Orthodox History in BeitJala

It is held by many Beit Jalans that there has been a continual Christian presence in the city since almost the birth of the Christian faith. The large columns of the Church the Nativity in Bethlehem are said to have been carved from the hills of Beit Jala, while Saint Nicholas of Myra, a beloved 4th century saint in both Eastern and Western Christianity whose pious deeds and miracles gave rise to the modern legend of Santa Claus, is held to have lived in a cave in Beit Jala for a period of three years around 312-315 AD, although the precise years and length of time that he resided there has never been determined with any satisfaction. It is the residents of the Ottoman Era, however, that we presently concern ourselves with; starting with the arrival of several Roum Orthodox clans from the Ghassanid tribe occurred during the 15th century. The Shahwan and Matar clan are known to have been amongst the first to arrive from Lebanon, while other clans arrived from Jordan. Oral tradition and local legends suggest that other Christian families came to Beit Jala from Hebron, southern and western Bethlehem district and beyond, possibly to avoid conversion to Islam, or simply to take advantage of available, arable land so close to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. It is known that the first copy of the Gospel for the Beit Jala parish was from the last Roum Orthodox priest of Beit Jibrin (today known as Bet Gubrin in Israel).

While the physical village of Beit Jala existed in what is today considered the Old City quarter of the modern city, the agricultural area of the village extended from what is today Gilo and Har Gilo in Israel and the occupied West Bank to the north, the Jerusalem-Hebron Road bordering Bethlehem to the east, Al Khader to the south, and Al Walaja village and Makhrour valley to the west. Most family’s agricultural lands in the countryside was a considerable distance from their homes in the city itself, meaning that during periods of cultivation, planting and harvest prior to automobiles being commonplace possessions, family members would often remain in caves and stone huts on their outlying property. It is recalled that evening prayers would be said at nightfall in Makhrour valley, marked by the ringing of a bell on a presently-forgotten location that could be heard for a considerable distance. (Interview with Khader Musleh, Beit Jala Orthodox parish custodian November 2013).

 

Source: Roum Orthodox Traditions of Beit Jala, A paper for the occasion of the Conference on Palestinian Tourism and Antiquities Between Current Challenges and Prospects, held December 14th, 2013
Dan Koski, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 18 August 2015 15:31

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Orthodox Church in Beit Jala

It is held by many Beit Jalans that there has been a continual Christian presence in the city since almost the birth of the Christian faith. The large columns of the Church the Nativity in Bethlehem are said to have been carved from the hills of Beit Jala while Saint Nicholas of Myra, a beloved 4th century saint in both Eastern and Western Christianity whose pious deeds and miracles gave rise to the modern legend of Santa Claus.

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