Sabastya – Center of Local Culture:  

Stretching across a hillside northwest of Nablus is the village of Sabastiya whose quiet belies the importance of its past.  In the Bible the small city carried the name “Samaria” and was capital of the northern Kingdom of Israel.  Conquered by Alexander the Great it became a Hellenic city, then a Roman one when Herod and the Romans took it.  Roman ruins dominate the plateau behind the village – the forum, amphitheater, prisons, temples, and the long colonnaded street which was once a market.

Side-by-side with these are other voices from the past – the immense walls of a Hellenic tower, a Byzantine Basilica built on the site thought to be where John the Baptist was beheaded, an imposing Crusader Cathedral built on the site of a Byzantine church which itself was built above a crypt said to hold the body of a holy man.

Today’s Sabastiya and its neighboring villages of Burqa and Nus Jabil have preserved their histories but they are nonetheless living in the 21st century.  The region boasts modern guest accommodations, contemporary workshops, working artists who welcome visitors, and tutorials on how to dance the traditional Palestinian “Dabka”.  There are green trails and a mountain cave, spectacular views and the quiet of the countryside.  The history may be overwhelming but your memories will be filled with the warmth of the Palestinian people who welcome you into their lives.

Sights, treks and activities:  

  • The  Roman prison  where John the Baptist was held.
  • Magnificent panoramic view  from the site of the  former Greek Acropolis:   pillbox walls of an ancient  Samarian palace  (9th  century BC) to the south, adjacent to the ruins of a small  Byzantine chapel  on the site (allegedly) where the head of John the Baptist was discovered, and to the west the western gate, the ruins of a  Hellenistic watchtower  and the famed  colonnaded street built by the Romans.
  • The  al-Sharqiyyeh spring  in Nus Jabil.
  • A stone-carving workshop  in Burqa.
  • The  old city of Sabastiya  with its Ottoman buildings still intact and the  Sultan Abdel Hamid Mosque  which stands within the remains of a  Crusader Basilica  which may itself be constructed on the site of the  tombs of Elisha, Omediah and John the Baptist, of Biblical fame.
  • Create a mosaic  at the Ceramic Center in Nus Jabil.
  • Enjoy tea  under the trees at the Ottoman  al-Massoudieh Train Station, formerly a busy intersection of travelers in northern Palestine.

Meals and accommodations: 

Guests will be hosted in home-stays and guest houses.  Restaurants and women’s associations will serve three daily meals and snacks and will feature traditional dishes such as Mousakhan, Maqlooba and Fattet Hommus.

Workshops and cultural activities:  

Guests may be offered activities such as making a mosaic, creating something with straw at a village workshop, or learning the traditional Dabka dance steps and participating in an evening dance performance.   Other workshops and activities can be arranged.

Local guides:  

youth of the Sabastiya CLC have been trained in guiding tours.   They have good language skills and they know their area.  

Socializing and discussions with residents:  

a CLC requirement is that it provides multiple opportunities for visitors to interact with the people of the villages.  The activities, workshops, home-stays, use of local guides – all are designed to give tourists time and space to talk with their hosts and the residents of the villages.  Lunches served by the Beit Leid Society for Women’s Development and the Nus Jabil Women’s Society will provide occasions to talk with women about their roles and responsibilities in rural Palestine.

Role of the local community:  

an important component in any CLC is the involvement of the people who live there – women, men, youth, the elderly.  Men and women of the villages serve together in equal numbers on the CLC Committee.  The older residents are the story-tellers who pass on the old stories and myths they inherited from their ancestors.  Sabastiya CLC encompasses several women’s organizations and youth groups who play various parts in providing services.

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