25 July 2017

From Syria to Jerusalem: a fabric shop in the old city

Bilal Abu Khalaf is a merchant of textiles imported from Syria to dress Christians, Jews and Muslims religious and lay people.

Archaeology, Culture, and other Religions

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Bilal Abu Khalaf is not an actor who is getting ready to play a scene of an old movie, but a merchant from Jerusalem who habitually wears some of the clothes he sells in his store of fine fabrics in Jerusalem's Old City.

BILAL ABU KHALAF
Textile Merchant
"After my father died, I decided to manage the store alone. I bought this building on Muristan Road and I decided to dedicate it to the fabrics and to the heritage of the three monotheistic religions. I imported from Syria the typical fabrics used for male and female traditional clothes, and also those used for Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious clothes. I chose the three monotheistic religions so that their representatives could meet in the store. Several times they met by chance and that is how they know each other."
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This store tells many stories, not just those of fabrics that come from far away, from some cities in Syria, like Palmira, which have now been destroyed ... but it also preserves Christian archaeological remains in its foundations.

BILAL ABU KHALAF
Textile Merchant
"When I bought the shop and restored it, I discovered the remains of the apse of a crusade church named Saint Mary. Archaeologists told me I could cover it, since I already had recorded it and catalogued it in the maps. But I decided to tile the floor with glass at my own expense, so that every tourist gets to see what this place used to be."

The past lives in Abu Khalaf's shop, thanks to his dedication in handing down a tradition and wisdom from father to son. His attention to detail has led him to dress imams, priests, monks and bishops, up to Pope Benedict XVI.

BILAL ABU KHALAF
Textile Merchant
"I was very happy to have become famous abroad thanks to the Pope. I am also proud that the only gift from Jerusalem that a visiting cardinal bought here for the Pope was a vesture from my shop."

BILAL ABU KHALAF
Textile Merchant
"I have an 8 year old son, and I try to encourage him to learn this profession. I would like this tradition to continue through his sons and grandchildren, so that I can pass on this treasure from generation to generation. "