeh is located in the ‘Area C’ of the West Bank and it is  part of the Palestinian Territories. Travelers should always carry their travel passports with them.
  • It is recommended to always check travel advisories prior to embarking on  travel throughout the Palestinian Territories. You could check the website of the US General Consulate to the Palestinian Authority or visit the office in Jerusalem, on  18 Agron Road.

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Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.




November 2, 2012November 2, 2012  0 comments  Uncategorized

Olive Harvest Season


Olive trees are considered a very significant part of the Palestinian tradition, as they have always been both an essential element of Palestinian livelihood and a symbolic sign of harmony and welfare.

For the Palestinian farmers, the months of October and November mark the olive harvest season, which is the time of family gatherings and joyful festivals.

It is preferable to pick up the olives manually, which means a lot of hard work taking also a lot of time. To ease the labour, farmers sing various lively folk songs and listen to the stories of the elders.

Olives Holy Land Travelujah

Every Palestinian is a part of an ancient line of farmers. Even if many of them have professional jobs, their lives in the fall season focuses on ripe olives. Most of the modern families have couple of olive trees in their gardens, so every year they can enjoy their own freshly pressed olive oil, which is an indispensable element of the Palestinian cuisine.

After Picking Comes Time for Pickling

The pickling is also a time-consuming process. First a person needs to sort through the olives for the green, bigger and unblemished ones and later make two or three snicks in every single olive.

Next, the olives need to be soaked in water overnight, which washes them and removes the bitter liquids. The next day, the water needs to be replaced and salt, lemon juice and lemon slices should be added. This mixture is ready to be put in jars. However, a person needs to wait couple of months for the olives to be ready to be eaten.

Olive Harvest Festivals

Olives Holy Land Travelujah

7th Jaru’a Festival

The Jaru’a Festval of Canaan Fair Trade is traditional feast solemnized at the end of the harvest, during which everyone can be grateful for another year of plentiful crops. Farmers, women producers, fair trade distributors, and international visitors gather together to celebrate the fruit of the season. This year, the festival is going to last three days from 2nd till 4th of November 2012. For more information about Canaan’s Jaru’a check here.

12th Bethlehem Olive Harvest Festival

Celebrate the olive harvest in the birth town of Jesus Christ! Bethlehem Olive Harvest Festival is held annually in the heart of the town, just next to the Basilica of the Nativity. The Festival is famous for its open-air market which features plenty of olives, olive oil, olive trees, olive wood, olive oil soap, traditional food, embroidery, and Palestinian folkloric shows. This year, 2012 the event will take place on the 3rd of November from 10 am till 7 pm.

Olive Oil Press Museum in Bethlehem

Al-Bad Olive Press Museum Bethlehem Travelujah

During your visit in Bethlehem, at any time of the year, check Al-Bad Museum, which features an old traditional olive press. There you can learn about the process of olive oil making and its use. The museum is situated in the heart of Bethlehem’s Old Town, just next to the vegetable market. It is open every day except Fridays and Sundays from 10 am till 3 pm. No entrance fee.

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Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.


November 27, 2013November 27, 2013  0 comments  Uncategorized

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.


We met at Manger Square in Bethlehem at 8 am and departed north towards Burqin, a small Palestinian village where Canaan Fair Trade’s facility is located.


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.


Touring Zababdeh


Zababdeh Latin Parish Church Travelujah


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.


Zababdeh Latin Parish Church Travelujah


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.


Zababdeh Byantine Mosaic Travelujah


To visit the Latin Parish call (04) 251 05 25 or email nidal2001@hotmail.com


Touring Jenin


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.


Jenin Taboun Bread Travelujah


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 St. George Church Travelujah


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.


Canaan Fair Trade Facility Travelujah


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.  


Ask Travelujah:


Would you like to experience a similar day? Do you need help in planning your trip? Contact Travelujah on info@travelujah.com in case of any questions.



Beata Andonia blogs regularly for Travelujah. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.

