Century-old Salesian monastery doubles as meteorological station
Beit Jamal is more than just a church — it's a concert hall and it measures the weather.
Not all beautiful things are what you would expect them to be — grand theaters have been turned into bookstores and many a castle has become a museum. But one of the most intriguing examples is Beit Jamal, a Salesian monastery that doubles as a concert hall and, at around 1,000 feet above sea level amidst the Judean Hills, a meteorological station.
The nuns' monastery has a lovely garden. (Photo: Protasov AN/Shutterstock)
Also known as Beit Jimal or Beit Gemal, the monastery grounds were established in the late 1800s and are located about halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, established in the late 1800s. The monastic complex now consists of a church for the Salesian monks, a monastery for the Sisters of Bethlehem, while another section of the property houses a synagogue. There is also a shop that sells olive oil, wine and handmade pottery created by the nuns. The nuns have taken a vow of silence, but the ones who work the shop are allowed to speak while they are working.
"Beit Jamal is a small and very quaint monastery," says Joel Haber, a tour guide in Israel. "The art in the church is elaborate and unexpected."
The smaller church, with a richly illustrated interior, is occupied by the Salesians of Don Bosco, a Roman Catholic religious group. The Salesian order was founded to help poor and at-risk children during the industrial revolution by providing shelter as well as opportunities for learning and training.
The ceiling inside the church is painted to appear like a mosaic. (Photo: Flavio~ /Flickr)
Now, this church is open for service, for visitors who just want to admire the interior, and for concerts on Saturdays at noon. The ceiling of the church is just as detailed as the rest — every painting is made to look like a mosaic.
A mosaic on the outside of the monastery has been there since the original building was built. (Photo: Shai Barzilay/Flickr)
The Salesians' church was actually built atop the remains of an even older church that dates back to the 5th century. Some of that ancient church's original mosaics are still visible.
The walkways between the buildings in the complex are filled with beautiful greenery typical of the Judean Hills on which the monastery is situated — we're inclined to believe the weather reports have pleasant things to say about this area in Israel. The meteorological station was established in 1919 and, incidentally, was the first weather-measuring station in the country.
The monastery is also known as Beit Gemal. Pictured above is a sign at the entrance of the grounds. (Photo: Flavio~/Flickr)
"The access to the monastery is very easy and many people visit there," says Flavio Grynszpan, a photographer who has visited the site, "yet the place is magically isolated and charming."
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE: