St. George's Orthodox Monastery, Wadi Qelt, West Bank
After three hot (108°) and dusty days filled with settlements, refuge camps and conflicts, St.George's Monastery looked like a heavenly mirage. The mystical, sixth-century hermitage hangs off the side of a cliff. The complex looks as though it could tumble into the ravine at any minute. Natural and man-made caves dot both sides of the ravine. For over a millenium, Greek Orthodox monks have hidden in these crevices to meditate, store food and hide from the multitudes of invaders who have passed through the Middle East. In a region where conflicts dating back to the Bible continue to play out today, it was amazing to drive deep into the desert and see such a magical site, surrounded by shepherds herding with staffs, preserved throughout the ages.
A group of monks still live and pray inside these ancient walls, but we didn't see a soul the entire time. I only wish I could have ventured inside, but women are not permitted to even knock on the doors.