August 9, 2011August 9, 2011  0 comments  Bethlehem

The Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem is one of the most important destinations for pilgrims visiting the Holy Land; it is the cradle of Christianity and one of the earliest Christian structures in the world. This site is so important for the followers of Christianity because of the fact that the church was built exactly over the cave where the baby Jesus was born in 1 A.D.

"4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son." (Luke 2:4-7)

For me, as a Christian, every visit to the Nativity Church and the Grotto has a great spiritual meaning and is always an amazing experience. I like its peaceful, perfect for a prayer, quiet atmosphere and the feeling of the eternity of this place. But of course, the monastery possesses great importance for non-Christian visitors who are interested in its historical and architectural values.

The building has a long and rich history. The construction of the basilica was started in 327 A.D. by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine I - the first emperor converted to Christianity. The construction was supervised by Bishop Makarios of Jerusalem and was completed in 333. Unfortunately, the whole structure was burned down in the Samaritan Revolt of 529, but then the building was replaced by a larger Basilica in 565 by the Emperor Justinian I. Later, during the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Crusaders made further repairs and additions to the building. With time, the complex has been enlarged, and today it covers approximately 12,000 square meters.

Probably some of us looking at the Nativity Church from outside could ask the question - Why the Basilica is so huge and why does it have as much as thee belfries? I guess the people who ask this question are just unaware of the fact that the basilica is actually a complex of three churches. In 1852, shared custody of the church was given to the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian churches, so all the fractions began to maintain their monastic communities on the site of the basilica. Today the monastery is surrounded by the Franciscan convent in the north, the Greek Orthodox convent in the southeast and the Armenian convent in the southwest and every of the convents have their own belfry.


The building of the Nativity Church is from the Justinian times and is now used by the Greek Orthodox Church as the parish church for the Arab orthodox community of Bethlehem, however the Armenian Church oversees a smaller chapel next to the primary altar. In the 15th century the basilica was expanded and the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria was added, and it was later enlarged in 1881. Nowadays, the Roman Catholic community, through the custodianship of the Franciscan Brotherhood, is responsible for the St. Catherine's Church and the subterranean chapels believed to be used by Saint Jerome in the late Roman era.

Accordingly, since 1852, the three separate denominations have created a common place of prayer and they join in caring for the Nativity Church and the Nativity Grotto despite the fact that the grotto is under the Greek Orthodox part of the church. In keeping with their respective beliefs and rituals, each convent celebrates their specific mass according to a fixed schedule.


The Three Belfries of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem


Beata M. Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourism bureau and blogs for Travelujah. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.


this blog only for friends
September 14, 2012September 14, 2012  0 comments  Bethlehem

You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.” (Song of Songs 4:12)

Imagine taking a walk in the Hortus Conclusus – the enclosed garden of the Song of Songs - the place, where according to the legend, the biblical king Solomon disported himself among the flourishing gardens.

The building is located within the village of Artas, situated on the edge of Bethlehem and just next to the famous Solomon Pools. The location and surrounding area are breathtaking, particularly during the spring months when the surrounding mountains surrounding are richly green and the olive trees are blooming.

Monastery of Hortus Conclusus in Artas Travelujah

A picturesque stone bridge stretching over the verdant Artas Valley leads to the Convent of Hortus Conclusus which derives its name from the Song of Songs’ enclosed garden.

The convent is inhabited by an Italian order of nuns which was established in Latin America. It was built more than hundred years ago (in 1901) by engineers from Bethlehem of Morcos family, at the request of Mgr. Soler Archbishop of Montevideo, Uruguay.

The Feast of Our Lady of the Garden

Traditionally, each year on the second Sunday of September, the parishes of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour gather at the sanctuary to pray and celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Garden.

Feast of Our Land of the Garden Artas Travelujah

This year, on Sunday of 9th of September 2012, the solemn mass was led by Bishop William Shomali and was accompanied by the beautiful male choir.

