When I was a small child, we lived close to a very special monastery. In that monastery was a very magical well that always fascinated the dreamy child in me. We were told that the well was always empty but if you prayed and your prayers were accepted then the water flowed and you could have a drink of holy water. I was in utter awe of seeing my suspended bowl attached to a piece of rope sometimes come up full.
In my travels I saw several cultures revere water in different ways. On this riverbank in Myanmar locals considered this water a miracle cure for their ailments, the river Ganga in India is considered the ultimate destination for Hindu worshippers.
There is so much mystery in something as simple as water. We are 70% mystery ourselves!
“Kadisha”, the name given to this valley and to the river that runs in its belly. Kadisha is ancient Aramaic for ‘holy’. This gorge has been used for burials and shelter as far back as the Paleolithic time. In its walls are thousands of caves that house monasteries, churches, thousands of meters high up in the cliffs and extremely difficult to reach. These served as a place of hiding for early Christian communities like the Jacobites, Melchites, Maronites, Armenians, Nestorians and Ethiopans who were escaping campaigns aiming to persecute and destroy them in the 13th Century by the Mameluks and other Sultans. Later it even became a place of meditation to the Sufis, historians, artists and clergy who settled in the valley. On its shoulders lies the village of Gibran Khalil Gibran.
One of my favorite churches as a child was a in the middle of a cliff facing our village in the valley and I remember the excitement every time a pilgrimage was planned to the church with family members and friends. The journey involved a very long walk down one side of the valley, pausing to have a meal at the cold fresh river to then hike up the other side on a tiny, steep, red soil track with the occasional olive tree, all the way up to the church, now a monastery. We all believed as children that the church was a place of miracles and we swore to seeing lights, visions and all sorts of magical things along the way.
The valley was and still is an enchanting memory that has a special place in the archives of my heart. I try to pass this to my daughter by taking her there whenever we can and telling her stories of what was, hoping that the spirit of the holy valley will choose to live with her too.