Palestinian Christians: Oil-streaked icon 'miracle'
- Palestinian Christians: Oil-streaked icon 'miracle'
An Arab-Orthodox nun looks at a painting of St. George, at a church in Ramle, Occupied Palestine, Tuesday,
By JOSEPH MARKS, Associated Press Writer Joseph Marks, Associated Press Writer Tue Jun 9, 3:43 pm ET
RAMLE, Occupied Palestine, � Palestinian Christians have been flocking to this dusty �Occupied Palestinian town to see what locals are calling a miracle: streaks of what looks like oil mysteriously dripping down an icon of St. George at�an Arab-Orthodox church named for the legendary third century dragon slayer.
Worshippers said Tuesday that the more than two dozen streaks might represent God's tears or the Christian rite of baptism. The church priest, Father Nifon, first saw the streaks while preparing for Sunday morning services, they said.
"He kissed all the icons, and when he reached that one, he took down the picture and he cleaned it," said Aida Abu el-Edam, an English teacher and longtime church member. "After 20 or 25 minutes, he looked again and he saw the oil again and said, 'This is a miracle.'"
El-Edam, 47, said she was convinced the streaks were a miracle in part because of a strange smell emanating from the icon. She said it reminded her of her visit as a teenager to the site of a miracle in Ermysh, Lebanon. There, she said, the odor came from a recently deceased woman whose Christian faith was legendary.
"It's a special, holy smell," she said. "It's not ordinary, like olive oil. It's something strange that comes from God."
The Arab-Orthodox patriarch inspected the painting Sunday, el-Edam said, and the church has sent a sample of the oil to a laboratory.
Father Nifon said the Arab-Orthodox Patriarchate had asked him not to speak publicly or to answer questions about the streaks, so that believers could draw their own conclusions.
About 50 Christians crowded around the icon Tuesday, some from near Ramle and others from other parts of Occupied Palestine. They were joined by curious Jews and Muslims, some snapping cell phone pictures. Ramle, a mixed Jewish-Arab Palestinian town of 65,000, occupied in 1948, is in central occupied Palestine between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The icon hangs near the front of the church, hidden from most pews by a small gold chandelier. A nun dressed in black was rubbing the bottom of the icon with cotton balls, which she handed to the faithful who sometimes smelled them before clutching them to their chests.
"People these days, they've forgot God and this is a sign to tell them, 'I'm still here,' said Edith Fanous, 31, who works for a local trucking company and said she has been attending St. George's since she was a little girl.
Fanous said she was singing in the church choir when the oil streaks appeared Sunday. She guessed as many as 1,000 visitors had been to the church since then. She dismissed the idea that the streaks could just be paint running on a hot day.
"This icon is 114 years old," she said. "It passed through so much weather, hot and cold. And now that we have air conditioning in the church it's started to melt? I don't think so."
Kosty Tannous, 33, a Palestinian Christian customs worker, said he thought the streaks may have appeared now because God sees trouble in the society. "There's occupation and discrimination," he said. "I see a lot of discrimination against Arabs here in occupied Palestine, and maybe this is a good lesson for everybody to love each other and live with each other with equal rights."
God Bless You!