Many of the faithful of different Christian denominations participated in the grand Marial procession. During the march a flowered statue of Our Lady of the Garden was carried. At the end of the ceremony, Bishop Shomali blessed everyone in front of the church. He concluded the gathering by inviting everyone for a sweet treat prepared by the sisters of Artas.

Feast of Our Land of the Garden Artas Travelujah

Planning your visit:

- The Oasis of Spirituality: Hortus Conclusus’ Pilgrim House

The Sisters of Our Lady of the Garden offer accommodations for anyone seeking an alternative and spiritual experience during their pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The Pilgrim House of Hortus Conclusus, opened in March 2012, and is a perfect place for prayer and reflection, ideal for taking a spiritual break and offers leisurely walking in the nature. Off the beaten path from everyday life, the oasis of spirituality of the Monastery of the Hortus Conclusus provides a welcoming respite for anyone seeking to enjoy a few days of rest, meditation, quiet or a similar spiritual environment.

The sisters invite anyone to this space of silence, and specifically reaches out to those seeking a transformative pilgrimage experience that provides a real opportunity for prayer and connection with God.  

The facility includes 35 beds (icluding 6 double rooms) along with meals and possibility of transportation to Bethlehem.

Rate per night, per person: 35 € - B&B, : 40 € - including breakfast and lunch. To contact the sisters call: 00972 (0) 2 – 274 24 27.  A booking for groups can be made with help of Travelujah.

- Solomon Pools:

Solomon Pools Artas Travelujah

Solomon’s Pools is an ancient system of three cisterns for collecting water named after the Biblical verses of King Solomon’s Ecclesiastes: "I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees" (2:6) However, recent discoveries point that the lowest pool was perhaps constructed during the Maccabean period (circa 2 B.C.) and the second phase occurred under the Roman Empire (1 A.D.). The site is located within the Artas Valley and is about a 20 minute walk from the convent.

-How to get there?

As the place is a bit remote from Bethlehem’s Manger Square, it might be the easiest to take a taxi. One way ride should cost around 15-20 NIS.

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Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.


December 9, 2012December 9, 2012  0 comments  Bethlehem

Gospel of Luke mentions Nazareth in Galilee to be the place where Virgin Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel that she would bore Jesus. Also there, she married Joseph. However, it was in the town of Bethlehem where Jesus was born. One can ask: Why spouses decided to walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem, while Virgin Mary was in such an advanced pregnancy? That was indeed a long journey, which might have taken them from four up to seven days. The answer can be found in the Biblical verses:


"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. […] And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child" (Luke 2:1-5).


Nativity Trail Travelujah - Sculpture of the Baby Jesus in the St. Catherine Church of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem


Joseph was obliged to leave Nazareth for Bethlehem as he did not want to risk being punished for not paying the tax. And probably it was God’s will which made him to take also Mary, so Micah’s prophecy about upcoming Messiah, could be fulfilled: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)  


Which path?


The exact way which Mary and Joseph took to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem is not described in any of the Gospels. Hoverer, according to the writings of the ancient historian Josephus Flavius: "It is the custom of the Galileans at the time of festival to pass through the Samaritan territory on their way to the Holy City." So we can suppose that the couple might have taken a way which they usually took to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.


Nativity Trail Travelujah - View on the Jezrael Valley


They might have descended from Nazareth trough Jezreel Valley to Samaria and from there to Jerusalem and Bethlehem in Judea. Probably, on their way, they were hosted by various people as at those times, in the Near East, it was a common tradition to overnight the travellers. “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”  (1 Peter 4:9)


There exists also another theory that because of continuous conflicts between Samaritans and Jews, Mary and Joseph might have chosen the way through Jordan Valley to avoid meeting the people of Samaria. But if they would have followed this way, would they pass through Jerusalem?


