Christians have been flocking to the dusty Israeli town of Ramla to see what locals are calling a miracle: streaks of what looks like oil mysteriously dripping down an icon of St. George at a Greek Orthodox church named for the legendary third century dragon slayer. Let’s learn more about this miraculous icon.
St. George Icon exudes oil
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 odour 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 Greek 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 Greek 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 Ramla and others from other parts of Israel. They were joined by curious Jews and Muslims, some snapping cell phone pictures. Ramla, a mixed Jewish-Arab town of 65,000, is in central Israel 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.