West BankSituation and characteristicsThe Wadi Qilt, a romantic canyon-like valley on the West Bank of the Jordan, runs eastward through the hills of Judaea into the plain of Jericho. Herod the Great built an aqueduct here which was repaired during the British Mandate and still carries water for most of the year.HistoryThe Romans built a road, parts of which can still be traced, along this ancient route between Jerusalem and Jericho. In early Christian times hermits lived in caves in this wild mountain country, and this led to the foundation in Byzantine times (fifth-sixth century) of St George's Monastery.
St George's Monastery
20km/12.5mi from Jerusalem on the road to Jericho a side road signposted to the monastery goes off on the left. This leads to a parking lot on the left of the road, from the rather higher north side of which there is a first view into the gorge of the Wadi Qilt. From the parking lot a track suitable only for all-terrain vehicles runs northeast (about 1.25 hours on foot) to a hill with a cross, from which there is a view of the Greek Orthodox monastery of St George and, far to the left, a rivulet flowing down the hillside from a spring, water from which is channeled to the monastery. The stony track continues (another half-hour's walk) to the entrance to the monastery, which clings precariously to the sheer north face of the gorge (it lies in shadow from the early afternoon).The monastery, originally dedicated to the Virgin, was founded about 480. It flourished in the sixth century but was destroyed by the Persians in 614 and thereafter was abandoned. The present buildings were erected between 1878 and 1901. The church dedicated to the Mother of God has fine icons and wall paintings; the church of St John and St George preserves a sixth century mosaic pavement. In a cave are the remains of the monks who were killed during the Persian advance on Jerusalem.