Deir Hajla Monastery


The current official name of Holy Monastery of Saint Gerasimos of the Jordan connects it with the 5th-century monastic leader[1] who introduced the lavra, or laura type of community among the hermits of the Desert of the Jordan.[2] (The rendering of the saint’s name with the suffix -us instead of the original Greek -os is due to the practice of Latinisation of names.) The actual monastery founded by Gerasimus, probably at a site closer to the spring of ’Ein Hajla than the modern monastery, was abandoned towards the end of the 13th century after the final defeat of the Crusaders. The neighboring monastery at the site of Deir Hajla is thought to have inherited its name, itself becoming the "monastery of Gerasimus".[2][3] A recent publication mentions this name also being used in Arabic, Deir Mar Gerasimus,[4] ’St. Gerasimus Monastery’. The popular name of ’Deir Hajla’ translates from Arabic to ’monastery (deir) of the sand partridge (hajla)’,[5][6][7] a type of bird often encountered in the region. It echoes, or possibly preserves, the name of the biblical town Bet Hoglah (also spelled Beth-hogla), in the territory of Benjamin on the border to Judah (Joshua 15:6; 18:19, 21),[8][5] possibly the Bethalaga mentioned by Josephus[9] and Jerome’s Bethagla.[10] The nearby spring is called similarly, ’Ein Hajla[3] (’Spring of the Partridge’), and is situated little over a kilometre to the northeast of the modern monastery.[8] The name Laura of Calamon with several spellings and variations, meaning in Greek ’Laura of the Reed Bush’, given due to the reeds growing around the ’Ein Hajla spring,[3] by which it was known in the past, is apparently also inherited from the initial monastery of Gerasimos. The 19th-century explorers noted that the then-abandoned monastery was sometimes called by local Arabs Qasr Hajlah,[2] ’Castle of Hajlah [Partridge]’.

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