Nativity Trail Travelujah - View on the Jordan Valley


According to the Protoevangelium of James, ruins of the octagonal in shape Kathisma (Greek for “seat” or “chair”) church from the 5th century, located on the way between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, mark the place where Mary rested before reaching Bethlehem.


Hiking the Nativity Trail


Several times a year the Siraj Centre for Holy Land Studies organizes tours along a  possible path that the Holy Couple might have followed, known as the Nativity Trail. The trail traverses160 km pasing thru beautiful, tho sometimes rough terrains, rocky hillsides, desert valleys and the multiple always-green olive groves, where  hikers have an opportunity to rest just as Mary and Joseph did.


The trail stops in the Biblical townsof Nazareth, Nablus (ancient Shechem), Jericho and Bethlehem, as well as smaller villages along the way.

Nativity Trail Travelujah - Olive Groves of the West Bank


During the journey, hikers are able to experience local hospitality and stay in villagers' homes, Christian monasteries, local B&Bs, Bedouin tents, etc.



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Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.

December 19, 2012December 19, 2012  0 comments  Bethlehem

Christmas is a time of celebration and reunion. Thus, it is a common practice among Holy Land Christian communities to visit members of their families and neighbours during this festive period. The families visit in two groups – one family will visit  while another is hosting guests at home.


When entering a home, it is appropriate for the guest to admire all the beautiful Christmas decorations, lights, Christmas tableware, and, of course, the very decorative Christmas trees with mghrara – a cave representing the Nativity scene, made from colorful paper and containing olive wood figures of the Holy Family, Magi and shepherds etc.


Christmas Tree Travelujah


Mamoul and Ghraibeh Cookies


In many houses, the hostess will display a big bowl of freshly baked Christmas cookies like mamoul or ghraibeh.


Mamould is a type of Middle Eastern butter cookie filled usually with date paste (ajweh), and typically prepared on religious holidays. The dough is made from semolina (smeed), which is a coarse, purified wheat middling of durum wheat. Other ingredients used to make mamoul include rose water and mistka spice which give it a very distinct taste. Some bakers will fill their mamoul cookies with walnuts or pistachios and then sprinkle them with powdered sugar.


Ghraibeh is another Middle Eastern shortbread sweet. Its main ingredients include semolina, pictachio nuts, butter, sugar and orange blossom. They are usually formed in as shape of a letter ‘S’ and decorated with one full pistachio nut.


 Christmas Tree Travelujah


Chocolate and Liqueur


Another tradition is to offer a Christmas chocolate, often in a shape of Santa Claus and a shot of a high quality liqueur, sweet wine or arak - an anise aperitif.


Traditionally, it is not polite to refuse anything offered, however it is acceptable to say no for an alcoholic drink. The chocolate or a cookie can be taken home for consumption later.


Goodbye Coffee


Traditional Arabic coffee is very strong, and therefore served in very small cups. It is usually freshly grounded with a couple of cardamon seeds, which makes it very aromatic. Offering coffee to a guest is a polite way of saying goodbye ‘ma’ salameh’. If a person offers a coffee at the beginning of a meeting, he needs to add that it is a welcome coffee ‘kahweh ahla w sahla’, otherwise a guest might understand that he is not welcome at the moment.


Qidreh or Melfouf


On the Christmas Day family members gather for a big meal together. Usually meals are very rich. It is common to prepare Qidreh, lamb meat cooked with rice in special wood fired oven. Often it can be ordered from places that specialize in making it. Qidreh is always served with leban, which is a thick yogurt.


Qidreh Travelujah


Some families prepare melfouf – rice mixed with minced meat rolled in cabbage leaves. The rolls are small in size, that is why this dish needs a lot of time and work, but it tastes delicious. Most of people like it topped with lemon juice to make it more sour.


Tempted? - Experience it!


Did you know that many Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem open their houses to the international visitors? If you would like to experience Christmas in Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born, and make your visit even more interesting - stay with one of the Bethlehem’s families and learn about their traditions. For more information, contact the Visitor Information Center in Bethlehem by writing to vicbethlehem@gmail.com


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Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.



