The workers in the village of Sabastiya are not stopping work. The site is more than ever active, and even the most casual visitor will have no difficulty imagining what the historical center will look like once the works are completed. Sabastiya will soon be able to boast of a guest house that is even more lovely and welcoming, as wall as a conference hall created out of a splendid Crusader hall.
Always with an eye to making use of ancient building techniques wherever possible, three new rooms in the guest house will soon be ready. In this regard it was decided to maintain the stones visible, and in one of the rooms a decorative mosaic is being prepared. A large room will serve as a dining hall for use of all of the visitors to the guest house, and a stone oven found in the house is being put back into operation.
The Sabastiya Guest House, which already provides hospitality for up to fifteen people by means of its various rooms scattered throughout the historical center, will soon be able to welcome even larger groups. The new conference hall will also permit hosting of conferences and conventions of international organizations and other large groups.
Individuals interested in alternative tourism will find in this village a real opportunity to combine a visit to an exceptional archaeological and cultural site with the possibility to learn more about local life.
What is being carried out in Sabastiya is truly an exemplary project. Exemplary not only because of the enormous historical and archaeological value of the cultural heritage present in this small village in the Palestinian Territories, but also for the element – no less significant – of local community participation.
Osama Hamdan, an architect working with ATS pro Terra Sancta and head of the project, explains: “Each room of the Guest House which is in use provides employment for up to seven village families.” From managing the preparation of meals, from the production of local handicrafts to maintenance, everything is put in the hands of the local inhabitants, who learn in this way to enhance the historical and cultural heritage that has been handed down to them.
In the project that ATS pro Terra Sancta, with the support of the Cariplo Foundation and Italian Development Cooperation, has been carrying out for several years in Sabastiya, the fundamental element underlying the thinking of Father Michele Piccirillo emerges very clearly: the need to link archaeological heritage to the community and the local economy.