The last couple posts I’ve been sharing my experience visiting the West Bank territory in Israel. A landlock territory of Palestine occupied by The Israeli. I’ve seen Bethlehem as a city where Jesus was born. And right now I’m gonna share the two cities we go after. Still in The West Bank territory, Bethel (Beit El ; Beth El) and Bethany (Beth Anya).
If you haven’t already, please check my visit to Bethlehem going to the Church of Nativity and The Shepherds’ Field. After the last stop for shopping some souvenir at manger street, Mr. Khaled (Our local Palestinian guide in Bethlehem) separated from us and we’re back with Mr. Dani.
At that moment, time shows around 2 in the afternoon, which left us a little time. So we’re set and go to the next stop, Bethel.
Bethel Connecting Heaven and Earth
There are 2 names associated in general with Bethel, that is Abraham and Jacob. If you familiar with the story in the bible, bethel is known as the place where Abraham stayed and built his altar on the way to and return from Egypt.
It is also known as the place where Jacob when running from his brother Esau, fell asleep on a stone and had a dream about a stair stretched from the heaven and thronged with Angels. In his dream, God promised him the land of Canaan.
This place is strongly associated with the name of Jacob. So strong that they name this place “Site of Jacob’s Dream”. During the holiday of Sukkot the Beit El Heritage Center will be offering tours of the site and surrounding archeological finds. However, those two are not the only stories associated with this place.
Other Stories Associated with Bethel
Another story about Bethel as a place where the people of Israel go to ask the counsel of God when they are planning to attack the Benjaminites at the battle of Gibeah. It is also a very important religious place at that time that the Ark of The Covenant was kept there under the care of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron.
I believe there are more to be told, let’s just say it is a very significant religious place. There are more to see besides this Jacob’s dream site. You can check the observation tower where you can see the coastline of the promised land. There’s also an ancient Jewish town located nearby, a Cultural Hall, and a Tefillin Factory.
As far as I remembered, we spent just less than an hour. As per usual with our routine, Mr. Dani started with his brief about this place and continue with the pastor share the biblical perspective. I kept thinking like how Jacob rests in this place, though. I imagine how he slept, what position, where is the ladder coming down, how big is the ladder, how tall and how the angels were.
So much into my own imagination that I barely listen to what the Pastor said. I look around just outside the ruin that we’re having our session in, there’s a great panorama view of Israel. But I just didn’t have the chance to enjoy that view because we’re moving as soon as the session is done. They said we gotta catch up with the time before the Church in Bethany closed.
Bethany The Home of Lazarus
I’m not sure if I can say that I enjoy Bethel. But giving the next place that we’re going, I think I can compensate that. I have this curiosity about the place of the three siblings where Jesus pays a visit. What would their place look like?
Took us quite a time to go from Bethel to the town of Bethany (nowadays known as Al Eizariya). The one thing that we notice once we’re about to reach our destination was how dirty and messed up this town is. That’s the difference that you will definitely aware of once you travel from Israeli territory (Jewish area) to Palestinian territory (Arab).
Even Mr. Dani was like, “See, ladies and gentlemen, as you see how this place is messed up and dirty, this is when we know that we enter the Arab settlement in Palestine territory, you can see the difference with the Israeli territory...”
I’m not sure if that’s a sarcasm or that just him being as neutral as he can as a tour guide. But yeah, he is right. There’s a huge difference in terms of cleanliness and order. I saw trashes everywhere, even the trash bin on the road that is supposed to be picked up by the government left just like that causing a mess.
I saw how cars parked everywhere they feel like to park causing a traffic jam on the road. There are some cars going contraflow with the direction our bus is going, which is one way. It’s just a mess…
Lazarus Greek Orthodox Church
Once we arrived at our destination in Bethany, we had our stop at the Greek Orthodox Church located west from the Tomb of Lazarus. This church was built in 1965. However, we didn’t get much information about this place nor can I found more information online.
We came into this church and we took our time to pray inside. This church has a nice interior design. The construction incorporates the north wall of the former medieval Benedictine chapel. The acoustic in this church is quite something, though. Something that reminds me of the Church of St. Anne near Bethesda.
Despite how minimum the information about this place, we still had a good session for almost an hour. It’s not like something we usually found in churches or holy sites in Jerusalem where you almost certainly will always have another group or tourists. So this place is nice, quiet, and private.
The House of Martha and Mary
Keep going straight from this Greek Orthodox Church is where the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Nowadays there’s a church once you enter the door. Enter the lower left side of the building, there’s a large milling stone where Mary used to have it as an olive press, next to a wine mill.
Bethany or Al-Eizariya is always known for the story of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. The story of the two sisters when Jesus visits them written in the gospel of Luke, describing how Martha got upset and complaining to Jesus about her sister, Mary, who’s been sitting at His feet listening to what He said rather than helping her who were busy with things.
Tomb of Lazarus
Moving out from this house, going outside through a small door to get to the Tomb of Lazarus. The story of Lazarus who raised from the death after Jesus heard the news that Lazarus was sick. According to the tradition, Jesus stood at the entrance of the tomb and called Lazarus to come outside.
That very miracle of Lazarus resurrection, the dead man who walk out his own burial chamber, is what determined the religious leader of Jerusalem to have Jesus put to death.
I did not have any photo for the tomb. First, it’s dark inside. Second, it’s very small I had a difficult time to move around trying to get an angle. Third, I had to shoot a video for the church documentation purpose. As I have a disclaimer from the very first post of this pilgrim trip. So, I chose to save the last battery about to die to shoot the video. But here’s a GIF just to give you the idea how it looks like inside.
From Bethel to Bethany, I am grateful that I can see it with my own eyes the place where Jacob had a dream, Lazarus raised from death walking out from that tomb. Being present at the location is somewhat inspiring and made me feel like I’m going through some sort of time machine, given all the sites preserved as original as it was. Bethel and Bethany have been great for me today.
This will be the end of my fifth day in Israel. We’re going back to Jerusalem for a dinner at Sheyan. A decent restaurant with good food. After dinner, some of us going to Ben Yehuda while the other going back to our hotel, Ramada. The street labeled as the beating heart of the city center life in Jerusalem. Which I regret that I didn’t go. I should’ve gone with them.
Thank you for reading! Until next post.