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A Taybeh Village Tradition

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 30.06.2007:

By Maria C. Khoury, Ed.D.

I left the cosmopolitan city of Boston and a university job to follow Daoud Canaan Khoury to his picturesque home village of Taybeh and support his dream to invest in his homeland by producing Taybeh Beer and to have our three children grow up near a loving extended family in one of the most ancient places in Palestine. Twenty-one years later, something strange happened when the children left us here but took the village traditions and family values with them to Boston.

A few months ago my daughter Elena, being very nervous about taking her entrance exam for law school, called and asked me to sacrifice a lamb at the Khader, the 4th-century ruins of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Taybeh, where people have been sacrificing unto God since the time of Abraham in the Old Testament. Even today, the site of the St. George ruins is one of the few locations where local Christians continue to follow this Old Testament ritual of giving thanks to the Lord for any reason you can think of under the sun. I personally understand the sacrifice as a non-religious but rather cultural tradition of thanking God and as a form of almsgiving as well, since you are not allowed to take the sacrificial meat home but must give it away.

Did I dare tell my child to study a little more, retake some practice tests, and review the course material from the preparatory classes? I logically thought a little more review might help; but who am I to question faithful traditions and centuries-old values? Instead, I immediately purchased a lamb and found someone who was willing to sacrifice it at the magnificent archaeological ruins and distribute it to needy families in the village as is typically done. I have seen my mother-in-law sacrificing a lamb when baby boys were born and when family members were saved from tragic accidents. Many people in Taybeh continue to practice this way of thanking God.

Taybeh, known as Biblical Ephraim, took on its new name in the 12th century and sits in the highest mountain region in Palestine. At night you can see the lights of Jerusalem on one side and the lights of Amman, Jordan, on the other. On a bright, clear day you can even catch the sparkle on the Dead Sea as you head out to Jerusalem, unless you are one of the local residents who suffer from over 60 percent unemployment, closures, checkpoints, lack of permits, and the Apartheid Wall.

Thus the thriving village of over 5,000 residents before 1967 hardly maintains 1,300 residents at present. Taybeh now has the only medical clinic that serves many surrounding villages, two secondary schools, three churches, one chapel, and a brand new elderly home and centre for people with disabilities, Beit Efraim.

When Elena called again and said she was accepted to Suffolk Law School, the first thing that came to my mind was: “Oh my God! I have to sacrifice a lamb!”

And I really did. But finding it more difficult this time to find someone to do it, I foolishly asked my husband, “What would be wrong with buying the meat at the butcher shop and giving it to the needy?” And my husband, the mayor, said in his most official tone of voice: “It would not be a sacrifice unless it is at the Khader.”

Editor’s Note: Taybeh has hosted two village festivals and hopes to have an open day for The Third Annual Taybeh Oktoberfest on Sunday, September 9, 2007, between 11 am to 11 pm.


This Week in Palestine

July 2007

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