Darbeshtar: Scripture with heritage aroma

Wed 17 Oct 2012 at 12:18 Know Lebanon


Translated by Lina Yehya
A statue of Ishtar, engraved in an old olive tree, stems in the public park and greets the visitor of Darbeshtar at the village's entrance.
Stories reveal that the village was named after the ancient Phoenician goddess of love and fertility, Istarte.
"Darbeshtar" is an Aramaic composed name which means "The House of Istarte". This highlighted the idea that the village was the site of the temple of the Phoenician goddess of love and fertility, Istarte.
The temple, as stories mention, was transformed to the church "Our Lady of Saydeh" during the 16th century. During excavation works in the village in 1937, excavators found at a depth of 3 meters and a distance of 6 meters to the west from the church a lot of ancient stuff, many dungeons and tunnels that connect the church to St. Gerges church.
Darbeshtar received a noticeable number of Maronite families who migrated to the village in the 9th century. Though that migration was somehow the outcome of sectarian belonging, most of it was because the Maronite church was so much concerned in giving education to people, mainly the young Maronites.
Later, the village was known for that, a reputation strengthened by the founding of St. Teresa School in 1949.
Darbeshtar is currently considered one of the most important Maronite villages in Koura district, a quality that made it earn a visit from Patriarch Beshara Rahi on his way to Diman.
Darbeshtar is located on the south eastern periphery of the Koura district on a hill that overlooks from the south and the east the valley of "Naher El Asfour" (Bird River).
The village is located at an altitude of about 400 m and is 80 km from Beirut, 20km from Tripoli, 11 km from Chekka and 5km from Amyoun, the center of Koura district.
Darbeshtar borders the villages of Amyoun, Bziza, Majdel, Kaftoon and Darshmizzine.
Places of worship
Darbeshtar’s heritage of worship places is rich: Temple of Goddess Istarte church of St. Gerges, Church of St. Shalita, cave of St. Elias.
Temple of goddess Istarte
One of Darbeshtar ruins is the temple of goddess Istarte that underwent, again and again, restoration works and was transformed to a Christian worship place (known nowadays as church of Our Lady of Saydeh).
The temple (10 m length and 7 m width) is located to the east of the village and is used as a shrine.
Church of St. Gerges:
The church is an ancient vault built in 1902 of 33 m length, 16 m width and 10 m high dome. The church is characterized by its stones and the unique engravings and designs in it.
Church of St. Shalita
Laying among olive fields, the church building is believed to date back to Crusade era; however, only a few of its walls survived both, man and nature, devastating factors.
Cave of St. Elias
The cave is located to the west of Darbeshtar on a hillside that extends to reach "Naher El Asfour", water-course. On July 20 of each year, people of the region celebrate St. Elias Day and visit his place at Darbeshtar.
During the 4th decade of the 19th century, some of Darbeshtar people immigrated to Brazil, Australia, and the United States… That was the first time Darbeshtar experienced the immigration of some of its population.
Nowadays, about 85% of Darbeshtar population lives outside Lebanon.
Darbeshtar had suffered on both growth and development levels for about 30 years before it succeeded in acquiring its first municipal council in 1998, presided by Ghawi Al Ghawi.
Following that, development workshops were launched on all levels.
Re-elected in the latest municipal elections, the current municipality head, Ghawi Al-Ghawi, shed light in an interview on the important projects which the municipality has established.
He mentioned projects of widening the main road of the village and the roads which lead to the public school and the churches of St. George and Our Lady of Saydeh; preserving the old ruins, and getting rid of winter rain during by installing sewage systems.
He also said that the municipality always took care of the basic living issues in the village as electricity, traffic, collecting and getting rid of garbage etc…
Ghawi also praised the remarkable reception that the people of Darbechtar held as welcoming Maronite patriarch Bechar Boutros Rahi, during his visit to the village.
In addition, Ghawi thanked all those who have helped in funding any development and growth works in the village.
Finally, he said that all members in Darbeshtar municipality worked hard to make each of the village families feel proud to say that they have a house in Darbeshtar".

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