Over the last few years Taybeh has received generous support from international donors that have helped transform this once tired and collapsing village in to a well preserved and easily accessible tourist destination for pilgrims and other tourists seeking to acquaint themselves with the area’s biblical history, unique landscapes and cultures.
During a glorious sunset, I am now able to walk down the village roads recently beautified and which now provide excellent access to Taybeh. The major street that leads directly into Taybeh from road 60 has been repaired and now provides good access to the village, situated only about a 5 minute drive from the major north south roadway in the Samarian region of the Palestinian Territories, and approximately 30 minutes from Jerusalem. Jericho, is but an easy 15 minute drive away.
But actually, if there is someone that is truly responsible for putting Taybeh on the spiritual map for every Christian it is Jesus Christ. After raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus Christ came to Taybeh, which was known as Biblical Ephraim, to escape the crowds.
“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).
Thus, Taybeh became famous for receiving Jesus and the village received its new name in the 12the century when Saladin called the local Christians “Taybeen,” meaning “good” or “pleasant.” The village of 2000 residents continues to be a peaceful Christian community and retains the reputation of being the only all-Christian village in the West Bank. The village welcomes visitors seeking to tour the ancient Byzantine ruins, meet with local Christians, enjoy a wonderful local meal and, of course, to tour and taste the boutique Taybeh Beer, the famous Palestinian beer that has been produced in Taybeh since 1995.
Despite its somewhat tumultuous history where Taybeh found itself situated in the midst of battles waged by the different occupiers throughout its long history, Taybeh remains a welcoming and quiet location to escape from the nearby cities and is literally known as ‘the village of retreat’. The village is situated in the midst of the current political situation – there are illegal Israel settlements that can be seen in the distance and the Israeli government remains in control of the roads and natural resources of the area.
However, once you see the picturesque hills and valleys it is very easy to fall in love with Taybeh. There is an amazing peacefulness in this area of the West Bank also known as Biblical Judea. The village itself goes back 5,000 years even before the time of Christ. Thus it is truly one of the ancient places in Palestine with Jericho being the oldest having celebrated ten thousand years of civilization already.
Much is changing within this quiet village. Since 1995, our family, the Khourys, have been producing the only Palestinian beer made and the locally brewed beer comes in Golden, Dark, Amber and a Non-Alcohol labels and is widely known as “The Finest in the Middle East.”
More recently, two small guest houses opened that can house up to thirty people each. These include the well-known Taybeh Zamaan Park, a guest house run by the French Sisters, as well as the facilities of Beit Efram. Under construction is Taybeh’s first hotel, the new Taybeh Golden Hotel, a theme hotel which will have eighty rooms when it is completed in the next few months. Peter Abu Shanab, a Jerusalem local, has poured his money, heart, soul and architectural skills into redeveloping a magnificent historical building in the Old City of Taybeh housing the offices of the Holylanders Association for the Preservation of Christian Heritage, a non-profit charitable association founded in Jerusalem in 2002. Part of the redevelopment includes the new Peter’s Place restaurant, a fabulous dining and cultural spot situated in the Old City. The restaurants excellent food is enhanced by one of the most beautiful views of the surrounding landscape and reservations are a must. Adjacent to the restaurant is a small local museum showcasing a collection of household artifacts and other items dating back hundreds of years providing visitors with an insight into the history of the village and its people and culture. A new wine bar will be located within the hotel serving the boutique wine that the Khoury family recently began to produce locally, in addition to their famous beer. Thus, despite all conceptions of a village, Taybeh surely tried to gain world fame and favor especially through the Taybeh Oktoberfest which was meant to inspire people to visit and boost the economy by supporting local products. The annual festival occured for 7 years in Taybeh, through 2012, however, this years Oktoberfest held on October 5 and 6, 2013 is being held in Ramallah, at the Movenpick hotel grounds adjacent to the hotel.
Moving forward, future visitors will be able to view the new exhibit to be featured at Oktoberfest 2014, “Scripture Through the Lens of the Holy Land” that was initially developed in the USA for an educators conference by Carole Buleza showcasing photos from creation to the foundation of the Church.
Visit Taybeh and meet the living stones of today. See the Byzantine church and view the new cave chapel. Tour the Taybeh factory and taste the best beer in the Middle East. Take time to meet the friendly locals and learn about the modern life. Dine at Peters and make sure you stay to past sunset – when you are able to view one of the most special things about Taybeh- the night time sky. From here you can see the lights of Jerusalem at night, the lights of Amman, Jordan and the sparkle on the Dead Sea by a full moon. You’ll be surprised at the beauty, the people and how it easy it is to visit.
If you go:
How to get to Taybeh
Driving from Jerusalem via Road 60. After about 15 minutes you will see a sign saying “Taybeh”, turn right and follow the signs.
Via 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.
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
- Under construction – Taybeh Golden Hotel
What to see in Taybeh
Cultural Museum by Peters Place – contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to eat in Taybeh:
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)
Editor’s Note: Dr. Maria C. Khoury is the author of Christina Goes to the Holy Land promoting a walk of the footsteps of Christ. She has volunteered in community services since 2000 especially with organizing Taybeh Oktoberfest for eight years while her husband David Khoury, served as mayor of Taybeh. View: www.saintgeorgetaybeh.org and www.taybehbeer.com