The Church of St. Martha and buildings next to it most likely stand over parts of the the ancient village of Bethany, near the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. The traditional tomb of Lazarus is a short distance away, although an Israeli security wall now blocks access to it now. You can see remnants of ancient Bethany on the property of St. Martha’s. It’s not hard to imagine that Jesus walked here and lived with friends during the Jewish feasts when he came from Galilee. It was a refuge for him and he was among friends.
My community, the Passionists, have been in Bethany at St. Martha’s for over 100 years. French Passionists, who were thrown out of France in 1906 by the anti-clerical government, came to Bethany and took over a foundation being built for the Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart.
Today, the church and the small retreat center are the home of an international community of Passionists. They pray here, serve as chaplains to about 4 communities of sisters in the neighborhood, help guide groups through the Holy Places and minister to the immigrant communities that live in Israel.
Nearby is the Mount of Olives where Jesus prayed and taught; he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, then taken to be put to death, to be buried and rise again. But this is a holy place too, where it’s good to be and think and pray.