Looking for an ancient tourist site that holds religious and architectural value? Then ten kilometers east of Bethlehem, Palestine is the way to go! There you’ll find the 1,500 year old Mar Saba Monastery. This ancient monastery has been recently nominated as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. It is one of 13 sites in Palestine on UNESCO’s tentative list.
Mar Saba, the Arabic word for “Saint Sabas”, along with 5,000 other monks, built the Monastery recognized today. Currently, it stands as the most famous one in Palestine. It is the last of 80 monasteries from the Byzantine era in the area. Mar Saba Monastery is home to an ancient church, known in Arabic as the “Church built by God.” It was once even home to famous monks, such as Theodore AbuQurrah and John of Damascus!
Till this day, the monastery still adheres to specific religious and monastic laws dating back 1,500 years! At the monastery, women aren’t allowed to enter, olive and lemon trees can only be planted, and it is forbidden to eat apples.
The Mar Saba Monastery was nominated for its “cultural, religious and humanitarian value”, and this is the first step to preserve such a site from the effects of the Israeli occupation, as Ahmad al-Rajoub, an official at the Ministry of Tourism and Archeology tells Al-Monitor. Murad Al-Sudani, head of the Palestinian National Commission for Education, Culture, and Science (PNCECS) explains to Al-Monitor that the Monastery “represents the national identity that unites both Muslims and Christians.”
As soon as Mar Saba Monastery officially becomes one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, it will join Palestine’s 3 three other heritage sites: Battir, the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, and the pilgrimage route in Bethlehem.
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