Palestinian Folktale and lore: Saint George/Elijah/El Khadr

Saint George is the patron saint of Palestine. Here’s a short folktale from my family’s village:

Unlike most folktales, this one is in a category that blurs the line between tale and anecdote because it is apparently something that happened within living memory at the time it was recorded.

The rains of the winter of 1906 failed, leading to a drought in Palestine. A woman in the village of ‘Ayn Karim (now in West Jerusalem) filled her jar drop by drop from the village well (which was inhabited by the Virgin Mary, by the way).

When she had finished, a rider on a horse appeared and demanded water to refresh his horse. She refused him at first but was intimidated enough to pour out the water into a trough. What poured out was blood. Saint George revealed himself and explained:

This calamity of the drought was given in place of a much more severe catastrophe. His presence was meant to encourage the woman to endure this hardship.

Some say that this man was Elijah, or El Khadr. In Palestine, he is all three.

In folk religion, the same figure was venerated by Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Palestinians. There is a shrine near Bethlehem where people of all faiths brought those with mental illnesses to be healed.

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