Perhaps for many the name “Wadi Es Siah” quickens their heartbeat, for others it is just a foreign expression like many others. For those who for many years have visited and walked through the valley on Mount Carmel near Haifa, called Wadi Es Siah, it is a mystical place imbued with memories, ever old and ever new.
Certainly for all Carmelites, this natural ravine, with so many historical and archeological remains, is a constant reminder to us of our origins and the cradle of our childhood. We do not wish to go over all the historical and archeological data that make this place so unique for Carmelites. However, somewhat caught up in the emotion of all that is happening, we would like to share some of what the two Father Generals, O.Carm. and O.C.D. hope to able to achieve together. This is an ambitious project of conservation, care and restoration of the archeological and natural ruins, and of the surroundings, in the place where the first Carmelite hermits really lived.
For us, as for many, walking through the Wadi Es Siah is not just a recognition of something that happened in the past and an expression of interest in culture generally, but a way of sensing and knowing with the heart, slaking a thirst by drinking from the well that refreshes every day the spirituality of simple Carmelites.
I do not know which is more contagious, our belonging to the Holy Land, or our birth in this place, but this combination or this double track, leads us one way or another to our sacred goal. We leave it to you to discover for yourselves and to experience this journey.
Getting more to the practical side of things in relation to this project in the Wadi Es Siah we begin with the desire and the determination of the two General Superiors not to abandon this place that is so dear. This desire found expression in the establishment of a joint commission made up of O.Carm. and O.C.D. friars, who by working together endeavour to find the best way to study and then to concretise the common desires as to how to preserve, maintain, visit and protect this Carmelite heritage in terms of its historical, archeological and naturalistic dimensions. The members of this Commission at the moment are, Fr. Raul Maravi, O.Carm., Councillor General, Fr. José Colón, Fr. Francisco Nigral and Bro. Fausto Spinelli, all three members of the O.C.D. Israel Delegation.
Unfortunately, we are forced to act on two fronts by the urgency of the situation: safety and the strictly archeological and architectural restoration. In particular, work will have to be done, in line with the Israeli Department of Antiquities, to restore the ancient buildings, particularly the Church, as a beginning. As we already indicated, however, before beginning any of this work, we have to ensure that this important Carmelite site is safeguarded against intruders and from damage either to persons or to property.
While this precautionary and cleaning work is being set up, we will not stop with these measures, but will put together a comprehensive plan that will involve the whole area and all the essential components, both archaeological and naturalistic. This will allow Carmelite pilgrims and other local people to visit the place. We must not forget that this site has a specific and religious interest not only for Carmelites but also for Jews and Moslems, not forgetting the many families, school groups and tourists who also visit the place.
We already realise that the road ahead for this project will not be very smooth and it will not be easy to bring to completion. This will be so, not only from the financial point of view, but also because it will not be possible to do everything at once, but a series of units will be required so that as finances become available and all the permissions are obtained from the local authorities, the work can go ahead in suitable stages. We know already that the Mayor’s Office, the Department for Israeli Antiquities and the National Park Authority which is responsible for the location will make demands on our time, our patience and our money. However, just as everything that is worthwhile demands effort and dedication a lot will have to be done to make this project a reality and to help it to endure.
We wonder should we write more. We may bore you by listing all the elements of architectural restoration that we hope to carry out, or by pointing out the routes that will allow people to visit the site, or by describing the resting areas from which there are a number of amazing views. Just making a list of all these would be dry and uninteresting, while explaining all the desires we have and the solutions that we still have to agree with the authorities would not be professional or very serious. So, for the moment all we can do is leave you with the curiosity and agree to stay in touch, to update you on how the project is proceeding. By just reading the article about the elements that are on the site at the moment, and by looking at the photos of the whole area, you will be able to get a good idea of what it is like right now and imagine how it might develop in the future.
Even though the joint commission of the two Carmelite families, under the guidance of the two Generals, will be the ones to work more directly in the development of the project and its completion, there will always be a need for the collaboration of many other people, not only the professionals who will deal with the bureaucratic aspects but all those who will help in making this work known to the Carmelite families spread throughout the world.
As in the case of every major undertaking all have to make their own contribution, and everyone with their own small brick, so here too we ask all those who are interested to help a little, by bring their own bucket, or their own capacity to the task. We ask you first of all for prayer and then to send your offering to Rome, to the Bursars General, Fr. Kevin Alban, O.Carm. and Fr. Attilio Ghisleri, O.C.D. who will be the first to deal with these gifts and offerings to make sure that they get to their destination, directly and in time for the execution of the various phases of the project.
Very soon a joint campaign from the two Carmelite families will be launched, to collect funds, in order that all the provinces, houses and monasteries may be able to help us directly.
We promise to keep you informed, but you also should feel free to ask us for regular information about what is happening, and the difficulties we have to meet along the way.