Welcome to Jifna a beautiful, historic village nestled in the valley below Birzeit. Jifna is situated at the intersection of two ancient trade routes, the mountainous north–south route and the east–west route connecting the Jordan Valley with the Mediterranean seacoast. Jifna has retained a Christian majority since the 6th century and today around 80% of the Jifna village population (1,200) are Christians; however, the Palestinian refugee camp of Jalazone was built on Jifna's southern lands and is connected to the village by road and the villages of Dura al-Qar' and Ein Siniya, located adjacent to Jifna to the east and northeast respectively, have developed over the years, all now within the district of Jifna.

Although most of Jifna's cultivable land is covered with olive groves as well as fig, walnut and apricot trees and grape vines, agriculture is no longer the village's main source of income. Many of the village's former farmers are living off other businesses, including restaurants, other small family-owned industries, and simple commerce, this is largely due to the village’s proximity to the Birzeit University which has provided new opportunities through its 13,000 plus students and staff. However, Jifna, remains famous locally for its apricot harvest, it hosts an annual two-day apricot festival in the first week of May. Hundreds of West Bankers flock to participate in the harvest.

The remains of a Byzantine-era church (St. George) in Jifna testifies to the existence of a Christian community prior to the Muslim conquest. It continued to exist during the Middle Ages and the village is still inhabited mainly by Christians. The names of Christian inhabitants from Jifna appeared in a 10th-century inscription on a stone above the gate of St. George's Monastery in the Wadi Qelt, near the Dead Sea.

Friends of the Holy Land’s mission is to support a sustainable Christian presence.


Christian Community

Population in the district: 3,218

Christians: 870

The Christian population of Jifna village is fairly evenly split between Latin Christians (450) and those from the Orthodox Church. The community of the Latin Church, St Joseph’s, is not able to sustain the parish without the help of overseas donors, a situation that has get worse during the pandemic as many parishioners struggle with unemployment. The Parish Priest, Fr. Johny Bahbah, outlines the struggles the parish face in this presentation (link here) and video -



There is only one Christian school in the village operated by the Latin Patriarchate. The school was established in 1856 and has seen many generations of students graduate. Initially, the school was very simple: two teachers and one sister for the elementary classes and one teacher for the kindergarten.

As the surrounding population has grown, today, there are 102 students, 14 teachers and two employees, however, although having excellent academic standards, due to the poverty in the area the school struggles financially. In recent years, the school has worked very hard to reduce overheads and so also reduce its operating deficit of NIS 800,000 p.a. (around £178,000) funded by the Latin Patriarchate which had put the school in danger of closure. The current pandemic conditions have undone some of this work as many unemployed families struggle to meet the school fees which average around £540 pa per child. If the school was forced to close, this would be a major blow in sustaining this vulnerable ancient Christian community.

 

Time for you to move on, next stop Nablus and the ancient city of Shechem – which takes us back to the times of Abraham.

See you soon!