A one spring day trip to St. George's Monastery in Wadi Qelt and the Qumran archaeological site offers a unique glimpse into the religious, mystic, and spiritual traditions of the northern part of the Dead Sea. The journey starts with a visit to St. George's Monastery in Wadi Qelt. This historic monastery is located in a remote desert canyon and was established by early Christian monks who sought solitude and asceticism. Visitors can see the remains of the monastic complex, including the church, cells, and cisterns. The peaceful atmosphere of the monastery and its surrounding landscape contrasts the bustling modern world and offers a glimpse into the early practices of monks in the region.
After visiting the monastery, the trip continues to the Last Chance eatery at the Almog intersection for a delicious meal. This is an excellent opportunity to take a break and refuel before continuing to the Qumran archaeological site.
Located near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, the Qumran site was inhabited by a Jewish community during the Second Temple period and is most commonly associated with the Essenes, a mystic sect. Visitors can see the remains of the buildings and cisterns that were used by the community, as well as learn about the history and culture of the ancient Jewish community in the region.
The unique atmosphere of the northern part of the Dead Sea, including its religious, mystic, and spiritual traditions, is evident in both St. George's Monastery and Qumran. These two sites offer a fascinating insight into the diverse religious practices and beliefs of the ancient communities who lived in the region. They highlight the enduring legacy of the early Christian monks who sought solitude and asceticism in the Wadi Qelt caves.
The trail leading to St. George's Monastery in Wadi Qelt is a picturesque hike that takes visitors through a stunning desert canyon, surrounded by towering cliffs and scenic views. The trail is well-defined and can be easily navigated.
The trail is relatively easy, but there are some steep sections and rocky terrain, so sturdy shoes and plenty of water are recommended.
The visiting hours for St. George's Monastery may vary, but typically the Monastery is open to visitors from 9 AM until 1 PM. It is always a good idea to come an hour before closing and check the holidays and special dates.
Keep in mind that the Monastery is a religious site, and visitors are expected to dress modestly and behave respectfully while on the premises. Visitors are also asked to observe any rules or restrictions that may be in place to protect the Monastery and its surroundings.
Wadi Qelt is a canyon located in the West Bank, near Jericho, and it is known for its scenic beauty and rich geological history. The rock formations in the area have been shaped by millions of years of erosion and weathering, and they are an essential part of the natural landscape.
The natural caves along the cliffs of Wadi Qelt were used as dwellings by early human civilisations. These caves provided shelter and protection, and they were often used as residences, storage facilities, and even tombs.
In the early Christian era, monks and hermits sought solitude and spiritual reflection in the desert, and many went to Wadi Qelt to live in the natural caves along the cliffs. Over time, these early monastic communities grew and developed, and the monasteries in Wadi Qelt became important centres of worship and religious study.
St. George's Monastery, also known as Deir Mar George or Deir al-Sultan, is a Greek Orthodox monastery located in Wadi Qelt near Jericho, in the West Bank. The monastery was built in the early byzantine era and is said to have been the site of a cell of St. George, who was a Christian martyr. The site has been continuously inhabited by monks since the Byzantine period.
George of Choziba, also known as the Monastery of Choziba, Mar Jaris, or simply St. George's Monastery, is a Greek Orthodox monastery in Wadi Qelt in the eastern West Bank, near Jericho. It is a cliff-hanging complex that dates back to the 420s and was reorganised as a monastery around AD 500. It is home to the relics of St. George of Choziba and St. John of Choziba and is still active and inhabited by Greek Orthodox monks.
The Monastery is accessible by a pedestrian bridge across Wadi Qelt, believed by many as the "valley of the shadow of death" mentioned in Psalm 23. The valley runs parallel to the old Roman road to Jericho, and the Monastery is open to pilgrims and visitors. The location of the Monastery has been associated with the lives of Elijah and the parents of the Virgin Mary, making it a site of intense pilgrimage.
