ABOUD AND THE POINTS OF INTEREST
Aboud is an ancient, picturesque village. It is 22 km away from Ramallah and 30 km from Jerusalem. The village has 2,500 inhabitants: half Muslim and half Christian (Orthodox and Catholic).
Like all of Palestine, the village has antique origins. However, Aboud is distinguished for the impact that Crusades had on its special Christian presence, which was preserved thanks to the centuries-long peaceful cohabitation with Muslims.
Aboud âs historic center, on top of the hill, is ordered and clean. It showcases the valuable unity of the Ottoman-Palestinian style maintained until now. It also reveals interesting cultural signs of hermits, monastic life, and art dating back to the 13th century.
During the visit, the local guide will introduce you to both Christian and Muslim narratives of the community. It will be interesting to hear the possible reasons for the harmony among the faith groups in Aboud, whereas in other places religion was often used as a pretext for conflict.
Despite its archaeological and religious outstanding points of interest, Aboud so far has not been taken into consideration by religious and touristic tours. Despite its rich natural resources, agriculture has had a marginal impact on its economy and employment. The youth mostly work out of town, within the public sector, or in family businesses. The EU project is re-launching Aboud as one of the best rural tourist destinations in Palestine.
The Main Points of Interest
Hermits catacombs and caves
The jewel: Orthodox Church of St Mary (Theotokos, Mother of God)
Meeting with people of the three communities
âOur Lady of Seven Sorrows â Catholic church
The Great Mosque
Barbara Women Society
An elegant guesthouse
THE MONASTERY OF ST BARBARA
On a hill to the west of Aboud, one kilometer away from the main road, lies the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St Barbara. Some archaeologists date its history to the sixth or eighth centuries, while others trace it back to the fourth century. The monastery was restored and modified several times. In 2002, the church was blown up by the Israeli army, and was then reconstructed in 2003.
Inside the church is an ancient cave where, according to local legend, Saint Barbara lived. She was a young woman who escaped from her father, who wanted to punish her for her Christian faith. The tradition also has it that Jesus Christ had appeared to Saint Barbara in that same cave.
To celebrate this event, believers make an annual procession on December 17 from St Maryâs Church to St Barbara Monastery, lighting candles in her honour. They also serve a special dessert called Bourbara , made of whole grain wheat with sugar, cinnamon and other spices and dried fruits. The Bourbara tradition is present to this day and precedes the two other pre-Christmas feasts of Mar Saba outside Bethlehem (Dec. 18) and St Nicholas in Beit Jala (Dec. 19).
CATACOMBS AND CAVES OF THE HERMITS
Near the church, there are two ancient catacombs; one is large with a decorated entrance. In the same direction of St Barbara Monastery, the path leads to several caves inside the mountain â once inhabited by hermits. Anyone who sees and enters this area will have immediate proof of spiritual strength. It has vividly induced so many people in overall Palestine to select such a life far from comfort and temptations, to meditate and witness their faith.
THE JEWEL ORTHODOX CHURCH OF ST MARY
(THEOTOKOS, MOTHER OF GOD)
St Mary Church (named also al-Abudiyah ) is at the center of Aboud. The first church was built during the fifth century â in Byzantine style that was incorporated in later constructions. The Aramaic inscription in St Mary indicates that the church dates back to the year 1058. It was later embellished with rich altar cloth, holy vessels, paintings, and a remarkable iconostasis. The northern wall, most of the windows, and the west door were added in the 18th century.
Outside the church is also an excavated Byzantine mosaic floor. It is believed that Jesus Christ passed through Aboud on the way to Nazareth to avoid the Samaria road â due to the eminent hostility between Jews and Samaritans.
Once you are there, make sure to meet with Father Emmanuel Awad. He will tell you about the community and church during the last decades, share interpretations of the paintings and colours, and explain the rites and traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church in Palestine
Location: Downtown (Center of Aboud). The church opens every day at 9:00 a.m. and on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. for the Holy Mass. For entering in other times, ask the church voluntary helpers who live in the house across the churchâs main entrance.
MURALS, PAINTED AT HOUSE ENTRANCES
In 2011, Father Awad, with the agreement of the Municipality, called a Muslim painter from Bethlehem, Taki Eddin, to fresco the external walls of some of the centerâs houses. Those images captured the landscape of Aboud, scenes from the Gospel, and St George killing the dragon. These views, mostly on grey-rose Palestinian stones, illuminate the buildings and bring rich colors to the area.
MEETING WITH PEOPLE OF THE THREE COMMUNITIES
Aboud stands out from all other villages in the way that the three communities, namely Muslims, Orthodox, and Catholics, live together in harmony and present a model of great social interest. The local guide will introduce the guests to the communityâs representative who will illustrate how the municipality and communities overcome their challenges and work for their vision of the future.
CATHOLIC CHURCH OF MARY OF SEVEN SORROWS
âOur Lady of Seven Sorrows Churchâ was built in 1910 by the Latin Patriarchate. It was rebuilt in 1950 over a very antique structure visible through a glass floor.
It will be worth meeting with the parish priest, not only to learn about Palestineâs Catholic community but also about the education system. After all, the Latin Patriarchate School is also in Aboud, and the priest can say a lot about the social, political, and economic issues.
Hours: Open every day at 6 p.m., Sunday at 9 a.m. for Holy Mass. For entering in other times, ask the
local guide or the parish Salam Haddad (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
THE GREAT MOSQUE
The first built mosque dates back to the 15th century. It was entirely rebuilt in 1985, becoming larger and more secure.
A meeting with Sheikh Adnan Diab, an Imam and retired teacher, through his help Abdel Munâim, can be a meaningful experience. He will tell the visitors about how the Muslim population in the village started in 1300 with migrants from Saudi Arabia and then Egypt. They had purchased the land from the local Christian community and then grew until they reached the same number as the Christians, always living in peace.
Address: Central square. Open daily. Closed on Friday for non-Muslims.
BARBARA WOMEN SOCIETY
The Barbara Women Society was set up in 1998 after the First Intifada. 14 women of Aboud met to contribute to the community by creating work opportunities to support their family balance. At first, they used to meet between their houses. They later rented a place, and their plan is to transfer to a traditional house. As of 2013, they got the license for economic transactions. The members, with the coordinator Basima Azer, have now reached 30.
The path to the valley (3km) starts from the northern exit of the village. There are frequent road signs on the way and the path is well-marked, allowing for an easy and agreeable walk. The walk will have you see many lemon and olive trees, animals (donkeys, horses, sheep, goats), flowers, and birds. The local guide can drive the visitors along the valley, introducing flora and fauna, and sharing the valleyâs history across the centuries and its importance for the community.
AN ELEGANT GUESTHOUSE
The Municipality and Project Rozana are restoring an old traditional house with a garden in downtown Aboud. The house will be made into guesthouse/hostel for visitors and tourists and could host as far as 20 beds. There will be two large bedrooms with two bathrooms and a kitchen. The guesthouse will also serve as an Information Centre and display local products, handicrafts, wines, food specialties, and fashion accessories.
Al-Maqata is a large Roman-style cave with regular cuts in the stone â used as a burial place. Most likely, hermits and fleeing people looking for a shelter used it as a refuge. The cave was originally covered with frescoes, which have disappeared. There are flower and fruit shapes carved in the stones, decorating the caveâs entrance. Inside this spontaneous and blooming nature, the local guide will explain the identity and story of the place.