The St. George Monastery
A visit to the St. George Monastery provides a glimpse into the world of St. John the Baptist, who chose the Judean Desert as his primary preaching platform. The monastery was constructed in the fourth century by monks who wished to immerse themselves in the lifestyles of John and Jesus. One of the world's oldest churches, Holy Land tour participants often marvel that the monastery has been built into a cliff and overlooks an inspiring view.
St. George is accessible on foot only. You can park at the entrance gate and walk for 15 minutes on a windy path. If you get tired, locals will offer you a donkey ride for a fee. Pilgrims who opt to hike will enjoy a trek through Wadi Qelt, which ends up at the monastery after a few hours.
As you walk toward the entrance to the monastery, remember that you are situated along the old Roman road from Jerusalem to Jericho. This is the road which is featured in Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan and which Jesus traveled on his trips between Jerusalem and the Galilee. The walk through the desert valley is also reminiscent of the "Valley of the Shadow of Death" mentioned in the Book of Psalms. St. George was itself was the spot where St. Joachim, whose wife Anne was infertile, wept when an angel announced the news of Mary's conception.
Don't miss a tour of the cave where Elijah fed the ravens, around which the monastery was built. The bones and skulls of monks killed when the Persians destroyed the monastery in 614 are on view in the chapel. A tomb of a Romanian monk from the 1960s holds his still-preserved body. Aside from the official Eastern Orthodox prayers in the monastery's church, many visitors choose to stand on the edge of the cliff and reflect on God's glory in this beautiful spot.