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February 18, 2009February 18, 2009  0 comments  Geography

Last weekend we traveled northward scouting sites for a bat mitzvah location. We opted for a return visit to Beit Lechem Haglilit, an idyllic village situated in the hills of the Galilee. Beautiful calanit flowers were in abundance throughout the countryside with cars after cars parked in the endless fields allowing visitors to access the many trails throughout the hilltops where they could admirethe new spring blossoms. The village of Beit Lechem Haglilit is easy to explore by foot or bike and the local historian, Kobi Fleishmann (04-953-2901), will gladly take around tour groups for a two hour stroll through the village by pre-arrangement. Kobi and his family live in a beautiful historic old Templar home and have converted a portion of it to a bed and breakfast as well as a local museum, chronicling the Templar roots of the village as well as the rise of the local Hitler Youth movement, which rose to prominence in this town during the 1930's. Photographs on display in the local museum chronicle this dark period of local history and provide visual evidence of the Nazi Youth parade that occurred in the village to mark Hitler's birthday. The museum showcases much of Kobi's collections of historic Nazi memorablia including flags, pictures and other artifacts, that were from the area. During the war the British rounded up the local "enemy" German-sympathizing residents and put them into local interment camps where they remained until they were deported. Some 222 of the local prisoners were swapped with 222 Dutch prisoners of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. During our tour, Kobi showed us the actual list of the prisoners released from Bergen-Belsen and we, coincidentally, found the names of our relatives on the list.


August 29, 2012August 29, 2012  1 comments  Religious ceremonies

 

On the 26th of August 2012 the Sisters of Carmel in Bethlehem celebrated their 29th anniversary of the beatification of their founder St. Mary of Jesus Crucified. She was beatificated  in 1983 by Blessed Pope John Paul II.

For that annual occasion, many Christians from Bethlehem and other parts of the Holy Land gathered in the beautiful chapel and gardens of the monastery. The feast began with a solemn mass and special prayers to the St. Mary and was followed by a sweet treat prepared by the sisters.

 

Carmel Monastery in Bethlehem Travelujah(Solemn Celebration)

 

History of the Carmelite Convent in Bethlehem

 

The Carmelite Convent in Bethlehem was founded by Mariam Baouardy - Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified. On 20th of August 1875, ten sisters under her leadership left their mother monastery in Pau, France to start the Carmel in Bethlehem, the town where Jesus Christ was born.

 

Who was Sister Mariam?

 

Mariam Baouardy was born in 1846 to a poor Melkite family in Ibilin, a village beween Haifa and Nazareth in the Galilee of the Holy Land. Mariam’s parents suffered before her birth - they had twelve children who were stillborns. The mother prayed to God for a child and in exchange Mariam’s mother promised to dedicate her next child to God.

 

Unfortunately, Mariam’s parents died quite young, so her uncle took her with his family to Cairo in Egypt. There he wanted her to be engaged to a much older man, however, Mariam refused.

 

After that, her uncle treated her badly and made her one of his servants. The other workers wished to dissuade her from her Christian faith, but she was strong. One night, one of the servants beat her almost to death. It is said that the Virgin Mary appeared to Mariam, healing her wounds and miraculously bringing her back to life.

 

Relicts of Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified Travelujah (Relicts of Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified)

From that point, Mariam decided to devote herself to God and went to a Carmelite convent in Pau, France and took the name of Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified. It is said that she had supernatural powers: she could predict the future;  levitate during prayers; and she received Jesus’ stigmata. Sister Mary was very active and she founded three different Carmelite monasteries: one in India and two in the Holy Land – one each in Nazareth and Bethlehem.

 

Initially the ten sisters lived in a temporary house close to the Basilica of the Nativity. Sister Mary, guided by God, chose to locate the future Carmel on a hill facing the hill of the Nativity.

 

Entrance to Monastery’s Chapel Travelujah(Entrance to Monastery’s Chapel)

Although the building was still under construction, the inauguration of the convent took place in November 1876. Mariam died on 26th of August 1878, before the building was completed.

 

According to her wish, she was buried on the grounds of Bethlehem’s convent. Her relics are housed in the monastery’s chapel.

 

Present Life in the Convent

 

Nowadays, the Carmel community in Bethlehem has approximately 15 sisters from both local and international backgrounds, but they communicate with each other in French. The sisters live a lifestyle focused on prayer and fellowship and most of the sisters remain in the monastery each day.

 

The sisters operate a pilgrim house for those travelers seeking a quiet and spiritual place in Bethlehem.

 

If you go:

 

The Carmelite Monastery in Bethlehem is located at 119 Jamal Abdel Nasser St. All guests are welcomed to the convent, however, the sisters are not always available as they have designated hours for prayers.

 

Please call before visiting: +972 (02) 2742486 or contact online: carmelbet@palnet.com


To learn more about the Carmelite convents in the Holy Land visit their website: www.carmelholyland.org

 

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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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