Throughout its history, the Monastery has been known by various names, including the Monastery of Choziba, Hoziba, Chozeva, or Hozeva. After the death of St. George of Choziba, it became known as the Monastery of Saint George of Choziba or St. George the Hozevite Monastery. Today, it is commonly known as simply St. George's Monastery or Mar Jaris in Arabic. It is also often referred to as St. George Monastery in Wadi Qelt or St. George Monastery (Jericho) to differentiate it from other religious sites that bear the name of St. George of Lydda.
The origins of monastic life at St. George's Monastery date back to around 420 CE, when a group of monks established a lavra in the area. These monks sought the desert experience of the prophets and settled near a cave where they believed Elijah was fed by ravens. The hermits living in nearby caves would gather at the monastery for a weekly mass and communal meal.
In the late 5th or early 6th century, the lavra was reorganized as a monastery by John of Thebes, also known as Saint John of Choziba, who had come to Syria Palaestina from Egypt. During this time, the monastery was dedicated to the Mother of God.
Under the leadership of Saint George of Choziba, who died around 620 CE, the monastery became an important spiritual center. It was eventually renamed after him and contained a small chapel dedicated to Saint Stephen and a church of the Virgin Mary. However, in 614 CE, the monastery was destroyed by the Persians and the fourteen monks who lived there were massacred.
In the late 8th century, the monastery became associated with the parents of the Virgin Mary, Saints Joachim and Anne. A monk from that period mentions a "House of Joachim." After the destruction by the Persians, the monastery was rebuilt during the Crusader period, with restorations made by Manuel I Komnenos in 1179 and Frederick II in 1234. After the defeat of the Crusaders, the monastery was abandoned until it was re-established in 1878 by a Greek monk named Kalinikos. Since then, the monastery has been in the care of several different monks or abbots, including Father Kalinikos, Father Amphilochios, Father Antonios Iosiphidis, Father Germanos, and the current abbot, Father Constantinos.
The main church of the monastery includes the depicts of Father Ioan (John), also known as Ilie Iacob. He was a Romanian monk-priest who was born in 1913. He left his position as abbot of a Romanian skete on the River Jordan and moved to the Monastery of Saint George of Choziba in 1952, along with his attendant and disciple, Ioanichie Pârâială. The following summer, the two retreated to the nearby Cave of St. Anne, where Father John remained until his death from illness seven years later in 1960. He was declared a saint by the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate in 1992 and was officially recognized as such by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 2016. His name was added to the official name of the monastery, and his relics are housed in the main church's chapel, next to the relics of Saints John of Thebes and Saint George of Choziba. He is known as Saint John (Iacob) the New Chozevite, Saint John the Romanian, or Saint John of Neamț.
Wadi Qelt, also known as Nahal Prat or Nahal Faran, is a valley and stream located in the West Bank that begins near Jerusalem and flows into the Jordan River near Jericho. This area is known for its rich natural environment and abundant bird population, which has been designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International. The wadi is home to three perennial springs, each with a different Arabic and Hebrew name. It supports populations of birds such as Eurasian eagle owls, griffon vultures, Bonelli's eagles, and lesser kestrels. The stream is called Prat in Hebrew and is divided into three sections, each with its name in Arabic: Wadi Fara for the upper section, Wadi Fawar for the middle section, and Wadi Qelt for the lower area.
Spring is a time of renewal and growth, and it is possible that the Wadi Qelt, also known as Nahal Prat, will experience a spring-blooming season. During this time, various vegetation types in the area may come into bloom, creating a beautiful display of colour and fragrance.
The Chapel outside the monastery walls contains the bones and skulls of the martyred monks killed by the Persians in 614 CE.
The stream that runs through Wadi Qelt, formerly known as Pharan Brook, has several aqueducts from the Hellenistic period (2nd century BCE) that were used to transport water from the three main springs down to the plain of Jericho. At the lower end of the valley, where it reaches the Plain of Jericho, stood the winter palaces of Hasmonean kings and Herod the Great. Within the Hasmonean royal winter palaces, a structure that archaeologist Ehud Netzer identified as a synagogue is now known as the Wadi Qelt Synagogue and is believed to be one of the oldest synagogues in the world. However, its identification as a synagogue is contested by many scholars. During the First Jewish War with Rome, the insurgent leader Simon bar Giora is said to have taken refuge in caves in the valley.
