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The Village of Bethphage at the time of Jesus and the Church of Bethphage in the Holy land

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There are two important traditions related to Bethphage, a village at the time of Jesus on the eastern slope of Mount of Olives. This is the holy place where Jesus sent two of his disciples to fetch a colt and an ass that he would use for his entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-10) , “saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me” (Matthew 21:2). Bethphage is also the site where Jesus met Martha, and after her sister Mary (John 11:17-34) upon his return from exile from Jordan to resurrect Lazarus.

The Church of Bethphage, meaning “house of the early figs,” was built by the Franciscans and contains a stone traditionally believed to be the one Jesus used to mount the donkey at the beginning of his procession into Jerusalem. This church built in 1883 commemorates the event of the fruitless fig tree- cursed by Jesus and withered away (Mark 11:12-14, Mark 11:20-25). In order to hide the true intent of the building to the Muslim authorities, the church was built as an ordinary fortified structure, therefore the church building is unusual to traditional structures in the Holy Land. The arch was later added in 1897, and its tower only in 1954. The entrance of Jesus with his disciples into Jerusalem, is commemorated on the church walls. Near the arch of the Church there is a stone that was discovered in 1876 by Charles Clermont-Ganneau, a French scholar and translator in diplomatic service in Jerusalem. This stone known today as the "Stele of Bethphage," was decorated with paintings from the Crusader period describing the holy events which occurred in Bethphage– the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, disciples carrying the palm fronds, Jesus’ meeting with Martha and Mary, and the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:38-44).

Christian pilgrims that travel to Israel during Easter will experience The Palm Sunday procession, an annual tradition that re-enacts Jesus’ last entry into Jerusalem on the day before Easter, which usually starts out from the Bethphage Church.

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