The Lebanese Village of Bechealeh and the Legend of Noah

by | April 18th, 2013

The Village of Becheahleh: Excerpts from the website

Up aloft on his ark, seeing the waters of the deluge gradually abating, Noah perceived in Lebanon a hilltop some twelve or thirteen hundred meters high. He then chose his most beautiful olive trees to plant in this enchanted spot, together with some vines.

The cataclysm once over and the heavens open no more, the ark settled on dry land. Noah set about gathering the olives of his acquisition and picked the bunches of grapes, which he then pressed, and was overcome by the influence of this nectar, this elixir, this juice of the grape, after which he decided spread the vine around the world. One may still visit the olive trees of Noah at Besheleh on the heights above Batroun, just eighty-three kilometers from Beirut. The name of this village has its origins in the Akkadian Semitic languages and indicates a splendid and unrivaled site raised high.

The olive trees attributed to Noah go back six thousand years. One may see them close alongside the road. Their enormous brown and knotted trunks are of moderate height but give an impression of great age thanks to the vigorous offshoots all around them. These trees are arranged and cared for with attention and love, as is only too obvious. Their oil enjoys a high reputation and the soil that supports them is carefully tilled. It is a delight to see how they have braved the centuries and still promise future abundance.

The village is surrounded by forests with trees of every description. In Arabic, Besheleh means a flame. The place was mentioned by the crusaders as Bet Zaal or Beet Il, the High or the Proud. It covers about six square kilometers, a hillside ridged with terraces bearing olive trees, almond trees and vines. It is irrigated by several springs, such as Mitwiya, Ain al Foca and Ain Tahta.

There are several churches, such as the historic St. Simon, 1880, and Our Lady (Al-Blata), 1600, and the ruins of others such as Mar Mema, Mar Saba and Mar Doumit, built with local stone and bearing half-effaced inscriptions in Greek. The chapel of the hermitage, Al-Habs, the Cell, is hewn out of the rock.

To the north of the village are the remains of a citadel going back to Phoenician times. Grottoes abound, the limestone being hard. The terraces stretch down from the summit down into the valley, their soil sun-drenched and fertile. Once planted with splendid vines, Beshelah was once reputed for its wines and its arak.

To reach this village one may follow the road Amioun-Kour or if one is coming from Beirut the road Jbeil-Jaj-Mayfouq. Most of the inhabitants of Besheleh work in the built-up districts on the coast and go up home at the weekends and especially for the summer. One may however see the studio of a sculptor who chisels away at stone and olive wood, another craft workshop, a government technical school, a welfare organization and a cooperative for agricultural development.

Beshelah is a place well worth visiting, for it leaves in us a certain nostalgia and revives our loves for this sacred and legendary land.

| Corners of Time

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