Israeli bulldozers destroyed Christian Holy Sites in mount Abu Ghniem

From: RBARAMKI@bzuced.baraka.org (RANIA BARAMKI) Sender: owner-freedom@palgate.com

Date: 97-06-23 13:02:05

Ramallah-PINC

Palestinian archaeologists declared that Israeli bulldozers destroyed the ruins of an important Christian church on mount Abu Ghniem known as Al-Istiraha (resting place) church constructed in the fifth century on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. The Palestinian archaeological department issued an important report that shows the dangers of constructing an Israeli settlement on mount Abu Ghniem since it threatens archaeological and historical sites in the area. Not to mention that this clearing of the land is a violation to the International law, where the Lahi agreement demands the safety of cultural assets in times of armed struggle and it is the duty of the occupying force to protect archaeological and religious sites. The report demanded the immediate stop of the destruction measures and called on the archaeological, scientific and international institutions to intervene and force the Israeli side to stop its assaults and respect signed agreements with the Palestinian authority. The report also contained an account of the archaeological sites in mount Abu Ghniem and indicated that this hill is not only an archaeological site, but also a religious site where there is a water well that is known as Al-Istiraha and was later named Virgin Mary's well. It is 500 meters away from Mar Elias monastery on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Historic findings indicate that the well was dug 3000 years ago like many other wells that were dug on this commercial road. The well is deep and fills with rain water. The Israelis have closed the well with cement in 1968-70and switched the water to the new Gilo settlement. There are several legends to the naming of the well; one claims that the Virgin Mary and Joseph rested near the well when they were on their way to Bethlehem when the Virgin was feeling tired from the pregnancy. Another legend says that the Wise Men on their way to see baby Jesus in Bethlehem rested near the well, where they saw the star again which led them to the place of Jesus. A third legend says that this well was suddenly discovered with an explosion so Virgin Mary can drink while she passed from the area and the well was therefor named Virgin Mary's well. The archaeological department's report also indicated that there are many religious sites in the area for example, there are ruins of a church that has a large ground of mosaics. Another place is the Seir Al-Qalam, a traditional location for the Shepherds Field in Bethlehem, and Mar Elias Monastery that was maintained by the Byzantine emperor Manuel Komeinous in the twelfth century. This is in addition to the Al-Istiraha church (Resting place) constructed in the fifth century to revive the memory of the Holy Family resting in this area.