January 1, 2013January 1, 2013  0 comments  Bethlehem

So Joseph [and Mary] also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem […] While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. (Luke 2:4-6)


Celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born, is a magical, once in a lifetime experience for many people. The fact that most Christmas events occur on Manger Square, just couple of meters from the Nativity Grotto – the place of Christ’s birth, makes it even more unique.


Last week, thousands of visitors came to Bethlehem to join local Christians in civic and church Christmas events.


Christmas Eve Bethlehem Travelujah


On the 24th of December, people gathered on the beautifully decorated Manger Square, in front of the ancient Basilica of the Nativity, to welcome the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal.


The parade of hundreds of scouts, presenting their musical skills, followed Star Street, believed to be the way Mary and Joseph took arrived to the Nativity Grotto. In June 2012, this street was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites together with the Nativity Church.


Christmas Eve Bethlehem Travelujah


In the early afternoon, the Patriarch arrived to walk on the specially prepared podium, lined with a red carpet and decorated with flowers. He was welcomed by the new Mayor of Bethlehem, Mrs. Vera Baboun, the representatives of different churches in the region, and many other important personalities. This year, His Eminence, instead of walking straight to the Nativity Church, stopped in the middle of the podium and greeted the people, prompting cheerful ovations among them.


Project Peace on Earth


The day continued with a special message of peace, unity and love coordinated by the Project Peace on Earth. With help of their instructions, children and scouts gathered on Manger Square formed a ‘peace sign’ and words ‘love all’.  This powerful message  went viral extremely fast.


Christmas Eve Bethlehem Travelujah


Christmas Eve Mass in the Nativity Church


The solemn Christmas Eve Mass is always celebrated at midnight between the 24th and 25th of December, which according to the Christian tradition symbolizes the day of the Christ’s birth.


Christmas Eve Bethlehem Travelujah


The Midnight Mass, lead by the Patriarch Fouad Twal and held inside the Franciscan church of St. Catherine, within the Nativity Church complex, required special passes, obtained by advance application in the Christian Information Center in Jerusalem. Those  lucky enough to securee tickets had the opportunity to experience this unique church ceremony, preceded by the scripture reading and common carols singing.


Many important officials were invited to attend the service, along with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.


The mass was celebrated in many languages, as gathered believers were from all around the world. Nevertheless the main liturgical language was Latin, the official tongue of the Catholic Church. Patriarch’s homily was delivered in Arabic - his mother tongue, and papers with its translation were provided for all.


Christmas Eve Bethlehem Travelujah


The Patriarch began his speech with these words: ‘I greet you all from the Basilica of the Nativity, a few steps away from the grotto where the Blessed Virgin brought forth her admirable Son into the world.’ He also called for peace and the stability in the region saying: ‘Only justice and peace in the Holy Land can re-establish balance and stability in the region and in the world!’


Solemn procession to the Nativity Grotto, lead by the Patriarch holding a sculpture of a baby symbolizing Christ, concluded the liturgy.


Planning Christmas in Bethlehem: next year … or?


Christmas Eve Bethlehem Travelujah


Have you ever heard that the Christmas in the Holy Land is celebrated three times? It is because of the different liturgical calendars followed by the different Christian denominations of the Holy Land. Catholics and Protestants celebrate Christmas Day on the 25th of December, the Orthodox and Oriental Churches on the 7th of January and the Holy Land Armenians on the 18th of January.  As a result this special holiday season is celebrated for an extended period of time.


Attend the Christmas Eve Celebrations of Orthodox (6/01) and Armenian Churches (18/01) in Bethlehem, which will also feature scouts parades and midnight masses, which do not require any tickets.


Christmas period and especially days between 23rd and 26th of December mark a very high touristic season in Bethlehem. Thus, if you are planning to visit the town next year during that time, think about early accommodation booking.


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Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.

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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...


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