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.

Sites in the Bethlehem Region:

Bethlehem City

Bethlehem has long been a point of convergence for many who have journeyed in this region of the world. Get to know this complex and historically rich city.

Church of St. George

Christians and Muslims alike revere St. George at the church of Al-Khader, who remains a living symbol in Palestine and the center of a vibrant yearly festival.

Mosque of Omar

The elegant Mosque of Omar stands on the corner across from the Church of the Nativity, a long-standing symbol of cooperation and mutual respect between the Christians and Muslims of Bethlehem.

Nativity Church

For seventeen centuries the Nativity Church has attracted pilgrims from all over the world. Enter through its “door of humility” into one of Christianity’s most sacred places.

Shepherds’ Fields

Imagine watching over flocks of sheep by night in the traditional location of an angelic announcement of Jesus’s birth.