"Check point!" Volunteers wake up with a jolt. Through the window, the silhouette of a pretty village can be seen in the distance, lost between the olive trees. They are arriving in Khabab. This village is not unknown to them, since every week, the same car takes the same road to the same place. But Khabab is far from being a city we get tired of. Located south of the Syrian capital, Khabab is one of the historic jewels of Syria.
We get out of the car, and venture into a path between two dark stone walls. It is among these that one of the oldest churches in our history is now hidden, built in the third century above a pagan temple, which would have previously served as a place dedicated to the gods of luck, Tika, to protect the harvest of the villagers of Arizinooua and Eishfirinoua.
Guided by Athar, a resident of the village, we enter a large courtyard, where the wild grasses are reluctant to let us pass until they reach the entrance of the chapel. A sweet feeling of freshness surprises us. In the centre of what was once the nave, a ray of sunlight has managed to find its way through the gutted roof and allows us to contemplate the work of the ancestors. Fascinated by this simple but colossal architecture, we remain silent. With our heads in the air and our mouths open, we scrutinize almost two thousand years of history, superimposed one on top of the other in a vault.
With sparkling and proud eyes, Athar accelerated our jump through time: "Here was the altar, first used for sacrifices, then to celebrate Holy Mass. Khabab was called "Abiba" at that time, which means "green ear fields" in Aramaic. These large cellars, on your right, were used as tombs. Legend has it that they still hide the treasure of the chapel today. This chapel has remained abandoned for all these years, hence its condition.”
My foot, which stumbles on a root, abruptly takes us back to the twenty-first century. Yes, this chapel was invaded by a colony of fig trees, brambles, which surmount the collapsed stones of the ceiling. On both sides, all kinds of waste denounce oblivion, time and old age.
"Yallah! "The watchword has been given, each volunteer provided himself with a seal, shovel or broom, and began the great cleaning. Stones, earth, brambles, trees, everything must disappear from the great nave, as well as from the aisles. Everyone finds their place in this beautiful project, between the ones who attack the vegetation and the most melancholics who seek to discover the old tomettes hidden by ten centimetres of earth.
Suddenly a huge "BOOM" i above the ground. Ramez, in an incredible momentum, lifts stones, qualified as "unfit for transport", that are hindering the work of the volunteers. A general laugh relaxes our faces already colored by the earth. The Syrians are really surprising!
In a few hours, a few weeks, the change is radical. On the ground, the rubble has given way to red tomettess. The walls, stripped of ivy, seem more imposing. At the bottom, the stones of the altar are stacked, ready to be reassembled as they were in the past. Outside the holy place, the great courtyard has lost its high stems and brambles. Now, the presbytery they defended is easily accessible.
But the work is far from over. If the volunteers take turns to work, the project will continue for years to come. After the big clean-up, architects, masons, workers must come to help us. This chapel is only a beginning, but of great importance. It is like the first stone that is placed in a house, and this house is the history of Syria.
With the war and crisis, few people became interested in the history of their country, since they had neither the time nor the priority. But a country that is not attached to its history can hardly attach itself to its nation.
Through their history, the Syrians will find the strength to face the ego of men, and no one can take away this wealth hidden in their hearts. We have found the treasure of this chapel: it is neither gold nor jewelry, but it is the hope that emerges from such a project.
However, such a project still requires the participation of many professionals, whether for reconstruction, electricity, or others, which require time and money. You too, participate financially in this project, make a donation.
Aliette, volunteer in Syria for two months.