Hiking Masar Ibrahim

Masar Ibrahim-al-Khalil

The Palestinian translation of the Abraham Path is Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil, the Way of the Friend. Masar Ibrahim is part of the Abraham Path initiative which seeks to develop a cultural route connecting the places associated with Abraham/Ibrahim’s ancient journey. In Palestine, the trail is 330 km long and extends from northwest of Jenin to southwest of Al-Haram al-Ibrahimi (Ibrahimi Mosque) in Hebron. The trail passes through more than 50 cities and villages.

Nablus to Sabastiya

On this hike, we pass through biblical mountains, shrines, and orchards before reaching the ancient town of Sabastiya with its Roman ruins…

…but first we must learn our ABCs

Before we go on a hike, we have to learn the ABCs that govern Palestinian lives. They say not knowing your ABCs can get you killed.

Area A: the area in which the Palestinian Authority has political and military jurisdiction over its residents – all of whom are Arab. This area comprises approximately 18% of West-bank. The PA has no jurisdiction over Israeli citizens and foreign nationals.

Area B: this area comprises approximately 22% of the West-bank, Israel and Palestine share jurisdiction, The PA has political and administrative jurisdiction over the Arab inhabitants, where as Israel has security jurisdiction overall.

Area C: 60% of the West-bank, where most of the settlements exist, is under complete Israeli controls.  

Seems quite straight forward … Not so fast

Map of Nablus area showing jurisdictions

Compare the trail map above with this map and you can tell that during our short 10km hike, we will change jurisdiction several times, at times going close to areas governed by mini settlements.   map source - B’Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Compare the trail map above with this map and you can tell that during our short 10km hike, we will change jurisdiction several times, at times going close to areas governed by mini settlements.

map source - B’Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Sabastiya

The ruins dominate the hillside and comprise, remains from seven successive cultures dating back more than 10,000 years: Canaanite, Israelite, Hellenistic, Herodian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman.

The city of Shomron was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE, and was destroyed again by John Hyrcanus in 108 BCE. Pompey rebuilt the town in the year 63 BCE. In 27 BCE, Augustus Caesar awarded the city to Herod the Great who renamed the city Sebaste. Herod built a temple dedicated to Augustus, a stadium, a theater and refortified the city with larger walls. The ruins of all of these structures can be seen today.

According to local legend, it was here that Salome asked Herod for the head of John the Baptist.

Israelis declared this site Area C some years ago – which means it’s off-limits to local Arab restorers.

The settlers and Israeli army can make this a difficult trip, but we did not encounter either; our guides were aware of everything in the 50 mile radius and made sure we had a pleasant experience. If you decide to visit Palestine, you will meet the nicest people, who are generous despite the difficulties in their lives.

For more information on Masar Ibrahim check out https://masaribrahim.ps. If you want to organize the tour yourself and need some help, I highly recommend getting in touch with a guide. I spent a lot of time with Majdi Shilleh and highly recommend him for arranging your itinerary. You can reach him on his email: majshella@yahoo.com

A hike to Battir Village

This 3 hour hike is not part of Masar Ibrahim but makes for a very pleasant day trip from Bethlehem.

Start the hike in Makhrour Valley, you will walk through orchards and farms and will also get a chance to Byzantine/Roman tombs carved into the rocks of Wadi Makhrour, cave dwellings and an Ottoman oven for preparing stone for building in Battir.

The hike ends in Battir Village, where you can learn about the irrigation system and get a view of the historic railway line connecting Jerusalem to Jafa. The railway is on the Israeli side of the Green Line and therefore not accessible to Palestinians.

The 4,000-year-old irrigated terraces of Battir are a UNESCO world heritage site. The water irrigation system is from the Roman times and water irrigation has been rotated amongst eight extended families for centuries. The world heritage site status allowed for an Israeli court ruling that would stop the separation wall from going through the village.