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A visit to Saint George Church in Burqin
Writer Maria Khoury explores the traditions of Holy Land Christians in her writings. In this feature, Mrs. Khoury describes her visit to the St. George Church in Burqin, Palestine. Burqin is a Palestinian town in the northern West Bank located 5 km west of Jenin. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics census, its population is about 6,000.
By Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.
My last day in the village happens to be today on the holy Feast Day of Saint George but not yet on the old Julian calendar. Everything in Orthodox Christian tradition in the Holy Land happens thirteen days later.
However, Saint George is the most beloved saint in the whole Middle East and the patron saint of Taybeh in particular and Palestine in general.
Thus, how can I depart this very sacred land and not mention besides our own Saint George Church in Taybeh, I happen to have the greatest blessing to see the new renovations at the Saint George Greek Orthodox Church in Burqin this week.
Well, we hardly have any Christians left in Burqin but lots of miracles and deep tradition of Saint George Oral history.
The only seventy Christians who live there are maintaining the Light of Christ; you can imagine this hardly means ten families.
Burqin is actually located within five minutes of Jenin City and within two hours north of Jerusalem. It is the place where Jesus healed the ten lepers when he was passing from Nazareth to Jerusalem.
Since that first miracle, it has inspired Christian pilgrims especially when Saint Helen asked for the first churches to be built in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
The bishop’s throne is carved out of stone, 1600 years of age. It is the only one of its kind in the Holy Land.
I felt I was visiting one of the treasures in the land of Christ’s Holy Resurrection.
What amazed me the most is not that the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has recently renovated the church considered the fifth-oldest Christian holy place and the third-oldest church in the world, but during the renovations they have discovered the three rooms underneath the cave about six meters deep where the early Christians would pray in secret.
Abu George who takes care of the church said that fifty people fit in the area directly underneath the current Byzantine Church which is built in the actual cave where the lepers were healed. The Church was destroyed during the Persian invasions and after being rebuilt was again destroyed by an earthquake in 1068. It hosted a school for 120 years.
Father Fisarion from Greece has been in the Holy Land for over twenty-five years as a monk and the last few years has been helping the Burgin community extend their church hall also in a renovated cave like area.
It was comforting to know that the Palestinian President’s office donated the furniture for the lovely sitting area. We hope pilgrims might visit isolated locations that have deep rich Christian roots but first we ask all people around the world not to be afraid and come walk the footsteps of Christ.
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
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Palestine Christian Writer, Blogger at St. George Greek Orthodox Church
Maria (Kouremenou) Khoury is the author of Orthodox Christian children's books including Christina Goes to the Holy Land, walking the footsteps of Christ. She is a graduate of Hellenic College (1982), Harvard University (1985) and Boston University (1992) with a doctor of education degree. Born in Tripoli, Greece, she was raised in Denver, Colorado. On Dec 31, 2009 she was included on the top 4 Human Rights Champions list by DC Human Rights Examiner including the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Hilary Clinton.
Maria is the author of Witness in the Holy Land (distributed by www.HolyCrossBookstore.com), a publication reflecting personal experiences living under military occupation with her husband the former Mayor of Taybeh, David Canaan Khoury and three children Elena, Canaan, and Constantine. Her articles have been published world-wide in numerous newspapers and magazines and have been translated to various languages bringing awareness of the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
Maria Khoury has been the Taybeh Oktoberfest organizer since 2005.She divides her time between her homes in Boston and Taybeh, travels throughout the world promoting the Christina Books and making presentations about the dwindling Christian community in Palestine.She encourages people to stay at the new Taybeh Golden Hotel and experience rural life in Palestine.