The amazing Monastery of St. Goerge, which hangs from a cliff complex carved from the sheer rock wall in the Judean desert, with it’s lush garden of olive and cypress trees is one of the most stunning sites of the Holy Land. Not only this the region is famous for the setting of the route for the Roman road on which Jesus set the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
The monastery was founded in the beginning of the 5th century when the Egyptian John of Thebes, gathered five monks whom traveled from Syria and settled around a cave where they believed the prophet Elijah was fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:5-6). The tombs of these five monks, are today under the auspices of the churches of St. John and St. George at the lower level of the modern monastery. The monastery however is not named after these five monks but instead after its most famous monk, St George of Koziba, whom arrived as a teenager from Cyprus to follow ascetic life in the Holy Land in the sixth century, after both his parents death.
Another Christian tradition links a large cave above the monastery with St Joachim, was the husband of Saint Anne and the father of Mary the mother of Jesus, according to the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican traditions. He is said to have stopped to lament the barrenness of his wife, St Anne, until an angel arrived to tell him she would conceive.
The monastery was ravaged in the 7th century by the Persians, whom also martyred all 14 resident monks, and was later rebuilt in the 12th century by Crusaders, then abandoned after the Crusaders were expelled from the Holy Land. Complete restoration was undertaken by a Greek monk, Callinicos, between 1878 and 1901, and later it’s signature bell tower was added in 1952.
The monastery has three levels: the upper level contains the church of the cave named after the Prophet Elijah, the middle level has the main buildings of the monastery named after John and George of Choziba, as well as the church of the Virgin Mary; on the lower level is the arched storerooms, the tombs of the five Syrian monks, and the ancient church.
Today the monastery is well known for its hospitality of visitors to the holy land, including female pilgrims, following a precedent set by a Byzantine noblewoman whom claimed the Virgin Mary had directed her to this holy land site for healing from an incurable illness.
In recent years a new road improved access to the monastery, however visitors must walk down a steep winding path for approximately 15 minutes to reach the monastery. Some visitors hire a donkey from the local Bedouin which help facilitate the entrance. While the monastery is not a normal holy land tour destination, it is often well worth the effort to visit the monastery by hiring a private Israel tour guide for the occasion.