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St. George Monastery


St. George, whose life straddled the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century, witnessed a period of persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. He was known for his special powers to heal patients physically and mentally, and to summon the rain to an area with scarce rainfall. To Christians, he is known as Mar Jiryes, while the Muslims refer to him as Al Khader, or the green healer who brings fertility. A Greek Orthodox Monastery dating back to the 16th century was erected in his name, just south of Bethlehem, next to the village that carries his name, El Khader. The present church was built in 1912, over the ruins of the 16th century chapel of which little has survived. St. George of Lydda was born in Cappadocia (modern Turkey). He was a Roman soldier but died as a martyr in 303 AD. Many legends are attributed to him and he is often portrayed as a soldier in full armour riding a horse and saving a damsel in distress or, as is the case in local culture, he is portrayed with a lance slaying a dragon and at his horse’s feet. Tradition has it that St. George was imprisoned at the very location of the monastery, and it is believed that the chains that were fettered around his body endowed him with the healing powers he was known for. Based on that story, an iron lock is found in the monastery, and when people go to visit and practice their worships, they place the chain around their neck in the belief that it prevents mental illnesses. The Feast of St. George is celebrated on 6 May of every year. On the eve of the feast, both Muslims and Christians flock to the monastery grounds from all over the area and picnic under the trees surrounding the church. The next morning, Christians from the towns of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour walk in a procession and head to the church to perform their annual ritual of offerings and celebration.

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