Monastery of St. George of Choziba
|Monastery of St. George of Choziba|
St. George Orthodox Monastery in Wadi Qelt
|Location||Jericho Governorate, West Bank, Palestine|
|Affiliation||Eastern Orthodox Church|
St. George Orthodox Monastery, or officially Monastery of Saints George and John Jacob of Choziba is a monastery located in Wadi Qelt, in the eastern West Bank, in the Palestinian Authority territories. The sixth-century cliff-hanging complex, with its ancient chapel and gardens, is active and inhabited by Eastern Orthodox monks. It is reached by a pedestrian bridge across Wadi Qelt, which many believe to be Psalm 23's "valley of the shadow of death". The valley parallels the old Roman road to Jericho, the backdrop for the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). The monastery is open to pilgrims and visitors.
Reachable from the Highway 1 between the Dead Sea and Jerusalem, by turning off to Mitzpe Yericho and following signs for the monastery. There is a 3-hour long hiking path through the wadi, or alternatively a parking lot across the wadi from the monastery with an adjacent lookout point. From the parking lot, it's a fairly short hike, about 1km, but VERY steep going down to the monastery. It gets very hot at times, and hiking back up in the heat could be very challenging for some people. There are young men with donkeys at the monastery who will give you a ride back up to the parking lot for a fee. Whatever price they quote you is negotiable.
The monastery is open daily except on Sundays and certain holidays, between 9 am and 1 pm.
There is a strict dress code. No shorts for men; no trousers of any sort for women, women must wear a long skirt, and a modest top.
Monastic life at the future site of St. George's Monastery began around 420 CE as a lavra, with a few monks who sought the desert experience of the prophets, and settled around a cave where they believed Elijah was fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:5-6). Hermits living in caves in nearby cliffs would meet in the monastery for a weekly mass and communal meal.
It became an important spiritual centre in the sixth century under Saint George of Choziba. The monastery was also named after St. George, the most famous monk who lived at the site. Destroyed in 614 by the Persians, the monastery was more or less abandoned after the Persians swept through the valley and massacred the fourteen monks who dwelt there.
The monastery was reestablished in 1878, and has since then been in the care of following monks or abbots:
- Father Kalinikos
- Father Amphilochios (born 1913, died 1986)
- Father Antonios Iosiphidis (d. 1993)
- Father Germanos (Georgios Tsibouktzakis; d. 2001)
- Father Constantinos (current abbot, as of 2018).
Romanian monk-priest, Father Ioan (John), born Ilie Iacob in 1913, left the Romanian skete on the River Jordan he had been the abbott of since 1947, and moved in 1952 to St George Monastery together with his attendant and disciple, Ioanichie Pârâială. Following summer the two retreated to the nearby Cave of St Anne, which Father John never left again. Affected by illness, he died after seven years, in 1960. In 1992 he was declared a saint by the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate and in 2015 he was recognised as such by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. His name was added to the name of the monastery and his body is exhibited at the front of the monastery church. He is known as Saint John (Iacob) the New, the Romanian, or of Neamț, the Chozevite.
Father Germanos, came to St George's in 1993 and lived there until he was killed by Arab terrorists in 2001. For many years he was the sole occupant of the monastery, of which he was named abbot in 2000. Emulating the Wadi Qelt monks of late antiquity, Father Germanos offered hospitality to visitors, improved the stone path used by pilgrims to climb up to the monastery, repaired the aqueducts, and improved the gardens of shade and olive trees.
Religious traditions and relics
The traditions attached to the monastery include a visit by Elijah en route to the Sinai Peninsula, and St. Joachim, whose wife Anne was infertile, weeping here when an angel announced to him the news of Mary's conception.
Relics of the three saints closely associated with Choziba - John of Thebes, George the Chozevite and John the Romanian - are kept in the monastery church.
The bones and skulls of the martyred monks killed by the Persians in 614 are kept today in a chapel outside the monastery walls.
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