The Wadi Qelt is frequented by Bedouin shepherds for their livestock. Additionally, some Bedouin and Jericho residents make a living near the Monastery of St. George by providing donkey rides for pilgrims and sold refreshments and souvenirs.
Once upon a time, there was a tent built and designed by Dani, the charming and handsome owner of the place. This tent was the most romantic place in the country according to the newspaper "Leisha", but the electrical fire burned down the foundation of Dani's life work. He rebuilt it. This time, the structure was sturdy and wouldn't easily catch fire, still preserving something of the original tent's atmosphere. The atmosphere in the place is truly unique. It is a blend of bedouin coffee and Marley music.
Deni and his wife, Guri, live in Jericho. At one time, they grew vegetables and flowers and lost a lot of money. The name "The Last Chance" was given because it was their last chance to live with dignity, not, as many think, the last chance to eat before reaching the Dead Sea.
There is a dairy and meat kitchen that operates in a harmonious and pleasant kosher environment. The Last Chance is an excellent place for a romantic and not expensive meal. On the menu, you'll find homemade hummus and falafel, Galilean rice, a superb shakshuka, grilled meats, various salads, and baked goods made here every day with a goodvibe. And here's something else you won't find in many places in the area: delicious tahini and hummus.
Qumran National Park is located on the West Bank, near the northern edge of the Dead Sea. It is known for its archaeological significance, as it is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of Jewish texts that are considered to be some of the oldest surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible, and they provide valuable insight into the history and culture of ancient Judaism.
As for February 2023, The park's entry is closed an hour before the listed hours, and entry to the auditorium and museum will remain open until half an hour before the site's closure.
Summer hours: From Sunday to Thursday and on Saturdays: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM On Fridays and holiday evenings: from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Winter hours: From Sunday to Thursday and on Saturdays: from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM On Fridays and holiday evenings: 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM On the eve of Rosh Hashanah and Passover: 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM to On Yom Kippur Eve: 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Qumran is a historical site known for being the location of the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The site was initially built during the Hellenistic period and was inhabited by a Jewish community during the late Second Temple period, believed to be the Essenes. Qumran was occupied until the Romans destroyed it during the First Jewish-Roman War, around 68-73 CE. Jewish rebels later used it during the Bar Kokhba Revolt.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947-1956 led to extensive excavations at the site of Qumran. Nearly 900 scrolls were found, primarily written on parchment and some on papyrus. The excavations revealed Jewish ritual baths, cisterns, and cemeteries, as well as a dining or assembly room and debris from an upper story that may have been a scriptorium. Some scholars believe Qumran was home to a Jewish sect, possibly the Essenes, while others propose it was a Hasmonean fort or a production centre.
A large cemetery was found to the east of Qumran, containing the remains of both males and females. However, only a tiny portion of the graves was excavated. There are theories that the bodies buried at the cemetery were either those of sect members (men) or brought to Qumran for easier burial (women).
The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 11 caves near the settlement, some of which could only be accessed through the site. Some scholars believe the caves served as the permanent libraries of the sect. The texts found in the caves reflect a mix of widely accepted Jewish beliefs and practices, as well as unique or minority interpretations and practices. Most scrolls were likely hidden in the caves during the First Jewish-Roman War, although some may have been deposited earlier.
Behind the walkway to the wadi on the right is the aqueduct that brought rainwater into the site. The Qumran gorge is in the central distance.
Water supply was important in Qumran because it was located in a desert region near the Dead Sea, where water was scarce. The community would have needed a reliable water source for drinking, cooking, bathing, and other daily activities. Cisterns, or underground storage tanks, were found during the excavations at Qumran, indicating that the community had a system for collecting and storing water. Additionally, the presence of Jewish ritual baths, or mikva'ot, suggests that the district placed a high value on maintaining ritual purity through frequent bathing.
