Road Trip to Northern West Bank – St. George’s Orthodox Church – 4th Oldest Church in the World

On our road trip to the northern West Bank, we drove to St. George’s Church, a 1,800 year-old church in Burqin, just west of Jenin.

This church was built on the site where Jesus was said to have cured ten lepers.  Here is the view from outside the church gate.

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As we entered, I was struck by the bell tower above the entrance.

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Above the door, St. George is battling a dragon. St. George was born in Lydda in Palestine and became an officer in the Roman army.  He is venerated in the Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and and Oriental Orthodox churches. He is known and respected by Muslims in the Middle East, said to have defeated a dragon near Beirut.

Once inside, my eyes were drawn forward to the alter of the church. DSC03606

And to the right, a small alcove with a smaller altar.

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And beside the altar are several paintings of Christ, Christ and the lepers, and St. George.

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Here is a closer view of the miracle of healing the 10 lepers.  The lepers were kept in a cave and food and water were passed down to them through a hole in the rock ceiling, to avoid others coming into contact with them.

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Returning to the larger sanctuary, I noticed a throne with the heads of lions carved into the hand rests.  We were told that this dates from the earliest days when the church was built.

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My eyes were drawn upwards to the vaulted ceiling and the stone arches.  What skills would have been required to build like this.  The current congregation raises funds to keep the building well maintained.

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A small number of families continue to worship here once a month, with Father Khoury traveling from Ramallah to lead the service.

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Outside the church, we descended into a well / cistern that was originally used to store water.  In April 2002, members of the congregation hid in the cistern during the Battle of Jenin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Jenin).

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As we left St. George’s, I noticed the flag of St. George and the Palestinian flags over the building. And at the gate to the street, St. George again on his horse with the dragon pinned by his spear.

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Next stop on the northern road trip: The Freedom Theatre in the Jenin Refugee Camp.

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