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Al- Khader (St. George)

Contributed by Turathuna Bethlehem University on 06.12.2006:

A short distance out of Beit Jala is the village of al-Khader, a little town of 5,000 inhabitants. It is surrounded by vineyards, fig and olive trees. It can be reached via Beit Jala or the Bethlehem-Hebron Road. The entrance to the village is marked by a distinctive stone gate. Inside the village, there is the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. George, a popular site of pilgrimage where the sick and insane are often brought to be cured by the so- called Chains of St. George. The first church in the monastery was established in 1600 A.D. on the site where St. George is believed to have lived a part of his life.

The present church was built in 1912 along with the convent and a mental hospital. The latter is not in use anymore but the monastery is till the source of a very rich store of religious folklore.

The church is visited by many local people, especially on the Saint’s day, May 5th. People present their votive offerings, such as candles, oil and sanctified loaves. During Turkish times, the rooms beside the convent were used to house the mentally disturbed, and some believed that al- Khader would heal them. Thus al-Khader or St. George is one of the saints who are attributed with healing patients when their relatives appealed to him in piety to cure their loved ones.

Al-Khader is also attributed with protection; hence, a sculpture of St. George killing the dragon decorates the fa├žade of many Christian houses and a few Muslims ones in the district.

Source: A Guide to Bethlehem and its Surroundings by Sawsan and Qustandi Shomali.

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