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Photo Essay: Feast of St. George 2006 El Khader

Contributed by Leyla Zuaiter on 13.05.2006:

It was six years ago that I had gone to the Feast of St. George, or El Khader. On that occasion I was accompanied by a large group of Palestinian Students exploring their religious and cultural heritage in a series of unforgettable trips under the auspices of the Arab Educational Institute and the Artas Folklore Center. I came home with enough material to fill many pages of my journal and to exercise my imagination for years. It is on just such trips as that one, that I came to realize that so many places in this land, from the most unprepossessing to the most vaunted, are the portal to centuries full of history, myths, legends, folklore and practices. Most tourists come and go, never realizing that they may have missed the most exciting of experiences, because for the most part, they only have guides to the physical features of Palestine, but no guides to the Palestinian people, their history, culture and society. If they are Christian pilgrims, they may be unaware of the extent of shared traditions between Muslims and Christians (sadly, even Palestinians have begun to forget this centuries-long shared heritage.) Aside from the formative years of the Judeo-Christian tradition, Westerners are even unaware of what their own cultures and civilizations have borrowed from Palestine. Who has not heard the story of St. George and the dragon? What Englishman does not know that St. George is the Patron Saint of England? But how many associate this Saint with the village called El Khader near Bethlehem, where on May 5 and 6 of each year, the lone Greek Orthodox priest who presides over the St. George’s Monastery, (who had changed since my previous visit) suddenly finds his Monastery the center of festivities on the street outside, and religious devotions inside. This year I visited El Khader on the first day of the feast. The next day, there was a procession and Mass in the morning, which I was unable to attend.This is a picture of the card handed out to visitors at the entrance to the church by young boys belonging to Shibibet El Khader from neighboring Beit Jala, who would like to revive life at the church. . The photos and text which follow offer the tiniest glimpse into the Feast of St. George, the Monastery and Church, and the folklore and traditions associated with it. If you are interested in knowing more, You can find much more on Palestine-family net:For an adapted version of my impressions on my first visit—and what other visitors could learn in a guided program—see:May 5, 2000 Outing to Al Khader, or St. George’s ChurchFor a fascinating article about El Khader/St. George which combines treatment of the many traditions associated with St. George as well as childhood memories of visits to El Khader see El-Khader: A National Palestinian Symbol by Palestinian Anthropologist Dr. Ali Qleibo at: in its original context at: some of the Myths and Legends associated with him see:Al Khader Tales

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