Wadi al-Qilt – St. George Monastery
Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 23.09.2006:
Wadi (Valley) al-Qilt stretches from the suburbs of Jerusalem in the west to Jericho and Jordan River in the east. All along the beautiful path of the wadi hikers enjoy the natural view of rocks, caves and the eroded pebbles in the bottom of the valley. Trees and bushes are permanently green forming an oasis in the desert valley, and along the aqueduct. The many natural caves and shelters spread along the wadi are used by Bedouins and their livestock.
The appearance of many shelters and small ruins of the Byzantine Period indicates the density of monastic life during that period. Before the end of the wadi, Jericho appears a wide flat plain with a very beautiful natural scene. From the top of the mountains by the valley gorge the Dead Sea and most of the Jordan Valley is visible.
The importance of the wadi commences with Herod’s demand for water to supply his winter palace and garden during the Roman Period. A Roman aqueduct was built along the valley to bring water from ‘Ein Fawwar. The structure of this aqueduct is still visible in the valley. The recent water aqueduct used now was built in the Jordanian times along the same line as the Roman one.
The availability of water made the valley one of the known Roman roads. This road was continued in the Byzantine Period and used as a pilgrimage road. Many of the caves and shelters along the wadi were therefore densely populated by monks during the monastic movement in the Byzantine Period and later developed into a monastery.
‘Ein Fawwar is a spring located in the bottom of the gorge, 4.5 km north of Khan al-Hathruri. Its water is drawn along the valley through an aqueduct as far as ‘Aqbet Jaber, the refugee camp at the southwestern entrance of Jericho.
About 250 m east of the water pumping station is a Byzantine ruin of rooms, mosaic floors and a large cistern. In the bottom of the gorge, below the ruins, big stones and mosaic lay after being tumbled down due to natural disaster.
Proceed to walk in the wadi for about 5 km from ‘Ein Fawwar spring eastward to reach another spring known as ‘Ein Qilt. On the northern side of the valley there were several caves with some mosaic remains scattered around, indicating an early monastic occupation known locally as Deir Abu Alassi.
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