The Church of St. Martha and buildings next to it stand over parts of the ancient village of Bethany in East Jerusalem where Jesus stayed when he came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feasts. It was where pilgrims from Galilee ordinarily stayed. It was a refuge for him; he was among friends. From here he would take the road over the Mount of Olives to pray in the temple.
The traditional tomb of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, is a short distance away from St. Martha’s, although an Israeli security wall blocks access to it now. Olive trees that once covered this area in Jesus’ time grace the property of St. Martha’s. The place evokes memories of the time when Jesus was here
My community, the Passionists, has been in Bethany at St. Martha’s for over 100 years. French Passionists, thrown out of France in 1906 by an 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 home for some members of our Philippine province who pray here and minister to Catholic immigrants and religious communities in Israel.
From Bethany Jesus went to the upper room near the temple for his last supper with his disciples. Just up the hill from here 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. St. Martha’s, named for the good woman, the sister of Lazarus, who welcomed Jesus into her house is a good place to visit, reflect and pray. It’s a holy place.