The Town of ‘Ezariyeh
By Saleh Abu Damous
The present-day town of ‘Ezariyeh is the ancient village of Bethany that dates to the sixth century BC. It is also the biblical village that Jesus chose as a refuge from the crowded city of Jerusalem. He often went there to visit his friends - Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary, Simon the leper, who warmly welcomed Jesus, and others.
In many ways, ‘Ezariyeh is an open book where one can read on the pages of its many layers of soil the rich history of the past millennia. Some of the caves and ruins that reveal the ancient past still exist in some areas, notably on the grounds of the Nigrizia Sisters’ convent. Throughout Bethany, one comes across the ruins of Byzantine-era churches, the remnants of mosaics, fortresses, and towers, and other signs of various eras - Crusader, Islamic, Ottoman, etc.
A number of religious communities now populate the town of ‘Ezariyeh, some of whom provide much-needed social services for the Palestinian community. There are the Franciscans, the Greek Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox, the Nigrizia Italian Sisters, the Passionists, and the French sisters. They provide school facilities and a range of programmes for young children and the elderly.
Recently life has become very difficult for the mostly Moslem inhabitants of ‘Ezariyeh. The Separation Wall now surrounds the town and isolates it from Jerusalem, its lifeline. Medical services, schools, and shopping areas that were once easily accessible from ‘Ezariyeh are now impossible to reach. What was once a thriving town has become a prison. This reality threatens the very life of the town and its inhabitants.
As ‘Ezariyeh is also the site where Christians commemorate the raising of Lazarus, Jesus’ friend, from the dead, the people of ‘Ezariyeh appeal to their friends near and far to help create another miracle: the raising of ‘Ezariyeh from the dead!
Saleh Abu Damous
‘Ezariyeh Local Council, Public Relations Department