The Israeli Arab Village of Abu Gosh is situated about 10 km west of Jerusalem just off the main road from Tel Aviv. During Israel’s War of independence, out of all the Arab Villages in the area only the residents of Abu Gosh remained neutral and in many cases helped by assisting in keeping the road to Jerusalem open so that essential supplies could be sent to the besieged Jewish residents of the city. To this day relations between the village of Abu Gosh and the Jewish community of Israel remain friendly and co-operative.
More than 6000 years ago during biblical times Abu Gosh was called Kiryat Ye’arim and was a centre where the Ark of the Covenant was kept up until it was taken to Jerusalem. About 1,500 years ago during the Byzantine era , a church was built in the village and during Crusader times the village was attributed to be the place of Emmaus (The place where after his resurrection, Jesus revealed himself to his disciples). This is the site of the beautiful Benedictine Monastery.
One of the most beautiful crusader buildings to have survived in Israel is the Abu Gosh Benedictine Monastery built about 1000 years ago on a site of a water spring. In the 19th century this crusader church was handed over to the Benedictine Order by the French Government after careful restoration. On the monastery walls frescoes from the 12th century are still in evidence and a small spring can be seen flowing from the crypt of the monastery. The monastery is divided into a section for nuns and a section for monks.
At the highest point of the village and facing the inspiring views of the Jerusalem Hills and surrounded by gardens is the lovely Church of our Lady of the Arc of Covenant (The Church of Notre Dame de l’Arche d’Alliance) was built on the ruins of an ancient Byzantine Church. In the Church Courtyard there is a large statue of Virgin Mary which is visible from all points of the compound. The convent itself belongs to the French order of St.Josef de l’apparition and the imposing church is home to the Abu-Gosh Liturgical Festival. During the 1948 War of Independence the convent was used as a military hospital.
During Shavuot (the festival of the first fruits) and Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles) both the Church and the Benedictine Monastery hold vocal music festivals. Groups and Choirs from around the world participate in these festivals which are well attended by music lovers from both Israel and abroad.
Abu Gosh has a number of excellent restaurants and if the word hummus is mentioned Abu Gosh immediately comes to mind as it is known as the countries hummus centre with its different varieties of garnishes and spices. The village of Abu Gosh should definitely be put on the list of places to visit when touring Israel.