Al-’Eizariyah is southeast of Jerusalem, with a-Nabi Mousa village lands and khan al-Ahmar to the east; Mount of Olives, Silwan, and Ras al-Amoud to the west; Abu Dis to its south; and a-Z’ayim and the extension of Mount of Olive’s lands to the north. It is the second largest Palestinian village in the Jerusalem area. It is known as Jerusalem’s eastern gate as it’s only 2 km away from al-Aqsa Mosque. The village is currently 11,179 dunums with a population of 30,000 residents. Historically the village covered an area of 27,816 dunums before having 4003 dunums of its lands expropriated by the Israeli Authorities for the construction of Ma’ali Adumim colony, which led to the lost of 36% of the total amount of land. Another 47% of the lands were expropriated later on. Today 83% of the total amount of land is located on area C, while most of the village residents live within area B on less than 17% of the total historic amount of al-’Eizariyah land. Furthermore, the Israeli authorities dug water well in the eastern side of the village to supply Ma’ali Adumim colony and the nearby colonies with water.
al-’Eizariyah, “Bethany,” is considered by many to be the 4th most important religious place in the world, after Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem. Thought to be the biblical village of Bethany, al-’Eizariyah, or "the Place of Lazarus," is allegedly the site where Jesus Christ resurrected Lazarus days after his death. For well over a thousand years, the tomb of Lazarus in al-’Eizariyah has been a destination for Christian pilgrims. Furthermore, al-’Eizariayh is allegedly the road Jesus took when he came from the Jordan Valley, and where he was washing, drinking, and resting next to springs that were located in the area at that time. Al-’Eizariyah was called “Beit Ania” as it was the home of Lazarus and his two sisters; Mariam and Martha, as well as being the home for the leper Beit Sama’an whom Jesus saved from leprosy.
In the 20th century, there were a number of churches built near the tomb which have revived the traditional importance of the site. Among these are Franciscan Order’s Church of Saint Lazarus, built between 1952 and 1955 and a Greek Orthodox Church built in 1965.
As for the Islamic side, al-’Eizariyah was one of the towns founded during the first Islamic conquests in the seventh century (636) as it was considered the eastern gate to Jerusalem. Muslims settled there, and then it was re-opened again in the second Islamic conquests led by Salah a-Din al-Ayoubi in 1187. al-Aziz Mosque, built by Salah a-Din al-Ayoubi, is one of the most important mosques built to preserve the Islamic footprint within Palestinian areas.
There is also an ancient tower built by the crusaders in the 11th century to observe and defend the holy places. In addition, there are the Bursum Yard, which is related to the Russian Church, Jarasiyet al-Rahbat al-Matinat, al-Jarasiyyeh Speculum, a spring which was thought to be a source of water for Jesus, and many other holy places in the town.
Today the village faces many difficulties due in large part to its occupation by the Israeli military. Unemployment in the village is estimated at 60%. For those who are able to find work, employment primarily comes in the Palestinian public sector (30%) and the Israeli labour market (30%), with smaller numbers working in trade (15%), industry (10%), the services sector (10%), and agriculture (5%).1 The number of agricultural workers has decreased significantly as farmers have lost access to their lands due to land confiscations.2
The village is also facing overcrowding because there isn’t enough land to build on.
In addition to the local council, the village has several civil organisations. They include Vision for Arts and Culture, the Gate of Jerusalem foundation, Madam Seksek Society for Elderly, the Tamara, Shurouk charity foundation, al-’Eizariyah Charitable Society, Zahrat al-Quds Society, Palestinian Agency Society, Suba Charitable Society, Dar al-Yatimat Society, and Hana’ Development Society.
One of the most prominent Palestinian-Egyptian writers, the late Said Aburish, came from al-’Eizariyah. He was famous for criticizing Middle Eastern rulers for their subservience to Western powers and argued for the obtainment of their political autonomy. He passed away in 2012 at the age of 77.3
The Annexation Wall
The construction of the Annexation Wall, which is 9 km long and 9 metres high, has isolated al-’Eizariyah and separated its residents from Jerusalem which for centuries was their main urban centre and the place they relied on for employment and basic services. The Wall, which subsumed 56% of al-’Eizariyah lands,4 surrounds the town and isolates it from Jerusalem, its lifeline. Medical services, schools, and shopping areas that were once easily accessible from al-’Eizariayh are now impossible to reach. Today, what was once a thriving town has become a prison. This reality threatens the very life of the town and its inhabitants.5
Lands belonging to the residents of al-’Eizariyah have been confiscated by the Israeli occupation authorities for the construction and expansion of Jewish colonies, bypass roads and the Annexation Wall. 6,966 dunums were confiscated for the construction of Ma’aleh Adumim (in 1974) and Mishor Adumim (in 1975).6
Lack of resources
Although al-’Eizariyah is an important destination for tourists and pilgrims, the economic effects of the occupation policies continue to deteriorate the community. According to ARIJ, the infrastructure in al-’Eizariyah fails to meet the needs of tourists visiting the village. In addition, the occupation authorities neglect the many archaeological and historical sites that exist in the village.7 This lack of resources is a direct result of Israeli policies which segregate and isolate al-’Eizariyah - all the more since the construction of the Wall.
Despite the challenges al-’Eizariyah residents face, they have launched many development projects in the village. Through health and infrastructure projects, the people of al-’Eizariyah aim to develop their village and help its residents despite the tough living conditions surrounding them. These projects include: an emergency centre, an ambulance, a vehicle with mechanical lift, waste containers, work equipment to maintain and pave roads, rain water drainage, retaining walls, restoration project for the monument and the old city, a vocational training centre, a cultural centre, and a sport stadium located on the eastern side of the village.