February 2019

Bethany: “A culture of dialogue as the path to follow”

“We declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard”.In Bethany, the Pope‘s words in the document signed with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar in Abu Dhabi are reality. Here three different confessions (Catholic, Orthodox and Islamic communities) not only coexist peacefully, but also collaborate together. In fact, although most of the citizens of Bethany are Muslims while Christians are a small minority, there is great respect for the Christian tradition of the resurrection of Lazarus, so much so that the Arab name of the city is precisely Al-Eizariya (city of Lazarus).

During the recent visit by the Islamic authorities of the Franciscan archeological site during the restoration of the buildings and the mosaics, the Imam recalled that also in the Koran the story of Lazarus and the miracle performed by Jesus is told. of the first inter-religious meeting in Bethany: during the month of Ramdan, every year the Muslim community invites Christians and Franciscans to participate in an iftar, a meal shared after fasting. Sharing moments to get to know one another better. During the meeting the mosque authorities greatly appreciated the conservation work of a historical and artistic heritage belonging to the whole community. The Custody of the Holy Land together with ATS pro Terra Sancta and the Mosaic Center is trying to make the site more accessible for tourists and pilgrims who come to visit the tomb. The city, which has been strongly penalized by the difficult political situation, wants to start again from its origins and its link with Christian traditions.

“The importance of this project is to increase tourism in the city by creating job opportunities, especially for women” says Afaf Faraon, a member of the city council, deals with equal opportunities and support for women by creating educational programs, activities and events. Asaf has decided to devote herself to politics to encourage the rights of women in institutions: “Only through participation, we can really change things.” She tells us how, for her too, a Muslim woman, Marta and Maria, the sisters of Lazarus are part of the historical and cultural heritage of the city. “Their hospitality and hospitality and the bond with the land are an example even today for the women of Bethany”. The production of olive oil and nardin, and soap are activities that women have been doing in Bethany for centuries “and it is important to support activities that carry on these traditions like the Shorouq association” continues Afaf. Shouruq is an association of women that produces soap and natural oils, kitchen for the school canteen and carries out a sewing and embroidery activity. “The fact that so many women work together carrying on passion and tradition is very important to make Bethany known to the many Christian pilgrims and not only who come to visit the city”.

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