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About Bethany, OK
The site is believed to have been continuously inhabited from the 6th century BCE. In 1923–1924, American archaeologist William F. Albright identified the village with Ananiah (or 'Ananyab); however, Edward Robinson and others have identified Ananiah with present-day Beit Hanina.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, there have been scholars who questioned whether al-Eizariya was the actual site of the ancient village of Bethany:
Bethany is recorded in the New Testament as a small village in Judaea, the home of the siblings Mary of Bethany, Martha, and Lazarus, as well as that of Simon the Leper. Jesus is reported to have lodged there after his entry into Jerusalem. The village is referenced in relation to five incidents, in which the word Bethany appears 11 times:
In Luke 10:38-42, a visit of Jesus to the home of Mary and Martha is described, but the village of Bethany is not named (nor whether Jesus is even in the vicinity of Jerusalem).
The Crusaders called al-Eizariya by its Biblical name Bethany. In 1138, King Fulk and Queen Melisende of Jerusalem purchased the village from the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem in exchange for land near Hebron. The queen founded a large Benedictine convent dedicated to Sts. Mary and Martha near the Tomb of Lazarus. Melisende's sister Ioveta, thenceforward "of Bethany," was one of the first abbesses. Melisende died there in 1163; her stepdaughter Sibylla of Anjou also died there in 1165. Melisende's granddaughter Sibylla, also later Queen of Jerusalem, was raised in the abbey. After the fall of Jerusalem in 1187, the nuns of the convent went into exile. The village seems to have been abandoned thereafter, though a visitor in 1347 mentioned Greek Orthodox monks attending the tomb chapel.
Yaqut al-Hamawi (†1229) described it as "A village near Jerusalem. There is here the tomb of Al Azar (Lazarus), whom Isa (Jesus) brought to life from being dead."
In the 1480s, during the Mamluk period, Felix Fabri visited and described different places in the village, including a "house and storehouse" of Maria Magdalen, the house of Martha, the church of the sepulchre of Lazarus, and the house of Simon the Leper. He described the village as being "well-peopled", with the inhabitants being saracen.
In 1517, the village was included in the Ottoman Empire with the rest of Palestine, and in the 1596 tax-records it appeared as 'Ayzariyya, located in the Nahiya of Jabal Quds of the Liwa of Al-Quds. The population was 67 households, all Muslim. They paid taxes on wheat, barley, vineyards and fruit trees, occasional revenues, goats and beehives; a total of 14,000 Akçe.
The Ottomans built the al-Uzair Mosque and named it in honor of Lazarus, who is revered by both Christians and Muslims. For 100 years after it was constructed, Christians were invited to worship in it, but the practice was frowned upon by European church authorities who preferred that adherents of both faiths remain separate.
In 1838, Edward Robinson visited, and described it as a poor village of some 20 families. It was also noted as a Muslim village, located in the el-Wadiyeh region, east of Jerusalem.
In 1870, the French explorer Victor Guérin visited the village. Socin found that al-Eizariya had a population of 113, with a total of 36 houses, from an official Ottoman village list from about the same year. The population count included men only. Hartmann found that the village had 35 houses.
In 1883, the PEF's Survey of Western Palestine described the village (named El Aziriyeh), as being on the side of a hill, with a ravine running down on the east side of it. The houses were built of stone. The village was dominated by the remains of a Crusader building. A mosque with a white dome was built over what was traditionally the tomb of Lazaruz. A second small mosque, dedicated to a Sheik Ahmed, was located to the south of the village.
Around 1890, Khalil Aburish, whose ancestors had officially been designated "guardians of the holy resting place of Lazarus", began promoting al-Eizariya as a tourist or pilgrimage destination.
In 1896 the population of El-'azarije was estimated to be about 315 persons.
In the early 20th century, visitors counted 40 family dwellings in the village. In 1917, it had about 400 residents.
In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, the village had a population of 506 Muslims and 9 Christians, where 2 of the Christians were Orthodox, and 7 Roman Catholics. In the 1931 census of Palestine this had increased to 726 persons, 715 Muslims and 11 Christians, in 152 houses. The number included members of a Greek Convent.
In the 1945 statistics, the population was 1,060; 1,040 Muslims and 20 Christians, while the total land area was 11,179 dunams, according to an official land and population survey. Of this, 43 were allocated for plantations and irrigable land, 3,359 for cereals, while 102 dunams were classified as built-up (urban) areas.
During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and through the years 1948–1967, the site was controlled by Jordan.
In 1961, the population of the area was 3,308.
Since the Six-Day War in 1967, Bethany has been occupied by Israel, and lands to the east of the village were declared a closed military zone, cutting farmers off from the lentils and wheat crops they cultivated on the hilltops where Maaleh Adumim was later established.
Today, the town is overcrowded due to rapid population growth and a lack of town planning. Much of the agricultural land that produced figs, almonds, olives and carob has been confiscated or cut down by Israeli authorities, or has been absorbed into the expanding built-up area of Al-Eizariya.
After the 1995 accords, 87.3% of Al-Eizariya land was classified as Area C and the remaining 12.7% as Area B. Israel has confiscated land from Al-Eizariya in order to build two Israeli settlements:
Many of the original inhabitants now live in Jordan, the United States, and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Real estate speculation and the opening of many bank branches briefly accompanied expectations that the Palestinian Authority would set up its seat of government in East Jerusalem. In 2000, about a quarter of the population, then 16,000, held Israeli ID cards.
In 2004, the Israeli West Bank barrier was built across Bethany's main road, curtailing the commerce in the strip of shops along the road, which drew both Arab and Jewish customers.