Mahmoud Joudeh - 28\12\2022
As the large gate opens onto an incredibly beautiful and a masterpiece artifact, the path will take you few steps down where you will enter a 1600 years old building that still enjoys its original features that have been preserved and rehabilitated by the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
The Byzantine Church, or as the locals call it, "Jabalia Church," for it is the first church to be discovered in the area. The Byzantine Church is considered one of the oldest churches in the Middle East, covering an area of 800 square meters and divided into three sections. The first section is the church building in which the prayer rites take place; the second is the prayer arcade, and the third is the baptism hall â€śbaptisteryâ€ť.
An elevated wooden bridge has been added for visitors to walk on in an attempt to preserve the high-quality mosaics inspired by Greek and Roman mythologies. The bridge also allows visitors to see and enjoy all the details of the church from an elevated area. When you take a tour of this church, you will feel its magic at every corner, you can see the beautiful mosaics that have preserved their colors and beauty over hundreds of years despite the destruction and negligence the place has suffered.
In 1998 Jabalia church was discovered during an excavation and exploration that took place in the north of the Gaza Strip after some artifacts were found there. The church was left with no restoration plan until 2010 upon discoveries of more antiquities during the paving work of Salah Ed-din Street. Those discoveries raised the interest in initiating restoration work of the church and more excavation due to its location on an ancient trade route connected the Levant and North Africa.
The construction of the church dates back to 444 AD and it has persisted since the Islamic conquest of Palestine in 637 AD until the time of the Caliph Abu Ja'far Al-Mansour. The church has survived 24 Byzantine Emperors and 14 Islamic Caliphs, indicating the importance of the church and the coexistence between Muslims and Christians over the centuries.
Professor Fadl Al-Atal, an expert in antiquities, explained during an expedition work at the church, that it contains sixteen foundational texts in ancient Greek language, which are among the largest texts discovered within the church. It also has floors made of mosaic, decorated with some frescoes with drawings of some food, including artichoke, fish, bread, and a bouquet of flowers, among many other decorations illustrating human, rural scenes, cooking tools, engineering, animals and geometric motifs. It has been damaged by repeated Israeli bombings and invasions.
The church was built in the Basilica style, which is a type of cross-shaped ecclesiastical building that reflects Roman art and has the shape of a rectangle with a central nave and aisles with a slightly raised platform and apse at one or both ends. The church also has tombs in its corners, mosaic floors and surrounded by marble columns dating back to the reign of Emperor Theodosius II, according to the latest foundational text thereto.
On February 24th of 2022, the church site located in the city of Jabalia on Salah Al-Din Street was opened to visitors after completion of restoration work. The place now welcomes many visitors on a daily basis, which supports the church's presence in the Palestinian daily memory, remaining culturally and historically inherited by the Palestinian people. Here we have a great responsibility upon our shoulders to introduce students and interested parties about the importance of visiting Jabalia church and getting to know it in order to build a culture that unites us all, just as our ancestors were united despite their religious backgrounds.