I began celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) by helping my friend and hostess in Jerusalem build her Sukkah. Then on Sunday evening celebrated with her and a couple of her dearest friends having a special meal in the Sukkah. That first night, Erev Sukkot, is a special, joyous celebration with your closest friends and family. It is a Shabbat, or day of rest, with no public transportation and shops and businesses close early. I was privileged to be able to visit the Western Wall to pray for my family prior to the Shabbat starting. There have been a lot of Shabbats with the way the holidays have fallen this year. It makes life difficult preparing for shabbats and celebrations around the closures but no less joyous. This is such a special time of year to be in Jerusalem. I am privileged and blessed to be here.
If you are a Christian or someone who wonders how or why celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles is important for Christians there are many good resources. A good recent article was published by Susan Michael, the ICEJ US Director, it explains that Jesus attended the Feast and used it to show that he was the fulfillment of that biblical feast. Read that article here.
The next day I began my stay in Abu Ghosh. What an amazing contrast to be in a small Arab village. Yet I believe God has brought me here to walk the streets, pray, and bless the town and its people. The town is famed for having the best hummus (my friends in Rochester will chuckle about that). According to Christian tradition, Abu Ghosh is the biblical Kiryat Jearim (Yearim) where the Philistines delivered the ark and it sat until being returned to Jerusalem.
Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to your town.” Then the men of Kirjath Jearim came and took the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord. So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
I Samuel 6:21 – 7:2
Beginning in the 12th century, Christians began to identify Emmaus with this location. Luke 24:12-31 This is only one possible sight for the elusive location of Emmaus, but there is a Crusader period church in Abu Ghosh built over a stream where they believed Emmaus was located during that period of time.
The town became known as Abu Ghosh in the 16th century when an Arab clan of that name took over the town and began to charge for passage on the highway passing through it on pilgrimage from Jaffa to Jerusalem. They continued to collect tolls until the end of the 19th century.
Today there exists Church of Notre Dame de l‘Arche d’Alliance (Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant) built in 1924, located at the top of a hill with a large statue of Mary and baby Jesus.
Be sure to watch for a future blog to find out more about this unique Arab town just 6.2 miles west of Jerusalem.