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Christian Holy Sites: Bet Hananya - Bethany

Church with Lazarus' Tomb

Bet Hananya, or Bethany, is a village about a mile and three quarters east of Jerusalem. It is frequently mentioned in the Gospels (Mark 11:1, Matthew 21:17, Luke 19:29, etc.). According to Christian tradition it was home of the sisters Mary and Martha, with whom Jesus lodged, and the scene of the resurrection of their brother Lazarus after he had been interred for four days (John 11).

At the end of the fourth century, the Byzantines built a church and adjoining monastary at Bethany which was renovated in the following century; it was named after Lazarus, and from this comes the Arabic name of the village, al-Azariyya. During the Crusader period, the church was regarded as the property of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and underwent extensive alterations, but it was destroyed in the sixteenth century and a Greek monastary now stands in its place. The ancient site of the church was apparently near the present Catholic monastary Ras al-Shayyah.

Remains of ancient buildings and tombs dating from the period of the Second Temple and later have been uncovered there. A cistern from the Second Temple period, which served as a shrine in Byzantine times, has Christian-Greek graffitti on its plastered walls. This piece was discovered between 1949-53 together with oil presses, cisterns and numerous tombs from later periods. Today, Bethany is largely a tourist city, where people come to see Lazarus' tomb and other Christian theologic artifacts.

Sources: "Bethany." Encyclopedia Judaica; Photo courtesy Aarons Bible