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Christian Sites in Jerusalem

Bethany (Al-Eizariya in Arabic) is a town outside Jerusalem. The New Testament tells about Lazarus of Bethany, who according to the Gospel of John, was raised from the dead by Jesus. The traditional site of the miracle, the Tomb of Lazarus, in the city is a place of pilgrimage. In fact, the town is located on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. The name in Arabic of Bethany Al-Eizariya means the place of Lazarus. In 1840, in his Biblical Researches in Palestine, Edward Robinson wrote:

“The Arab name of the village is el-‘Azirlyeh, from el-‘Azir, the Arabic form of Lazarus. The name Bethany is unknown among the native inhabitants. Yet there is no reason to question the identity of the place.”

Robinson & Smith 1841

Near Al-Eizariya, during the Second Temple period, there was a Jewish village called Beit Ania. According to the New Testament, Jesus resurrected one of the villagers named Lazarus (Eleazar in Hebrew); the brother of Miriam and Martha, four days after his death. There is a building in the place that is identified as the house of Shimon the leper where Jesus stayed. Over the years, Lazarus’ name was changed to “Lazar”. In the Middle Ages, the town was called “Lazarium” or “Lazarion” and hence its name today in Arabic. However, in Christian sources, the town is still called the name of the village from the Second Temple period: “Beitania or Bethany.

Bethany in the New Testament

So according to the New Testament, Jesus stayed in the village in the house of Simon the Leper. In the village, Jesus met Martha, Eleazar’s sister, who asked Jesus to help her dying brother. Jesus lingered, the brother died, and only four days after his death revived him:

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.

42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

John 11, 38-44

The Second Time Bethany is Mentioned in the New Testament

Bethany is mentioned again in the New Testament, when Jesus comes to the place, six days before Passover and his Crucifixion, and is received for a meal at the home of the brother Lazarus and his sisters. Mary anoints his feet with rose oil, and Judas Iscariot condemns the waste of precious oil:

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.

John 12: 1-5

The Tomb of Lazarus

In the modern town of Al-Eizariya (Bethany), there is, according to Christian tradition, the Tomb of Lazarus after whom it is named. Today, the Muslims hold the tomb, and next to it stands a mosque built in the 16th century on the foundations of a Crusader church. There are also Christian religious institutions in the area of ​​the tomb, and it is a center of pilgrimage for Christian pilgrims.

The townhouses, according to Christian tradition, the Tomb of Lazarus after whom the town is named. Today the tomb is in the hands of the Muslims and next to the tomb is a mosque. The mosque was built in the 16th century on the foundations of a Crusader church. Next to the tomb stands a Franciscan church built-in 1954. The church was built according to the plans of the architect Antonio Barluzzi who designed many Christian religious institutions in the Land of Israel. This church was built on the remains of churches from the Byzantine and Crusader periods. Also nearby is a Greek Orthodox church which was established in 1965, also on ancient Crusader foundations.

The History of Bethany

Tombs from the Middle Bronze Age, as well as finds from the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods, including Jewish burial caves from the end of the Second Temple period, were discovered in caves near Bethany. There is also an ancient site with a spring (“Ein Hod”). Most of the finds are located west of the village.

During the Byzantine period, the village grew and monasteries and churches were established there. Even in the Crusader period, Bethany was an important place and many donations were sent to the church and the monastery in the village. After the defeat of the Crusaders, the churches remained in the whole village, and testimonies from 1212 We learn that the Muslims treated these sites with respect. During the Mamluk period, Christian religious institutions in the village were destroyed and a mosque was built on top of some of them.

Bethany in Modern Times

In the 20th century, many members of the Bedouin tribes of the Judean Desert, including members of the Al-Sawahira tribes, settled in the village and settled. On the eve of the War of Independence; the village had about nine hundred inhabitants and at that time many of them were engaged in agriculture. After the war, they settled in the village as refugees.

At the same time, in the 1950s, reconstruction of Christian religious institutions (churches) began around the tomb of Elazar in the town. Between 1948 and 1967, the town was under Jordanian rule, and east of the village a Jordanian army camp was established, the buildings of which were built of Jewish tombstones taken from the Mount of Olives. During the Six-Day War, the town was occupied by Israel. The separation fence passes on the western side of the town and separates the town from Jerusalem. The construction of the separation fence caused considerable economic difficulties in the town.

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Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history. 

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