Deir Hajla is an active Greek Orthodox monastery near Kibbutz Beit Ha’Arava, north of the Dead Sea. The monastery is dedicated to St. Gerasimus of the Jordan, who founded a site for reclusive monks during the Byzantine Age.
Gerasimus managed Deir Hajla as a laura – The monastery itself served as a place of prayer and feasts on Saturdays and Sundays only. On all other weekdays, members of the laura were secluded cells and caves throughout the area. There are no remnants of the Byzantine monastery, but many of the 11 laura cells were nicely preserved, some quarried in stone and some built into the marlstone along Wadi Nahil (Date Stream).
The monastery was built in the fifth century and was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The current structure is characteristic of the Crusaders, but many parts are a reconstruction of the original structure. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchy conducted the last comprehensive renovations in 1890, following a severe earthquake that occurred in 1837.
The monastery lies in the middle of a small orchard with nurtured gardens. It is a two-storied stone structure surrounding a courtyard and cistern. The monks’ bedrooms are on the second floor, alongside a beautiful prayer hall with an impressive mosaic floor.
Visitors may enter the prayer hall, the beautiful gardens and the small shop where they can see the monks performing various mosaic works, both for sale and for monastery adornment.
Large parts of the monastery are adorned by amazing mosaics, handmade by the monks living there today. One can often see one of the monks at work at the entrance to the monastery and even buy small pieces or mosaic stone for individual work. The large church at the monastery displays wall decorations and paintings, some ancient and other restored, depicting significant monks of the Byzantine Era. The church is located in a hall covered by a large metal-coated dome that can be seen from a distance.