Given the harsh desert environment, having a reliable water supply was crucial for the Qumran community's survival. The society may have relied on rainwater collection, nearby springs, and possibly even the nearby Dead Sea for their water needs. The importance of water supply in Qumran highlights the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the people who lived there in adapting to their challenging desert surroundings.
Millstones made from basalt have been found at the archaeological site of Qumran. These stones were used in a grinder called a saddle quern, which was used to grind grains into flour. The use of basalt for mill stones was every day in the ancient Near East due to its durability and resistance to wear. The presence of mill stones at Qumran indicates that the community was involved in food production and may have been self-sufficient in their food supply.
One of the most notable finds at Qumran is a stepped cistern located on the eastern side of the main building. This cistern features a crack down the steps, likely caused by an earthquake, and a channel to the south that fed the giant cistern at Qumran, which was also damaged similarly. As a colossal cistern was used in a late phase of the site, it is believed that the stepped cistern was also injured during that time. The presence of dividers running down the steps is also noteworthy. Some scholars have suggested that these served as partitions, similar to Jewish ritual baths found near Jerusalem, but this interpretation is not universally accepted. Others believe the dividers may have channelled water into the pool.
An assembly room and a scriptorium are among the structures at the Qumran archaeological site. The assembly room, known as a "refectory," was likely used for communal meals and gatherings. It is a large, rectangular room with stone benches along the walls, and it may have been used for other purposes, such as educational or religious instruction.
The scriptorium is an area where written documents were produced, and it is believed to have been located in the upper story of one of the buildings at Qumran. Although no direct evidence of a scriptorium has been found, debris from an upper level, such as inkwells and writing implements, suggests that it was used for writing and producing manuscripts. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in nearby caves, many of which were written in Hebrew and Aramaic, has led scholars to conclude that the Qumran community was likely involved in producing and preserving texts.
The assembly room and the possible scriptorium at Qumran provide valuable insights into the daily life and activities of the community. They suggest a focus on communal living and learning, and the presence of the scriptorium highlights the importance placed on the production and preservation of written texts.
Cave 4, located near the Qumran archaeological site, is an artificial cave that was cut into the cliff face by humans. It is one of the eleven caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Cave 4 is one of the largest and most important of the Dead Sea Scrolls caves, and it is estimated that several hundred scrolls were found there.
The cave was discovered and opened up in the 20th century by a local Bedouin who had been searching for scrolls. The Bedouin brought the scrolls to the attention of scholars and archaeologists, who later conducted excavations at the site and discovered many more scrolls in other nearby caves.
Cave 4 is significant because it contains a large number of well-preserved texts, including fragments from every book of the Hebrew Bible, as well as extra-biblical texts and documents. The texts found in Cave 4 have provided valuable insights into the history, culture, and religious beliefs of the Jewish community that lived in the vicinity of Qumran during the Second Temple period.
The "Room of Ceramics" is a room that was discovered during the excavations at the Qumran archaeological site. This room is located in one of the buildings at Qumran and may was used for the production of ceramics. The room is characterized by the presence of pottery kilns and a large amount of pottery fragments and waste, indicating that it was used for industrial-scale ceramic production.
The pottery produced in the Room of Ceramics was likely used for everyday purposes, such as cooking, storage, and serving food.
During the excavations, a large number of ceramic items were found in Room 708 at the southern end of the site, including 708 bowls, 204 plates, 75 goblets, 37 terrines, 21 jars, 11 jugs, and other items. The ceramics were mostly neatly stacked and used for meals in the "refectory". The southern end of the room was walled off, but later collapsed due to the effects of an earthquake, crushing the pottery.
All these facts strengthen the theory of the communal character of the settlement.
A stove for firing ceramics was discovered during the excavations at the Qumran archaeological site. The furnace would have been fueled by wood or other materials and would have reached high temperatures to harden and set the ceramics.
The discovery of the stove provides further evidence of the community's self-sufficiency and ability to use the available resources. It also highlights their expertise in ceramic production, as they created kilns for pottery firing.