16 February 2017

Archaeological discoveries and social projects in Bethany

Restoration work of the tomb of Lazarus and different projects organized by the Association Pro Terra Sancta, in support of the local community.

Archaeology, Culture, and other Religions

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An ancient village with a long history. In Bethany, in the heart of Samaria, according to the Gospels, Jesus resurrected Lazarus from the dead. Since then, the place which witnessed that miracle, the tomb that, 2,000 years later, still shows traces, has been transformed countless times, marking a major archaeological and artistic history.

Association Pro Terra Sancta
“The present church, a church of the 50s, was built by architect Barluzzi, but there are traces of the many previous churches: the Byzantine church, the Crusade church, the Monastery of the Benedictines. There is a whole stratification of ruins that were abandoned and forgotten.”

Three years ago, encouraged by the then Custos of the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the work of recovery and restoration of the place that had degenerated in deterioration and dirt began. The Association Pro Terra Sancta and the Mosaic Center of Jericho, together with the Al Quds University conducted the activities.

Director - Mosaic Center- Jericho
“The best way is to work with universities and give them the possibility to keep excavating and to write the narrative of this place through their work; to engage students, practically creating awareness, and developing new job opportunities in this field.”

Director of the Institute of Archaeology - Al Quds University
“In recent excavations carried out last summer, while working in the oil press area, we found one of the main walls of the second church built in the time of Justinian in the fifth or sixth century AD: we also discovered the main use of the site during the Crusader period. Now we are completing the excavations in that area and we are planning to keep working in the southern part of the monastery, but we need more time to complete the excavations in this site.”

At the time, the excavations are stalled. They will be resumed, presumably in April, once the permits from the Orthodox, the Franciscan and different private parties will be obtained.

In addition to the involvement of university professors and students, ATS organizes training courses for young people and women on sustainable tourism management and tours for visitors and local citizens, especially in schools. Much of the population, which is predominantly Muslim, does not know, in fact, the history of the archaeological site.
ATS also works with the Shorouq society (women's association) in the production and sale of candles, soaps and natural oils.

Association Pro Terra Sancta
“Let me explain it briefly: the project aims to widen the path of visitors. Visitors usually come for half an hour, get off the bus, visit the grave, go back on the bus and leave. We would rather offer them a better experience here, in a place that reminds them of the Gospel story: a beautiful and historic place. At the same time, if they stay longer, this could benefit the local community."