On Tuesday 12th March, Sabastiya, a village in the heart of Cisgiordania, welcomed David Cecile, the Italian Consul-General in Jerusalem, and Elena Clemente, consul. The representatives decided to visit the village’s ancient historic centre to observe the work that has been done in recent years on the various projects financed by Italy and implemented by ATS Pro Terra Sancta, in collaboration with the Mosaic Center of Gerico and the Municipality of Sabastiya.
During their walk through the streets of the village, they were given the opportunity to see the work which has taken place on redevelopment and on valuing local heritage, which, up until a few years ago was unknown and hidden away, even to the people from the town.
Beginning at the medieval tower, now an exhibition hall full of ancient architectural features which have been uncovered, the consuls were taken to the welcoming guesthouse, which already hosts tourists from all over the world. In the village’s main mosque, once a church of the Crusaders, the delegation visited the tomb of Giovanni Battista, a religious destination for Christian and Muslim pilgrimages. The tour ended with the impressive, recently discovered Crusade hall.
Antonio La Rocca, delegate from the PMSP – Palestinial Municipalities Support Program, was present during the tour. He made the cleaning, research and restoration of this hall possible. Thirty-five metres in length, it is possible to see the historical-artistic stratification of the village from within the hall. The words spoken by the Consul-General were of great importnace, underlining how crucial it is to constructively use local resources and heritage which are so abundant and yet hardly recognised by the millions of visitors who come to the Holy Land every year.
In a pleasant end to the tour, the Italian representatives were able to enjoy the hospitality of the Sabastiyan people, visiting the small shop where products made by the women of the village can be purchased, before trying some typical Palestinian dishes – an unmissable end to their stay in the town.