The Canaanite word qanah means a reed, possibly referring either to the plant growing near the village spring and having grooves like those of sugar cane or to a measure of a metre or a metre- and-a-half taken from these reeds.
This name has become widely familiar because of the place of the first miracle of Jesus, the changing of water into wine, as told in the Gospel (John II 1-11). However, there are several villages and sites which bear this name, for example Nabeh el-Qanah (the Spring of the Reeds) above Mayrouba in Kesrouan. In Palestine there is Qanah, a torrent between Ephraïm and Manasseh mentioned in the book of Joshua XVI 18 and XVII 9; Qanah el-Jalili 14 km north-east of Nazareth, now called Hirbet Qanah, which is said by one tradition to be the village of the miracle for “Nathaneal was from there” John 21/2 - 1/45-50 ; further, there is also Kafra Qanah on the road from Nazareth to Tiberiad, which claims the honour of being the place of the miracle.
Finally there is our Qanah in Lebanon which also makes this claim and offers evidence in the form of sculptures in the rock, a sanctuary claiming a tradition, and certain ancient and medieval writings. For this reason it is called Qanah el-Jalili (the Glorious) and our poet Saïd AKL of Zahleh has proclaimed magnificently “Christianity was born with us in Lebanon.” (See John II 11 about this miracle as a result of which Jesus’ first disciples came to believe in him.)
This large village was in Phoenician territory on the Mediterranean slope of the hills, although it has been mentioned as forming part of the Israeli tribe of ASHER, named after the eighth son of Jacob, born of the servant Zilpa given to Lea by Laban (Genesis XLVI, 17,18), who claimed this side of the mountains as far as Sidon (Joshua XIX 28). Egyptian lists of commercial highways and military concentration points mention it from the 17th century B.C. onwards. The prosperity of the town is based on agriculture, which supports a mainly Shiite Muslim population, but there is a Greek Catholic church as well as a mosque. During the Israeli occupation of the southern border the inhabitants were under the protection of Fijian troops of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. A number of people were victims of an Israeli massacre when taking part in a demonstration. This attack came in the framework of an Israeli operation code-named Grapes of Wrath which was against the Lebanese Hizbollah between the 15th and 27th of April, 1996. On April 18th this bombardment of some 350 Lebanese civilians killed 112 and wounded 130, mainly children, women and elderly persons. There was a national funeral and a special cemetery was laid out in their memory.
In his 'Histoire des Maronites', 1985, Father Boutros Deeb claims to have shown scientifically that this Qanah in the “lands of Sidon the Great” was beyond doubt the scene of the miracle of Jesus (pp. 217-223). He cites the Church historian Eusebius of Cæsarea († 339 A.D.), who simply states, “Qana, near Sidon the Great.” Father Boutros Deeb affirms that Hirbet Qana “did not exist at the time of Jesus.” That there were Jews in this remote hamlet “on the Phoenician slopes near Tyre” is quite possible. Jews were scattered over all the towns of the empires of the East, being called Jews of the Diaspora. Saint Jerome does not contradict the site of the miracle being “at Qanah of Sidon the Great, of the Book of Joshua, a little village of Galilee of the Gentiles.” A passage from the history by Flavius Josephus, 67 A.D., shows him going down from Qanah of Galilee down to Tiberia with two hundred men. It took him a whole night, which supposes a distance of 70 or 80 km, just that from Qanah el-Jalil to Tiberia. When Jesus withdrew far from the Jews who followed him (Matthew XV 21 “he withdrew into the country of Tyre and Sidon” and Mark VII 24, 31), Qanah is not mentioned as one might have expected, whereas in John IV 46 Jesus returns from Judea in Galilee and not from Phoenicia (Jean IV 54. This providential disposition shows that Jesus did not attach any importance to fixed places (John IV 21).
- The Grotto Cana, south of Lebanon: >> View Movie << (2002-10-01)