Greetings from the highest mountain region of Palestine!
As part of the elected council for the Taybeh Municipality on May 5th2005, we are committed to keep Taybeh as one of the most beautiful villages in our homeland since it is one of the most ancient places in Palestine.
The roots of Taybeh date back 5,000 years before Christ as Biblical Ephraim making it one of the oldest places in Palestine. The village has survived many wars and occupations keeping its unique identity for two thousand years and taking on the modern name Taybeh after Saladin’s historic visit to Taybeh calling the people “Taybeen” for their generosity and hospitality.
A first time event in Palestine took place in Taybeh October 2005 with the Taybeh October Fest aimed at promoting local Palestinian products made in the village to help boost our collapsed economy and deal with the military closure and hardships imposed since September 28, 2000. The famous Taybeh Beer was used to entice international and local people to patronize Taybeh.
As a newly elected council, we are working hard to make Taybeh environmentally clean, safe and improve the infrastructure including the roads, water and electricity. We hope to establish an industrial zone and an agricultural zone to better serve the Taybeh residents.
We like to encourage Taybeh people abroad to return to their roots, to come and invest with us and to enjoy beautiful summers in the picturesque landscapes of Taybeh. We have an aim to preserve our special identity and heritage of two thousand years and to welcome pilgrims to enjoy the magnificent Byzantine archeological ruins of St. George Greek Orthodox Church which is the most sacred holy place in our area.
Taybeh has attracted many religious figures over time; most notably, Charles de Foucauld, whose writings led to the establishment of the ‘Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus’ community of faith. In 1903 this French mystic retraced the Lord’s ‘silent’ life in the Holy Land, where he spent a year in prayer and solitude in the village of Taybeh at the Ruins of the Byzantine church which was his desert home.
Today Taybeh remains a spiritual spring to those seeking the authentic way of indigenous Christian life in the land of its origin. Pilgrims find Taybeh a haven to the spirit of faith. The great potential of this ‘quiet destination is both mainstream and alternative. It legitimizes real faith pilgrimage while endorsing contemporary trends. The religious marketers trace the routes and landmarks of the archaeological church – Taybeh can provide the pilgrims with both the archaeological history of the church with the Byzantine ruins of St. George, as well as the living church, the Christian Taybaweyeh unbroken since Christ, are above all here, highlighting the precious value of this Gospel site that is the last of its kind in the world.
Agriculture and the exchange of products formed Taybeh’s ancient and modern economies. Traditionally, villagers grew fruit and produce, raised livestock. Surplus was exported and battered for other merchandise. Cash products included dried figs, grapes and wine, cheese, olives, and especially olive oil. Markets were mainly local (Palestine, Trans-Jordan). Imported items included clothes & textiles, spices, salt, tobacco. Taybeh was a mercantile centre whose traders and merchants moved on as threats to traditional ways moved in. Farm lands to the east and the south-east of the village historically sustained villagers and agriculture continued as a mainstay well into this century. Until recently mainly all the Taybaweyeh lived off the land. But after 1967 ever meagre subsistence-farming all but ceased owing to Israeli confiscation of land and water resources. Since then almost nothing is grown except olive trees.
Enforced repression of life-rights has ghettoized Taybeh: Population, steady or above 4000 (as recently as 1967), is now under 2000 and falling. Direct forces and attrition have worn down the village in every way. A telling illustration of the impact resulting emigration has had on the community. Taybeh’s expanse of olive groves (one of the region’s oldest and finest), covering 4000 dunums and numbering some 6000 mature trees, has, as a result of population losses, fallen into neglect. The spirit-sustaining oil and staple fruit is scavenged or paid to pickers from other villages that do the work residents no longer manage on their own. Local families receive a fraction of the fruit and the oil from their own trees. Pickers keep the bulk for themselves, including the jiffet (oil left in the husks after pressing, and used for heating fuel in winter, or for the soap production), brokering the surplus to a waiting market.
It is known that the majority of those who go to jobs work outside the village; 40% of the work force is travelling to jobs mainly in East Jerusalem, Israel or the neighbouring Israeli colonies. Although there are no exact figures, over 60% of Taybaweyeh are unemployed due to the continued closures imposed by the Israeli army for security purposes. Few have travel documents which need to be issued by the Israeli authorities who refuse in almost every case to issue them. So travel outside the village is risky (getting caught could lead to imprisonment and/or hefty fines) and interruptions in work and pay are common. The remainder work in Ramallah and its satellites, as unskilled labour, or to provide basic services for their village.
Within the Palestinian economic spectrum, wages are low. A teacher earns less than $450/month which is a third of the salary of a teacher in the Israeli colony built on Taybeh’s confiscated land; unskilled labourers often earn more than professionals. During good weather months a construction worker can take the equivalent of $800 a month. However, this is offset by wet weather months where there is no work. Additionally, every Palestinian citizen pays Israeli market prices for food, clothing, house-hold products on incomes averaging more than 300% less than what Israelis on social-welfare receive. VAT tax (17%) is added to every purchase. School tuition, gasoline, medicine, marriage etc. cost more than the real potential for earnings.
Taybeh is parochial and agrarian, the last Holy Land Christian enclave for whom the Church has played a pivotal role. Three denominations and churches are extant in Taybeh and the village population is numbered along those lines: Eastern (Ruum )Orthodox, 560 people at St. George Greek Orthodox Church (rebuild in l929-1932); Melkite (Greek Catholic), 310 people at St. George Church (build in l964 but Melkite worship was founded in the village in 1869); Roman Catholic, 530 people in the Western Catholic Church dedicated to "The Last Retreat of Jesus" (inaugurated l971). Also there is a small monastery build by a monk, Fr. Frant Jacques.
In these communities within a community the whole church is witnessed in its array of East-West rites, and Oriental and Byzantine splendour.
Israeli Jewish colonies pose another ominous threat to Taybeh’s Christian future. Ofra, Ma’ale Efraim, and Rimmounim colonies are, in the face of almost no local resistance, planning broader confiscations of land owned by or nearby Taybeh (Ma’ale Efraim is building some 650 new homes; Ofra has cut a new road almost to Village perimeters). A brand new illegal colony called Ammon has been getting bigger every day since 2003. Relative isolation, a beautiful landscape and weakened, discouraged people, clearly fuels the pretext for greater exploitation of Taybeh’s resources by the local Christian community in Palestine and provide an alternative for migration to other lands.