I found out last night that at a ceremony held at Hesham’s Palace, the Ministry of Tourism unveiled the floor mosaic of the great bath in the palace. This is the biggest intact piece of mosaic in the world (827 square meters)! Hopefully, through a huge donation from the Japan government, the big bath will be roofed and then special walkways would be arranged so people can see this masterpiece when they visit the historical site. The unveiling is to celebrate the commencement of this new project. The mosaic contains 38 panels and 21 warm colors. These are a few photos to give you a glimpse of this marvelous piece of our history, art, and culture.
Walking around the streets of the historic part of Birzeit city in Palestine during the annual Heritage Week is quite uplifting. No longer the old homes and windows are closed and empty and longing for their original inhabitants. There is light, people, art, new stories and a new commitment that we are here to stay.
The old city of Jerusalem is a wonderful place to explore. I was in Jerusalem a few days ago and had a chance to walk around the old city for a couple of hours. This time of the year, the city is full of pilgrims who come from all parts of the world to celebrate the New Jerusalem; the resurrection of our Savior. So many nationalities, so many different emotions, and so many prayers filling the air. Some who are clueless and just taking selfies under a chandelier or a crucifix, and some so deep in prayer and even crying! It was nearly impossible to get a turn to go into Jesus Christ’s tomb with all the tourists and with the little time I had, so I decided to celebrate the rising Christ with prayer for my loved ones, the living and the dead, and light a few candles.
The new place I visited this time was the Church of the Redeemer and the Russian St. Alexander Nevsky church just around the corner from the Holy Sepulcher. Here are some photos I took that day:
Church of St. Alexander Nevsky
“In 1858, the Orthodox Palestine Society, a lay organization, purchased land for a Russian consulate and pilgrims hostel near the Holy Sepulcher. During construction, remains of what was thought to be the ‘Judgement Gate’ through which Jesus passed on his way to Golgotha, were discovered. The present church is built over these remains, and also incorporates part of the Herodian city wall, and vestiges of the pagan temple erected by Hadrian after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.” Source: Visit Holy Land
The Church contains beautiful works of art and icons including a portrayal of Jesus carrying the Cross by 19th century Russian painter Ilia Repine.
Our Lady of Annunciation, Greek Catholic Melkite Patriarchate
From the streets of Old Jerusalem
— Jack Rabah
Ever since the Russian President Medvedev opened the Russian Museum and Park Complex in 2011, I wanted to go visit and explore this new attraction in Jericho. Even though I go to Jericho very often, I finally went there yesterday. I really enjoyed the visit and will definitely go back again for a closer look.
The museum contains archeological artifacts dug up from the site itself with items going back as far as fifth century after Christ. A byzantine building with a mosaic center piece was uncovered and other rooms from subsequent eras. Excavations are still ongoing and will hopefully fill up the beautiful museum cabinets with more interesting artifacts. The other main part of the museum collection are photographs uncovered in the sheds on the same estate which were used by Russian Pilgrims around the year 1900. The photos were from the same period and showed Russian Pilgrims on their visits to Nazareth, Jerusalem, Hebron, and Jericho. Some of the photographs have been enlarged and occupy a good part of the museum.
The guides were so helpful and explained in detail about every piece of history on display there. I even got to meet the museum director and chat for some time while a lovely guide took my kids on a tour of the park outside. I encourage you to make it a stop of your next visit to Jericho!
Here are some photos from the visit:
Museum from outside and inside under the main dome. In 3rd photo you can see the reconstruction of the mosaic floor discovered along with what remains from the original piece.
Russian pilgrims at land around the Oak of Abraham near Hebron. Nowadays it is the location for Russian Orthodox convent and pretty much the only place with Christians in Hebron.
Russian Church and convent in Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem.
Russian pilgrims in Nablus near Jacob’s well.
In Jerusalem in front of the Dome of the Rock.
Amazing photo of pilgrims before Saturday of the dead all carry flowers before visiting graves.
More of the museum collection.
My kids at the museum.
Gifts brought from Russia for the opening.
And finally, a fragment of the mosaic center piece uncovered on the site:
— Jack Rabah
As part of preserving heritage, we need to give attention to crafts and craftspeople. Their skills should not die with them, but should be developed to create new forms of crafts. A complete section of Heritage Week at Birzeit was dedicated to crafts including live shows by glass makers, pottery makers, and other craftspeople. A good example is the traditional glass-blower, here are a few photos I took recently:
— Jack Rabah
The 6th installment of the Birzeit Heritage Week come back with many new innovations. How can we make people more interested in their heritage? Well I am happy to see that this year’s festival has found a couple of new ways to do just that. In my last post, I wrote about Amti (Aunt) Tooteh and her animated cartoon spots, but this week Amti Tooteh was starring the show at the Birzeit Heritage Week!
The character of Amti Tooteh was based on an actual old Lady from Birzeit, Amti Margarete, who participates every year in the festival, but this year her participation took a new flavor with all the attention Amti Tooteh has been gaining after her appearances on Palestive TV and on social media websites. Amti Tooteh was even part of Dr. Laila Ghannam’s speech (Governor of Ramallah and Al Bireh).
From the minute the crowds gathered to the start the traditional wedding procession, Amti Tooteh was there carrying over her head the Henna dough decorated with flowers. Traditionally the eldest woman of the family, or the village, prepares the Henna dough at the bridegroom’s house and then carries it over her head in a procession to the bride’s house. At the bride’s house, the hands and feet of the bride are decorated with the Henna. Henna, in Palestine, has been a sign for joy and celebration as it is usually connected to weddings and happy times.
This year, four couples about to be wed participated in the traditional wedding procession and Henna at the Birzeit Heritage Week wearing their traditional Palestinian embroidered dresses.
Not only did the brides get the Henna on their hands, but also the Governor and other officials had their share of the joy!
It was a wonderful celebration and Amti Tooteh was its star! She was even saluted by the Governor who said “Amti Tooteh embodies our heritage and land and all what is good about it!”
— Jack Rabah