Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir

Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir

From the World Heritage inscription:

Battir is a major Palestinian cultural landscape, the adaptation of a deep valley system for agricultural purposes as a result of a good supply of water. The complex irrigation system of this water supply has led to the creation of dry walls terraces which may have been exploited since antiquity. The agricultural terraces, exploiting this irrigation system, were the basis for a strong presence of agriculture through the cultivation of olives and vegetables. The area still today has the same use.

The water distribution system used by the families of Battir is a testament to an ancient egalitarian distribution system that delivers water to the terraced agricultural land based on a simple mathematical calculation and a clear time-managed rotation scheme.

The village of Battir is not far from Jerusalem and is right on the Israel/Palestine border. In fact, there are Israeli train tracks which go right past the terraces at the bottom of the hill.

I could not find any organized tours to Battir, which was a shame. Nearby Bethlehem gets most of the attention in the region. That being said, it wasn’t that hard to get to Battir from Bethlehem. I had my tour guide in Bethlehem call a taxi for me which took me to there. It took about 15 minutes and cost about $10.

Battir is a fairly new world heritage site and as such the tourism infrastructure isn’t well developed. There are a few souvenir shops and cafes, but that’s about it.

The terraces are easily accessible if you are on the main street of the village. Expect to spend 30-60 minutes walking around the area. This site is probably going to be of interest to world heritage enthusiasts more than anyone else. Nonetheless, I think anyone visiting Jerusalem would be well off to come and visit a small Palestinian village, which Battir fits perfectly.

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Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem

Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem

Overview

Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem

From the World Heritage inscription:

Bethlehem lies 10 kilometers south of the city of Jerusalem, in the fertile limestone hill country of the Holy Land. Since at least the 2nd century AD people have believed that the place where the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, now stands is where Jesus was born. One particular cave, over which the first Church was built, is traditionally believed to be the Birthplace itself. In locating the Nativity, the place both marks the beginnings of Christianity and is one of the holiest spots in Christendom. The original basilica church of 339 AD (St Helena), parts of which survive below ground, was arranged so that its octagonal eastern end surrounded, and provided a view of, the cave. This church is overlaid by the present Church of the Nativity, essentially of the mid-6th century AD (Justinian), though with later alterations. It is the oldest Christian church in daily use. Since early medieval times, the Church has been increasingly incorporated into a complex of other ecclesiastical buildings, mainly monastic. As a result, today it is embedded in an extraordinary architectural ensemble, overseen by members of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Custody of the Holy Land and the Armenian Church, under the provisions of the Status Quo of the Holy Places established by the Treaty of Berlin (1878).

During various periods over the past 1700 years, Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity have been, and still are, a pilgrim destination. The eastern end of the traditional route from Jerusalem to the Church, known as the Pilgrimage route, marks the road that connects the traditional entrance of Bethlehem, near King David’s Wells with the Church of the Nativity, and extends along the Star Street through the Damascus Gate, or Qos Al-Zarara, the historical gate of the town, towards the Manger Square. The Route continues to be celebrated as the path followed by Joseph and Mary during their trip in Bethlehem during Christmas ceremonies each year and is followed ceremonially by Patriarchs of the three churches at their several Christmases, and during their official visits to Bethlehem.

The Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Palestine. It was inscribed by UNESCO in 2012 as a religious/Christian structure. However, it was also added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger in that same year due to the damage incurred at the property due to water leaks.

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