Kiryat Ye’arim and the Ark of the Covenant
The site of Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant is based on Jewish history. In the Bible, this village is called Kiryat Ye’arim (Kiryat Yaarim). The Ark of the Covenant resided in Shilo for 300-400 years. Then it was taken by the Philistines at the battle of Even-ezer (1 Sam. 4:3-11). The Philistines subsequently sent back the Ark after retaining it for seven months (1 Sam. 5:7, 8) because of the misfortune that befell them (1 Sam. 5:1-6). The Philistines returned the Ark to Beit Shemesh. The people of Beit Shemesh sent it on to Kiryat Ye’arim to the house of Avinadav. (1 Sam. 6:21) The Ark of the Covenant remained at this location for about 20 (or perhaps 50) years (1 Sam 6; 2 Sam 6).
The modern name of the site in Arabic is Deir el–Azar, perhaps indicative of Avinadav’s son’s name, Eleazar, who watched over the ark.
The village was built during the Ottoman period by the Abu Gosh family, whose descendants make up the majority of the local population. They controlled the pilgrimage route from Jaffa to Jerusalem, and imposed tolls on all pilgrims, right up to the end of the 19th century. The population was made up of both Moslems and Christians. Abu Ghosh is known for its good relations with the State of Israel and hospitality toward Israeli Jews.
At the time of the Crusades, it was thought that Abu Gosh was the scene of the apparition of the Risen Christ to the pilgrims of Emmaus (Luke 24). It was also at this time that the Benedictine St. Mary of the Resurrection Abbey was built.
Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant – Church of Notre Dame de l’Arche de l’Alliance
The Shrine of Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant stands at the highest point of the village, 756 meters above sea level – surrounded by Jerusalem Pines. According to Christian tradition the church occupies the site of the house of Avinadav where the Ark of the Covenant rested for 20 years until King David took it to Jerusalem.
There was a church here during the Byzantine Period which was destroyed during the Persian occupation in 614.
The present Catholic church and convent were built in 1924 on the ruins of the ancient Byzantine church dating from between the 4th and the 5th centuries. The nuns of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition had a basilica built in honor of Mary, Lady of the Ark of the Covenant. This order, founded in France, is the first women’s Catholic Order to come to The Holy Land in modern times. There are 15 convents all over Israel. The sisters work in schools, children’s nurseries and clinics.
A small bell to the left of the gate will call your hostess, a nun, who will accompany you during your tour.
Mary’s title of “Ark of the Covenant”
Mary carrying Jesus is compared to the Ark holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments. From almost anywhere in the village you can see the roof-top sculpture of Mary carrying the infant Jesus in her arms. The base of the statue is the Ark of the Covenant with cherubs wings.
Visiting Hours: The Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant church is open to visitors Mondays through Saturdays between 8:30 AM -11:30 AM and 14:30 PM -17:00 PM.