St. George’s Monastery and the Wadi Qelt

St. George’s Monastery and the Wadi Qelt

6 Questions You May Be Asking Yourself

Located in the cliffs of the Wadi Qelt is St. George’s Monastery, a spectacular edifice carved out of the rock wall. In January of 2006 I experienced hiking through the wadi, to the monastery, back down into the wadi, and on to the city of Jericho. If you have the opportunity to do it, making the hike is the best way to experience this breathtakingly beautiful site.

Questions that may arise as you hike the wadi to the monastery.

What is a wadi?

A wadi is a dry or seasonal riverbed. So, during the rainy season, the wadi may be flowing with water, but otherwise, it is dry. The Wadi Qelt runs between Jerusalem and Jericho, and it is the path on which Jesus set the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Why hike there?


It is true, this part of the country is known as the “wilderness” and it is very dry and hot, and if you’re in there alone, could be quite daunting as you don’t know who or what might be hiding among the rocks. But hiking along the riverbed also has its advantages. One advantage is that you will be able to identify where the water sources are when you see the patches of green in the wilderness.

What will I see there?

Seeing the monastery from the wadi on your hike is quite impressive, and gets more and more impressive the closer you get as you see the intricacies of the complex. While hiking you can expect dry, rocky ground, some green patches, tricky paths…all of the things you would normally expect in the desert wilderness. In the midst of what you see, take time to listen to what you can hear. What amazed me was the sounds of animals, other voices, and running water to name a few. Just imagine while you’re out there that you are the only one there. How attuned would you be to every little sound?

Why are those women spitting on your baby?

I know this sounds like a very strange question, but it is one that I heard on my hike to the monastery! At the beginning of the hike walking along a paved road before you get to the wadi we encountered some orthodox Greek women who were coming back from their trip to the monastery. My professor was carrying her then 5-month old precious little girl on her back in a baby backpack. When the “ya-yas” saw her, they were oohing and aahing over her…and spitting on her!! All of us students were stunned. My professor, being married to a Greek man, knew exactly what was happening and told us not to be alarmed. They were warding off the evil spirits! So, if you see some ya-yas and they start spitting at you…don’t be offended! 

Does anyone live in the monastery, and if so, who?

St. George’s is one of only 5 functioning monasteries in the Judean desert. A handful of Greek Eastern Orthodox monks still live at St. George’s.

Why would anyone choose to live out there?

Monks seeking the desert experience of the prophets lived in the caves around the site beginning in the 4th century A.D. The monastery was then founded on a spot near the cave where the monks believed the prophet Elijah was fed by ravens.




Brynne TurnerComment