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Cana, miraculous and resistant

The favorite village of the Lebanese

For the fourth straight year, readers of L'Orient-Le Jour in Lebanon and around the world will have the chance to vote for the “favorite village of the Lebanese.” This year, 10 new villages are competing. L’OLJ will produce a report and video on each village to help you choose. After Amchit, Barouk, Baskinta and Becharreh, here is Cana. Voting will remain open on our website until July 28th.

16/07/2019
Cana, 93 kilometers south of Beirut, is considered by some to be the biblical village of Cana of Galilee and stands proudly in the heart of southern Lebanon. It has a mixed population and has good reason to be a flourishing site for Christian religious tourism: some historians argue that this is where Christ performed his first miracle during the famous “Cana wedding”. The village is also infamous because of a series of Israeli attacks in 1996 and 2006 that killed nearly 150 civilians.


If the village is believed by some to be the biblical Cana, it is mainly thanks to the work of historians Youssef Hourani and Martiniano Pellegrino Roncaglia.The scholars tried to prove a tradition going back to Eusebius of Caesarea, the first historian of the Church, which states that Jesus performed his first miracle in the vicinity of Tyre. According to the Gospel of John, at the Cana wedding, Jesus turned water into wine at his mother’s request. The Gospel refers to six stone vats that were used for Jewish ritual ablutions. It was the water from these vats that Jesus turned into wine. Today, large vats dating to the time of Christ can still be found in cana. However, the Church has not yet confirmed this hypothesis, and some researchers argue that biblical Cana is modern day Kfar Kenna in Palestine.

Not far from Cana’s vats stands the sanctuary of the prophet al-Jalil, a holy man worshipped by the Shia community. Little is known about him, but according to local tradition he is believed to have been the father of the bride at the Wedding of Cana. Close by there is another historical site consisting of a series of reliefs sculpted into rock that date back to the 1st century AD. Nestled into the hollow of a valley, local lore holds that the reliefs represent Christ and his disciples at the Last Supper, the Virgin Mary and her child or the resurrection of Lazarus. Not far from the sculptures, the faithful can gather in a cave that the inhabitants of the region believe sheltered the first persecuted Christians. Since the early 2000s, this cave has been the location of a cult of the Virgin Mary.

"It is important for us to highlight the sacred side of our village," says Mohammad Attiyeh, former head of the Cana municipality. “Our sites have been placed by the Ministry of Tourism on the religious tourism map in Lebanon. A couple even came from Zgharta to get married here, which goes to show how important the site is for the Christian community," he adds.

Jesus Christ is also a venerated figure in Islam, which refers to him as the prophet Issa. As a result, Cana attracts many Lebanese visitors of different faiths in addition to foreign pilgrims.


Islamic-Christian coexistence
Although Cana’s population is majority Shia, the village is also home to a Greek Catholic community. Residents of Cana take pride in the village’s diversity and the way in which both communities coexist.

"The Shia and Christian population of Cana defend the popular tradition at the religious tourism sites of the village," explains anthropologist Nour Farra, creator of the Holy Lebanon application that lists religious sites in Lebanon.

Within the village, the association Chabab Cana (Youth of Cana) has been working to promote diversity and tourism since 2016. The young people planted 2,500 trees around the cave and landforms and are working to create a hiking trail in the Achour Valley. "According to popular belief, Christ used to travel through this valley, and he would address the faithful," explains Hassan Dakhlallah, president of Chabab Cana.

The Greek Catholic Church of St. Joseph can be found in the town’s Christian quarter. Built in 1906, the church was damaged in a fire several years ago, but was subsequently renovated in accordance with tradition. Behind the church there is a large statue of the Virgin Mary that was donated in 2011 by Margot Tyan, mother-in-law of Amine Gemayel, former President of the Republic. According to the parishioners, the strange stone stele located behind the building houses the remains of a nun.

The village is also the proud hometown of the painter Moussa Tiba (1939-2014) who opened a museum there to exhibit his watercolours. Lovers of archaeological remains should visit the sarcophagus of Hiram on the road linking Tyre to Cana in the village of Hanaway. At 4 metres in length, it is one of the largest sarcophagi in Lebanon. As for the mortal remains it houses, archaeologists believe they belong to Hiram, king of Tyre.




The city of martyrs
Today, Cana is hoping to attract more visitors, but the Israeli attacks on 18 April 1996 and 30 July 2006 left a permanent mark on the village and its inhabitants. Visitors can go to the sites where the bombings happened, decimating entire families. The victims are buried at the locations in areas built in their memory.

Close to the site of the 1996 massacre, a building houses the graves of the victims, amid photos of Amal movement leader Nabih Berry and its founder, Imam Moussa Sadr. A painting exhibition upstairs depicts the massacre, when the Israeli air force bombed a UNIFIL headquarters where civilians had taken refuge, killing 106 civilians. The location of the 2006 attack, during the war between Hezbollah and Israel, has also been transformed into a cemetery. The headstones of the 30 victims who died that day lie amidst a sea of Hezbollah flags


Fact sheet

Number of inhabitants: 20,000 inhabitants registered in Cana, including year long and summer residents

President of the municipal council: Mohammad Attiyeh until 23 June 2019, Mohammad Kracht since 24 June 2019

Main personalities from the village: Moussa Tiba, painter (1939-2014); Michel Ayoub, former Director General of the Ministry of Industry.

Possibility to stay: Cana does not have any hotels or guest houses. Visitors may stay in Tyre ( 13 km from Cana) or Ain Ebel (21.8 km from the town).

Restaurants : Eres Cana (the wedding of Cana), reservation required on 03-057768. Inzaghi, snack bar, restaurant and grills (76-733180). You will also find several snacks and bakeries in the village.

Culinary specialities: Lebanese cuisine, traditional dishes, olive and olive oil production. Mouné,

Lebanese dishes or handicrafts available to buy from The Holy Family association, located in Saint-Joseph neighborhood. Contact Majida Boutros (71-712315).

Activities: hiking or walking in Wadi Ashour, cycling, religious tourism.

Altitude: 300 m.

Climate: mild temperatures, summer and winter.


Must sees:

* The reliefs representing Christ.

* The cave dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

* The historical vats that would have been used to perform Christ's first miracle.

* The Moussa Tiba Museum (open on Thursdays and Sundays, from 10am to 6pm. Tel. 07-430149)

* St. Joseph's Church of the Greek Catholics.

* The annual festival of Cana, in the summer, with its souk and local products. The dates will be announced soon.

* Sarcophagus of Hiram at the entrance of the village on the side of the town of Hnaouay.

* Wadi Achour.

* Sanctuary of the Prophet al-Jalil.


Directions

From Beirut, take the highway to Saida. Then head towards Tyre.

* Once in Tyre, follow the road that leads to the village of Jouaya, then to Cana. This road will offers amazing views of the hinterland.

* From Tyre, take the sea route and then turn towards Cana by the gas station Safieddine.



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