West Bank hopes to make ancient church popular tourist destination

The West Bank town of Burqin is working with the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism to make a Byzantine-era Orthodox Christian Church of St. George a popular destination for tourists.

April 1, 2015 14:29
2 minute read.

Byzantine-era Orthodox Christian Church of St. Georgein the West Bank. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The municipality of Burqin in the West Bank city of Jenin is working together with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to add the town of Burqin on the list of the city's tourist destinations for having one of the oldest churches in the world.

Mayor of Burqin, Mohammad Sabbah, said that the municipality is planning to promote the town to Palestinian embassies and tourism offices around the world to try and lure tourists to the church.

Sabbah says the municipality participated in an international conference last year in Italy and spoke about the town and the church's history.

"We are working with Burqin's Municipality and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to protect our heritage and promote it globally to make it a (tourist) destination for any tourist that comes to Palestine," Sabbah said.

Byzantine-era Orthodox Christian Church of St. George was built near a site where Christians believe Jesus passed by on his way from Nazareth.

Shepherd Elias Awwad explained what makes the church very special.

"We are here in the Church of healing the 10 lepers (where Jesus cured 10 people who were suffering from lepers) by Jesus in Burqin in Jenin. This church is one of the oldest churches in Palestine, today. It was was built in the 4th century by Saint Helena," Awwad said.

According to the site's administration, during renovations for the church, they found old remains like oil lamps, Bibles and stamps.

Three big wells from the Romans period were also discovered during the renovations.

Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Rula Ma'ayah said that putting the town on the world tourism destinations will help boost tourism.

"Putting the site (church) on the World tourism maps means that when any tourist comes to the region, to Palestine, it (the town) will be part of the program that is prepared for him wither this tourist is coming from European countries, from Latin America, or any other country in the world. Burqin will be part of his visit that we encourage (the tourist) to visit during his trip to the holy land," Ma'ayah said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Municipality are working on improving the town's facilities to make it ready to welcome more tourists to the town.

An old building at the town is being renovated by funds from the United States Agency for International Development 'USAID' to become a centre for tourists to visit before going to the church and the other historical places in Burqin.

General lectures will be given to tourists at the centre in addition to movie screenings about the town.

Burqin town is four kilometers away from Jenin city and has a population of 7500, 60 of them are Christians.

The municipality is currently in talks with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 'UNESCO' to register the town as a world heritage site.
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