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The sixth-century cliff-hanging complex, with its ancient chapel and gardens, is still inhabited by a few Greek Orthodox monks. It is reached by a pedestrian bridge across the Wadi Qelt, which many imagine to be Psalm 23's Valley of the Shadow, and where shepherds still watch over their flocks, just as Ezekiel 34 and John 10:1-16 describe.
The valley parallels the old Roman road to Jericho, the backdrop for the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).
St. George's Monastery began in the fourth century with a few monks who sought the desert experiences of the prophets, John the Baptist and Jesus, and settled around a cave where they believed Elijah was fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:5-6).
This Greek Orthodox monastery was built in the late 5th century A.D. by John of Thebes. He became a hermit and moved to Palestine from Egypt in 480 CE. The monastery was named St. George after the most famous monk who lived at the site – Gorgias of Coziba. Destroyed in 614 CE 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 Crusaders made some attempts at restoration in 1179. However, it fell into disuse after their expulsion. In 1878, a Greek monk, Kalinikos, settled here and restored the monastery, finishing it in 1901. 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. The bones and skulls of the martyred monks killed by the Persians in 614 CE can still be seen today in the monastery chapel.
The monastery is located 20km/12.5mi from Jerusalem on the road to Jericho. There is a sign posted to the monastery, which goes off on the left from the rather higher north side which there is the first view of the gorge of the Wadi Qelt. From the parking lot there is a path only suitable for all-terrain vehicles which runs northeast (about 1.25 hours on foot) to a hill with a cross, from which there is a view of the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. George and far to the left, a rivulet flowing down the hillside from a spring, from which water is channeled to the monastery. The stony track continues (another half-hour's walk), to the entrance to the monastery, which clings precariously to the sheer north face of the gorge.
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The monastery is open to tourists. Visiting hours for tourists are:
- Sun - Fri 8:00 - 11:00 A.M. and 3:00 - 5:00 P.M.;
- Sat 9:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M. (GMT + 2 hours)