Up aloft on his ark, seeing the waters of the deluge
gradually abating, Noah perceived in Lebanon a hilltop
some twelve or thirteen hundred meters high. He then
chose his most beautiful olive trees to plant in this
enchanted spot, together with some vines.
The cataclysm once over and the heavens open no more,
the ark settled on dry land. Noah set about gathering
the olives of his acquisition and picked the bunches
of grapes, which he then pressed, and was overcome
by the influence of this nectar, this elixir, this
juice of the grape, after which he decided spread
the vine around the world. One may still visit the
olive trees of Noah at Besheleh on the heights above
Batroun, just eighty-three kilometers from Beirut.
The name of this village has its origins in the Akkadian
Semitic languages and indicates a splendid and unrivaled
site raised high.
The olive trees attributed to Noah go back six thousand
years. One may see them close alongside the road.
Their enormous brown and knotted trunks are of moderate
height but give an impression of great age thanks
to the vigorous offshoots all around them. These trees
are arranged and cared for with attention and love,
as is only too obvious. Their oil enjoys a high reputation
and the soil that supports them is carefully tilled.
It is a delight to see how they have braved the centuries
and still promise future abundance.
The village is surrounded by forests with trees of
every description. In Arabic, Besheleh means a flame.
The place was mentioned by the crusaders as Bet Zaal
or Beet Il, the High or the Proud. It covers about
six square kilometers, a hillside ridged with terraces
bearing olive trees, almond trees and vines. It is
irrigated by several springs, such as Mitwiya, Ain
al Foca and Ain Tahta.
There are several churches, such as the historic St.
Simon, 1880, and Our Lady (Al-Blata), 1600, and the
ruins of others such as Mar Mema, Mar Saba and Mar
Doumit, built with local stone and bearing half-effaced
inscriptions in Greek. The chapel of the hermitage,
Al-Habs, the Cell, is hewn out of the rock.
To the north of the village are the remains of a citadel
going back to Phoenician times. Grottoes abound, the
limestone being hard. The terraces stretch down from
the summit down into the valley, their soil sun-drenched
and fertile. Once planted with splendid vines, Beshelah
was once reputed for its wines and its arak.
To reach this village one may follow the road Amioun-Kour
or if one is coming from Beirut the road Jbeil-Jaj-Mayfouq.
Most of the inhabitants of Besheleh work in the built-up
districts on the coast and go up home at the weekends
and especially for the summer. One may however see
the studio of a sculptor who chisels away at stone
and olive wood, another craft workshop, a government
technical school, a welfare organization and a cooperative
for agricultural development.
Beshelah is a place well worth visiting, for it leaves
in us a certain nostalgia and revives our loves for
this sacred and legendary land.
- Village of Bshehle: >> View
Movie << (2008-08-01)