The Modern Dragon
Bethlehem and Al Khader are now surrounded by Israeli settlements, built illegally on Palestinian land. Most of the water from the West Bank goes to Israel or Israeli settlements. Palestinians are often short of water.
Most of Bethlehem is now enclosed by the eight metre high concrete separation wall Israel is building. Now, in 2007 the wall is still being built around Al Khader, separating it from much of its remaining farmland. For Palestinians the settlements and the wall are modern dragons stopping them from getting to their land and water.
Two miles from the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem is the village of Al Khader.
The entrance to the village is an arch on which there is a carving of Saint George and the dragon. In the middle of the village is the monastery church of Saint George. Above the church flies the flag of Saint George. This flag is also the flag of England.
The only Christian living in Al Khader is the Greek priest in charge of the church. He says that the Muslim villagers look after him very well. They also look after the church.
Some Greek Orthodox Christians from Bethlehem and Beit Jala worship in the church. Many Muslims also pray in the church. They give donations to support the church. Some of their donations are of meat from sheep that they slaughter behind the church. The priest is clear that he accepts the meat as a gift but not as a sacrifice. ‘For the only sacrifice accepted by Christians is that of Christ’.
There is an interesting video on You Tube about Muslims and the Church in Al Khader.
Sheep are also slaughtered in the ruins of a very old church of Saint George in the Palestinian Christian village of Taybeh.
Saint George’s Day
Saint George’s feast day is on 23rd April and marks the start of spring. In Palestine this is celebrated according to the Julian calendar followed by Orthodox Christians. So they celebrate Saint George’s day on our 6th May.
On 16th of November, the day when tradition states that Saint George was buried, there is a festival that marks the end of the Olive Harvest. In Al Khader and Lydda Christians and Muslims attend these festivals. Photo essay: Feast of Saint George Al Khader 2006- Scroll down. Note when more photographs are added to the site the essay will move to later pages.
Father Jean Moretain was a French Priest sent by the Roman Catholic Church to work in the Bethlehem area. In 1848 he wrote expressing his surprise at the common practices and beliefs of Palestinian Christians and Muslims.
“A Christian” he wrote was "distinguished only by the fact that he belonged to a particular clan. If a certain tribe was Christian, then an individual would be Christian, but without knowledge of what distinguished his faith from that of a Muslim."
He observed that, "Many Muslims had their children baptized in El-Khader, because tradition maintained that a child baptized there would be strong."
Some Muslim families continue the tradition of taking their sons to Saint George’s church in Al Khader for the priest to bathe them in the water of the font. But this is not followed by the parts of the Baptism ceremony that are about welcoming a child into the Christian community.
Leicestershire Holy Land Appeal