what now seems like another lifetime, when we didn’t hesitate to visit an
Arab village, we began our day with a visit to Abu Gosh, located in
the Judean Hills on the road to Jerusalem. This small and picturesque village,
which lies within Israel’s pre-1967 borders, is home to both Christian and
Moslem populations — with a Jewish Haredi [strictly Orthodox] neighborhood
at the edge.
In a way, Abu Gosh is a microcosm
of the Middle East and the area is a vision of our dreams of peace. In
the center of the town is the Church of Notre Dame of the Ark, within
which lies a convent. In a curious mix of personalities and religions, according
to the Sisters, the church marks the last place where the MishkanKiryat
Yearim. [Ark of the Convenant] rested until King David conveyed
it ceremoniously to Jerusalem. The church has original mosaics that are several
centuries old and a painting of King David playing his harp. The church and
convent are located in
At the entrance to the complex of
Kiryat Yearim, the following text is posted: “Border
of Judah during the period of the Judges: This then was the lot of the tribe
of the Children of Judah. And the border was drawn to Baalah, which is Kiryat
Yearim. (Joshua 15:1-9).
During the Canaanite period, the place was called Baalah, the sanctuary
of an ancient goddess. During the Hebrew period, it was called Qiryat Baal:
city of Baal, the name of one of the local gods. The name was changed to
Kiryat Yearim, the City of Forests.”
| During the Jewish holidays of Sukkot
and Shavuot, concerts are held in the church. The concerts are popular among
Israelis of all faiths. For concert schedules, click here.
We waited by the closed gates to the
church until they were opened by a Sister who greeted us warmly and welcomed
us. She asked us to be silent unless in the church building itself.
The Silent Retreat also fascinated
us – although we admit it would be challenging to be silent for very long.
The air itself felt calm and hushed: an oasis of peace where pilgrims from
all over the world come to meditate.
Outside the vicinity of the Retreat
we commented to the Sister on the confluence of the three religions in the
area the church, an Arab mosque and close by, the ultra orthodox neighborhood
of Telse Stone. The nun looked up at the blue, blue sky and said,
“Yes, and all these groups are engaged in prayer, praying for peace.”
Among the residents of Telse Stone,
meet a Sofer Stam
— If you phone ahead, you can learn how tefillin and Torah scrolls are made
and purchase tefillin. Appropriate dress includes skirts of modest length
and tops with sleeves for girls and women and headcoverings for all males.
All that silence had made us hungry
so we then went to have lunch at Abu Shukri, the place where Israelis
in the know go for a Middle Eastern vegetarian meal, including warm humous
[mashed chick peas] with fava beans and hard boiled eggs, humous with pine
nuts and olive oil, eggplant in tehina and Turkish coffee to end the meal.
For dessert we crossed the street to the bakery, where rows and rows of
freshly baked deserts are on display. The owner’s son urged us to recline
on a couch in the corner and smoke a Nargila (water pipe) with an apple-flavored
tobacco. Evidently, at night the bakery is filled with Nargila smokers lying
on the couches — it must be quite a scene.
[to be continued next month]
Text by D. Rosenbloom