The name of the village of Artas is derived from the latin word hortus (garden). Whilst today the village is a densely built-up area, a walk through the community and down to the convent of Hortus Conclusus shed light on its historic name. With plenty of water from Solomon’s Poolsjust west of the village, the wadi bed below the convent forms a scenic spot enclosed by the convent’s walls. Tradition sites these gardens as the same of those of Solomon, where we was said to visit each morning at dawn and may have inspired some of the nature allusions in the biblical book of Songs of Solomon.
Through donations as far away as Argentina and Uruguay, the convent was built in 1901 in honor of the Virgin Mary. She is symbolically seen to represent an enclosed garden with the garden representing the fullness of all virtues, and the enclosure Mary’s virginity. Today, a small community of Latin American sisters takes care of the gardens. While the population of Artas village is completely Muslim, relations between the Catholic sisters and the town have remained close. The convent organizes various activities and many children from the village attend its kindergarten. Every year on the third Sunday of August, the otherwise quiet convent livens up for the Feast of Hortus Conclusus.