A short drive from Bethlehem can take you to one of the most beautiful desert monasteries in the Holy Land. The Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Saba, Mar Saba in Arabic, was founded on the cliffs of the Kidron Valley by Saint Saba of Cappadocia in 483 AD. After that, hundreds of monks settled into the desert to be closer to God.The monastery of Mar Saba was subject to harsh living conditions, as it is in the heart of the desert, that though did not spare it from invaders who murdered many of the monks, and tried to destroy the monastery. The survivors rebuilt their holy sanctuary, and Mar Saba has had a continuously inhabited community since its founding.

Today, the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities is in the process of having this important site listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pilgrims from all over the world visit the monastery, however, women are not allowed inside the actual complex. There is only one site that women are allowed to visit, and that is the Women’s Tower, which overlooks the entire monastic complex and wadi below. The views are amazing, and are well worth the walk up to the Tower.

The Masar Ibrahim al Khalil and the Siraj Center in Beit Sahour offer a hike to Mar Saba, which takes the walker through the desert, reaching this unique site of the ancient monastery and its cells. The traveler will experience a spiritual experience just walking through this serene landscape, exploring this religious complex and appreciating monastic life in the desert.

Join us on a one-day walk this Saturday, March 5th, from Nabi Musa to Mar Saba.