In Zawayda village, 15 kms (10 miles) from Gaza City, Abu Halabyea’s ministry struggles to preserve the site of the Saint Hilarion monastery, battling lack of know-how and tools.
Located near the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza Strip, it dates back to 329 AD when Hilarion returned from Egypt to Gaza after studying under Saint Anthony. It consists of several structures surrounded by an outer wall, including two churches, a burial site, a baptism hall and dining rooms.
First discovered in 1992, excavation work has gone slowly. At several points when digging stopped, the site had to be buried in sand for protection.
Work has been overseen by French experts who make seasonal trips to explore and supervise excavation, but they take their tools with them when they go home, says Abu Halabeya.
Story: Louise Gray, The Telegraph | Photo: ALAMY