On the 24 of June, 2011, eighty-five women from Jerusalem and the Galilee visited the village of Aboud situated south of Ramallah in the west Bank. Rev. Ibrahim Nairouz, an Anglican priest from the city of Nablus, guided our tour to this ancient village. Although there is no mention of it in the Old Testament or New Testament, we can find mention of it in the fifth scroll that was found at Qumran, along with the mention of another village, Sarad. Some scholars say that the Holy family used to pass through it during their travels from Galilee to Jerusalem to avoid passing through Samaria. We started with the Greek Orthodox Church, where both Father Emmanuel Awad and Rev Ibrahim greeted us. Then Father Emmanuel explained the history of the church, which was built during the 4th century by Queen Helena and her son Constantine the Great. They showed us many archeological ruins such as ancient stones; a pillar, engraved cross and a few mosaic remains that go back to the Byzantine era and show how this village accepted Christianity in the very beginning.
Our second stop was to the Catholic Church, where Father Samer Haddad welcomed the group with Father Emmanuel and Rev. Ibrahim. They gave a detailed explanation about the Catholic parish and its activities. Our last stop was a hike to the top of a hill where we visited the ruins of Saint Barbara’s Church. This church is over 1,800 years old and was blown up in 2002 by the Israeli forces, who claimed that there were some fugitives hiding inside it, thereby destroying its history and scripture and trying to delete its existence. Although the hike was up steep paths full of stones and thorns in the hot damp weather, this didn’t stop the women from climbing up to seek knowledge and faith.
At noontime we headed to the town of Bir Zeit (meaning “well of oil”), another village south of Ramallah whose population was mostly Christian until they started to immigrate due to Israeli harassment that made their lives difficult each day. There we had lunch in the garden of the Catholic Church. Afterwards Father Rafiq Khoury from the Roman Catholic Church and Father Raji Khoury from the Greek Orthodox Church welcomed the group.
The mayor of Bir Zeit, Dr. Yousef Nasser, narrated the history of the town and its economic, social and political situation that they face daily due to the Israeli occupation and the closures they suffer from. He told how Bir Zeit University, the 3rd largest university in the West Bank and the Gaza strip, is one of the most academically developed universities in the region. Our meeting with the mayor ended with a walking tour through the old part of Bir Zeit, where several homes have been renovated by the municipality and other donor organizations in order to preserve the architecture the beauty and authenticity of these old homes.
At the end we paid a visit to Bir Zeit University, where Mrs. Samia Khoury gave us a detailed description of its history, how it was first a primary school founded in 1926 by Ms. Nabiha Nasser, a Palestinian from Bir Zeit village at that time, and how the school developed to become one of the major and most important educational institutes in Palestine.