Nestled in the Jerusalem Hills, Abu Gosh is the town which is known as the “hummus capital of Israel.” “Abu Gosh,” according to one version, is the name of an Arab family that settled in the Judean hills in the early 16th century. They controlled the pilgrimage route from Jaffa to Jerusalem, and imposed tolls on all pilgrims, right up to the end of the 19th century.
The Abu Gosh clan now has control of the culinary intake of the Jewish locals over the weekends as Abu Gosh is famous for its many Middle-Eastern restaurants. In fact, in 2010, it set the Guinness World Record for the largest dish of hummus ever made. This really upset the Lebanese.
Aside from enjoying delicious Middle-Eastern salads and many other culinary delights, there is a lot to see in Abu Gosh.
Abu Gosh’s Christian connection
Abu Gosh has an important Christian connection, which began as early as the 12th century. Christians began to identify Abu Gosh as “Emmaus,” where Jesus was believed to appear after the Resurrection (Luke 24:12-31). The Christians found what they thought as an old roadside inn (“caravanserai”) by the village spring as the destination of the disciples as they walked along the road “about seven miles from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:13).
The Benedictine monastery
The Benedictine Monastery is one of the best preserved Crusader remains in the country. The Hospitalers built this Gothic church at 1140. It was acquired by the French Government in 1899 and placed under guardianship of the French Benedictine Fathers. Since 1956, it has been run by the Lazarist Fathers. Today both nuns and priests worship in the church and offer wonderful hospitality.
The courtyard of the church consists of magnificent gardens and the church crypt has mighty Crusader walls, with a bubbling spring flowing through it.
According to Christian tradition, the spring was the biblical site of Kiryat Ye’arim. It is from here, according to the Bible, that King David carried the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (Samuel 2:6).
The monastery’s walls and columns feature magnificent frescos that were drawn during the 13th century. The frescos, which are considered to be unique, have been cleaned and restored. Although the monastery is Catholic, the frescos were done by Greek Orthodox artists in Byzantine style.
The Church of Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant in Abu Gosh
The Church of Notre Dame de l’Arche de l’Alliance, built in 1924, is said to occupy the site of the house of Abinadab where the Ark of the Covenant rested for 20 years until King David took it to Jerusalem. It is built on the site of a 5th century Byzantine church. From almost anywhere in the village you can see the roof-top sculpture of Mary carrying the infant Jesus in her arms.
This church is nothing special but twice a year it comes to life. The Abu Gosh Music Festival, held here during the Jewish festivals of Shavooth and Succot (spring and fall) hosts musical ensembles and choirs from Israel and abroad performing church and other vocal music. The festival is highly recommended and seats sell out fast, sometimes within hours. See Abu Gosh Music Festival.
Abu Gosh Restaurant
While there are many choices of good restaurants in Abu Gosh (and everyone has his and her own favorite!) one should never leave the town without going to Abu Gosh Restaurant — the first-ever restaurant and also the most famous in the area.
The Abu Gosh Restaurant was established in 1993 by Jaodat Ibrahim. At the time, Ibrahim had just won a lottery jackpot in Chicago, USA and decided to return to Abu Gosh, his hometown, and decided to open a business there.
This restaurant was the awardee of the Guinness World Record in 2010 for the largest dish of hummus, which weighed nearly 9,000 pounds!
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