The last day in Israel
Today three of us boarded a local mini-van type bus near the Damascus gate of the old city of Jerusalem and journeyed with our local Palestinian passengers to Bethany (modern name al-Eizariya), home of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus whom Jesus raised to life. Bethany is only 4 km. from Jerusalem. But there is this wall thing to contend with. The trip took 20 minutes to go around the wall until we came to an opening. Going out of Jerusalem is uneventful: they let anyone out. Coming back in, however, was another story: an Israeli army person got on, said something we could not understand, and half the bus got out. We stayed on. We figured that if he wanted us to get out too, he would make it clear. He never did. There were just three of us on this trip: Kim, JW and me. We had to show our US passports and try not to stare at the enormous gun he carried, and that’s it. Then the others got back on the bus and we returned into the walled, walled city.
When Jess came to Jerusalem he made Bethany his HQ; the Mary-Martha-Lazarus family were friends. For people who lived (live?) here, a 3 km/2 miles walk is no big deal – people walk all the time – most of them here are thin. Go figure. The “site” of the home is of course now a church – or rather a series of churches: the modern one you see first; behind it a Crusader-era church with its thick stone walls, and beneath that, a Byzantine church with it’s small mosaic floors still peeking through here and there. The real attraction is the tomb that now is way below ground, down a twisting, steeply descending stone stair in to a small room the size of a walk-in closet. Then there is a second chamber the size of a smaller closet, that you get into only by bending down and crawling underneath.
By now we know the drill: this may not be THE tomb or THE place where Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ house was, but it is Bethany and it must be close and it probably looked something like this tomb. How cool is that?
Of course no visit to the Holy Land is complete without a ride on a holy camel, right? Awe shucks – it’s the last day; why not?